Leading up to the most anticipated nonleague football matchup of the season, the attitudes on the respective high school campuses could not be farther apart.
At Riordan High School, where the Crusaders will host defending Academic Athletic Association champion Mission on Saturday, optimism is in high quantity.
Riordan is 2-0 and with a win over the Bears, would complete its first unbeaten nonleague season since 2003 and would equal the Crusaders’ win total of the past three seasons combined.
“I’m really impressed with the team chemistry,” Riordan coach Richard Sweeney said. “The kids have figured out that this is a team game. We’re playing an exciting brand of football right now, and with two local teams, it should be a great experience.”
At Mission, the sentiment is far from warm and fuzzy.
The Bears followed an impressive season-opening win over Hercules with a lopsided loss to Menlo last week. In the Menlo loss, senior running back Armani McFarland (a highly touted transfer from Riordan) injured his ankle and is questionable to play against his former school.
“I feel like we’re spinning our wheels a little bit and not really getting anything accomplished,” Mission coach Joe Albano said. “Riordan is a good football team and they do everything well. They are similar to Menlo. If we put it all together, we can compete, but my team needs to decide to put it all together.”
One of the few positives for the Bears has been the play of senior Antoine Porter, who has thrived at quarterback.
Porter has thrown for 428 yards, ran for 176 and has accounted for a combined eight touchdowns in the first two games.
“He’s really stepped up as a leader,” Albano said. “I’m waiting for other people to step up and no one has done that yet. He is the only one. He knows where he wants to go.”
Riordan’s signal-caller isn’t too shabby either.
Junior Zach Masoli hasn’t been asked to throw a ton (he has passed for 293 yards on 17-of-34 completions in two games), but he connected for five touchdowns last week against St. Mary’s and had two scores through the air against Lincoln.
Masoli hasn’t needed to shoulder a major load, unlike Porter, due to the emergence of senior running back Tre’ Gunter, who has 192 yards on just 25 carries this season.
“I don’t now what their plan is for Zach, but I think we’re pretty multifaceted,” Sweeney said.
The performance of both quarterbacks, combined with a pair of defenses that have been susceptible to allowing high passing yardage, could also indicate a possible shootout.
“We have to shore up that side of the football,” Sweeney said. “We were exposed in the passing game last week.”