By Josh Levine
St. Ignatius could practically taste victory.
Out of the Wildcats’ 10 regular season games in 2009, six were decided by 10 or fewer points. Out of those six games, five were losses.
“Our focus this year has to be in the fourth quarter,” said senior running back Zac Schuller. “We’re going to push as a team at the end of games and really finish as a team. Last year there wasn’t as much energy.”
The Wildcats finished 2009 with a 4-6 overall record and a 2-5 record in the West Catholic Athletic League, but don’t let that fool you. With the exception of its 47-24 loss to Archbishop Mitty, St. Ignatius was close in every single loss going in to the fourth quarter.
“We had 41 men on our roster, and 38 played,” said St. Ignatius head coach Steve Bluford. “In our league you really need a couple more bodies out there. I’m not making any excuses for our losses, but what we need to do is make sure we are finishing games well.”
St. Ignatius will run 5-3-3 defense in 2010, to combat largely run-heavy teams in the WCAL. By having five down linemen, it makes it tough for running backs to get past the line.
“We have eight men in the box,” said senior Jacob Brisbane. “It’s going to be tough for opponents to get past that. As a defense we swarm to the ball.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Wildcats will rely heavily on the run as they did in 2009, when they ran on more than 74 percent of offensive plays from scrimmage.
Schuller will be the top returning rusher, with 342 yards on 83 carries last season, but the quarterback position will feature a new face.
Outgoing quarterback Rob Emery, who started last season, graduated this past spring. That leaves the door open Jeff Farlow and Luke Pappas, both seniors, to battle fort he starting job.
Both have limited varsity experience. Pappas played sparingly in 2009, completing 7-of-8 passes for 57 yards, while Farlow’s last game experience came in 2008, when he completed 10-of-17 passes for 111 yards as a sophomore.
“Both guys understand their role on this team and it’s not like neither of them will have a job,” said Bluford. “Right now it’s too early in camp to say who the starter is going to be. We have one guy that is pretty good out of center and the other has a strong arm. So that’s the challenge for me as a coach. I have to figure out who is going to play there.”
For many teams there is one game circled on their schedule at the beginning of the season. For the Wildcats that game is against crosstown rival Sacred Heart Cathedral. The game against the Fightin’ Irish is known as the Bruce-Mahoney game, which has been dominated by St. Ignatius since 2006.
“That game [against Sacred Heart Cathedral] is always a special one,” said Bluford. “Our guys come out with a lot of energy that night. Coach [John] Lee coaches his team very well over at Sacred Heart [Cathedral], and that’s our job as coaches, to get these players prepared.”
The Wildcats finished their season by losing to Serra, Valley Christian, and Bellarmine. All three games were decided by one possession. Schuller pointed out that all three games could have gone either way, but that the Wildcats were not as strong in the fourth quarter. That will change this year, he says, with the endurance work the team is putting in.
Even with the close calls against the WCAL elite, Schuller will look for retribution on the one game that got out of hand.
“If I had to pick a game to look forward to it would be the one against Archbishop Mitty,” said Schuller. “They came out and blew us out.”
2010 Schedule (WCAL games in bold)
Sat. 9/4 – @ Marin Catholic (Kentfield), 1 p.m.
Sat. 9/11 – vs. Milpitas, 1 p.m.
Fri. 9/17 – @ Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland), 7 p.m.
Sat. 10/2 – vs. Bellarmine, 1 p.m.
Sat. 10/9 – @ Riordan, 2:30 p.m.
Sat. 10/16 – vs. Mitty, 1 p.m.
Fri. 10/22 – @ Serra, 7 p.m.
Fri. 10/29 – @ Valley Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Fri. 11/5 – vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
Fri. 11/12 – @ St. Francis, 7:30 p.m.