St. Francis and Serra have been recognized all season as the two top football teams in the Central Coast Section.
They met in the final week of the regular season, both undefeated, to determine the West Catholic Athletic League championship.
St. Francis prevailed in that game, 44-21, as Viliami (JuJu) Teu set records right and left with a 45-carry, 344-yard performance.
Now they meet again, Friday at 7 p.m. at Westmont High School, with the CCS Division I championship at stake. The winner goes on to the state playoffs. The loser's season is over.
Serra (10-1) is coming off a 41-0 win over Bellarmine, an outing coach Patrick Walsh considered the best his team has played this season.
"It bodes well because we will have to play our very best football to have a chance against a great St. Francis team,'' Walsh said.
The Lancers (11-0) have been unstoppable on offense this season. Most of the time the game plan is simple. Line up in the I-formation with a fullback and a tight end as additional blockers and hand the ball off to Teu, the tailback, who has rushed for 2,141 yards and 27 touchdowns on the season.
When teams all-out sell out to try to stop the run, the Lancers have shown they can also move the ball through the air. Josh Perry did that late in the second quarter last Friday, passing on six plays of an eight-play drive as St. Francis cut Menlo-Atherton's lead to 21-14 at halftime in a game it went on to win.
That was also the case in the program's landmark win over De La Salle when Matt Dougherty's passing in the final minutes produced the deciding touchdown in a 31-28 victory.
"We like our alternative,'' St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno said. "We like it a lot. Pick your poison.''
St. Francis' two playoff wins have been by scores of 56-28 over Aptos and 49-28 over M-A, an indication of how high-scoring contemporary football has become at the college and high school level.
Like Pat Narduzzi, the coach at the University of Pittsburgh said last week, "Whatever happened to 14-3?"
"You've seen a lot of St. Francis games,'' Calcagno said, with a laugh. "That's the way we usually are, but not any more. There's a lot of spread offenses around, people play 7 on 7 and they get pretty good.''
Winning is of course the ultimate objective, but is allowing 28 points in each of the last two games a concern?
"We'd like to shut out everybody, but we played a couple of pretty good teams with dynamic offenses,'' Calcagno said. "Aptos and M-A had been scoring a lot of points. M-A is a very good football team. Our kids did not panic and played four quarters.''
The fourth quarter is where St. Francis truly dominates as opposing defenses get worn down as the result of the punishment administered by the Lancers' offensive line. St. Francis had 28-point fourth quarters against both Aptos and M-A, in games that were each tied after three quarters.
No. 3 Menlo School (12-0) vs. No. 2 Wilcox (8-4), Saturday 7 p.m. at Westmont High
Talk about a matchup between contrasts. Wilcox, traditionally one of the best rushing teams in the CCS, against Menlo, traditionally one of the best passing teams in the CCS.
Plenty of high school teams run the ball well. But Wilcox does it out of the veer, a timing-based offense that few teams employ. And the Chargers have been doing it for 40 years.
Likewise, Menlo has utilized a wide-open passing attack for about the same amount of time. since the early 1980s.
This season, Menlo quarterback Sergio Beltran has thrown 51 touchdown passes, setting the CCS record, and is still not done.
Wilcox running back Luther Glenn has rushed for 1,838 yards, second in the CCS behind Teu. The Chargers have rushed for 3,385 yards in all, the most in the CCS
"Completely opposite,'' Menlo coach Todd Smith said of the offenses the two teams use.
Wilcox has played at the top level in CCS for many years, winning CCS championships in 1995 and 1997. Most recently the 2018 team went on to win a state championship.
Menlo has always been associated with small-school, lower-division success. The team this season played in a 'B' league, the PAL Ocean Division, but beat a pair of teams from 'A' divisions, Half Moon Bay and San Benito, in the playoffs.
"We're trying to stay inside the moment," Smith said. "We take joy and pride in what we've accomplished and still work very hard."
The 45-35 win last Friday at No. 1 seed San Benito was a real eye-opener. San Benito beat Wilcox early in the season.
"Wilcox is everything the book says they are, a great running football team," Smith said. "They lost to Hollister, but with their offense it takes a while to get well-oiled."
Menlo is the top scoring team in the CCS at 45 points per game. In addition to his incredible passing statistics (3,297 yards, 74.9% completions, 51 TDs, 7 interceptions) Beltran has also rushed for over 1,000 yards. Against San Benito he passed for three touchdowns and ran for three more.
"Their offense is dynamic because of their quarterback," Wilcox coach Paul Rosa said. "You can't really prepare for them because he's so savvy and athletic. Just so smooth, not panicked ever, very polished. They do a good job of getting their best player a lot of touches."
No. 3 Sacred Heart Prep (5-7) vs. No. 1 Homestead (7-5), Friday 7 p.m. at Sequoia High
Last week Sacred Heart Prep avenged a regular-season loss and beat Hillsdale 42-14 without ever throwing a pass. How about it, coach, abstain from passing again this week?
"I'd love to do that again," SHP coach Mark Grieb said, with a laugh. "But Homestead has gotten better through the course of the season. We're going to have a battle on our hands. Actually I don't know what to expect. This year I've given up making guesses. But we're peaking at the right time, which helps."
The breaks have evened out for Sacred Heart Prep so far in the CCS playoffs. After a 3-7 regular season in which the Gators lost six games by eight or fewer points, they have outscored two playoff opponents by a combined 84-14.
"Sacred Heart Cathedral is playing in the (Division III) finals, we played them," Grieb said. "Menlo, we had a chance to beat them and they're playing in the Division II final. Our players learned a lot from those games. They learned how to play physical, how to play fast."
Homestead tied for third with Palo Alto in the SCVAL De Anza Division. After getting the favorable No. 1 seed in Division IV (rather than a 8 seed in D-III if they were seeded one spot higher), the Mustangs have beaten Milpitas, a team they lost to in the regular season, 14-0, and Santa Teresa 36-18. They are led offensively by running back Derek Sheerer, who has rushed for 1,105 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"They run the Wing-T and throw in some wrinkles, like Burlingame does," Grieb said.
Keys to the game?
"Establishing the line of scrimmage," Grieb said. "Being able to run the football is a big key. So is being able to stop their run game and forcing them to pass a little bit."
SHP will be going for its sixth CCS title, winning the previous five for Pete Lavorato in 2010 and from 2012-2015. Homestead will be trying for its first. The Mustangs lost in the finals to Menlo-Atherton in 2002 and to Piedmont Hills in 2010.