By Andrew J. Campa, Staff Writer
With seemingly all the history and present factors stacked against it, maybe it’s fitting that the St. Paul High School football team is looking for venerable coach Marijon Ancich to lead it to a victory versus archrival Bishop Amat on Friday. The visiting Lancers (5-0 overall) ride into the 7:30 p.m. contest as high as they’ve ever been this decade, two weeks removed from a stunning victory over state power St. Bonaventure, 24-23.
Bishop Amat is ranked No. 11 in the entire CIF-Southern Section by calpreps.com and is eighth in the Pac-5 Division in this week’s CIF-SS poll.
“We know we’re up against an incredible team,” Ancich said, “obviously one of the best Amat teams in years.”
St. Paul (3-2) is on a three-game losing streak against the Lancers, last falling in 2007 in a 31-30 triple-overtime road thriller in which Swordsmen running back Luis Garcia tripped right before the goal line on a rain-soaked field on a two-point conversion attempt.
The last time St. Paul defeated Amat was in 2000, when the Ancich-coached Swordsmen romped, 31-3.
St. Paul has an overall record of 15-24-2 versus Amat heading into Friday’s 42nd edition, but Ancich owns a career mark of 13-11-2 against the Lancers.
Ancich also holds two distinctions.
He snapped Bishop Amat’s 15-game, 17-year-long winning streak in the series in 1999 with a 25-9 win.
Previously, Ancich guided St. Paul to its longest winning streak of the series of seven games between 1975-1981.
In fact, it was that 1981 Angelus League contest that he remembers most fondly.
“That game seems like eons ago but I remember that we played five overtimes,” Ancich said of the 42-35 St. Paul win. “Everyone thought it was over after four overtimes.
“In fact, there were 2,000 people on the field that had to be removed before we could start with that last overtime.”
For as much success as he’s had, Ancich is the first to admit that all that matters Friday is the present.
“We’re about as healthy as we’re going to get and we’re getting ready for a tough game,” he said.
St. Paul is coming off a bye week that followed a 35-0 defeat to St. John Bosco, but the Swordsmen still have a lingering quarterback issue.
Seniors Paul Lopez and Chris Willson split time at quarterback against Bosco.
Lopez was 9 of 13 for 75 yards while Willson completed 5 of 11 passes for 70 yards, including a 40-yard throw to receiver Adam Padilla.
As of Wednesday, Ancich hadn’t named a starter but hinted that a selection will be made today.
“We’ll make a decision after (Wednesday’s) practice, after I get a chance to see how both look,” he said. “I put both in against Bosco to try to get a rhythm going, to see who responded better.”
The good news for St. Paul is that both running backs Drake Griffin and Deion Williams will be available.
Ancich quickly dispersed the rumor that Griffin had been suspended for a game after the junior kicked an official’s flag early in the fourth quarter.
“That’s incorrect,” Ancich said. “I don’t understand where that started but I’ve had to answer that question all week.”
As for the question of how to defeat Amat, Ancich was direct.
“We have to cut down on the mental errors on offense and be more consistent on defense,” he said. “If we do that, we’ll have a chance.”
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