By Jeremy Balan
St. Ignatius got a sense of just how unpredictable rivalries can be when they lost Riordan earlier in the season, but played its own role of spoiler on Friday in a 31-21 win over Sacred Heart Cathedral in the first leg of the Bruce-Mahoney series on Friday at Kezar Stadium.
St. Ignatius (2-6-1, 1-5) made its offensive gameplan known early, pounding out an 11-play touchdown drive, capped by a 8-yard touchdown by Zac Shuller, on its opening possession.
Seven St. Ignatius runners combined for 277 yards rushing on 52 carries and senior quarterback Luke Pappas only threw three passes.
“Our offense did a nice job of controlling the ball,” said St. Ignatius interim head coach John Regalia. “Our offensive line and our backs did an excellent job of running hard and playing physical. We knew we needed to move the ball on offense and control the clock.”
Running back Jacob Brisbane led St. Ignatius rushers with 110 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, but it was an unorthodox touchdown he scored that may have put the Wildcats over the top.
Holding on to a 17-14 lead, St. Ignatius was driving midway through the fourth quarter and the Wildcats found themselves on the Sacred Heart 7-yard line. Shuller was called upon and took a carry to the goal line, but fumbled just before crossing, but Brisbane caught the ball before it hit the ground and cruised into the end zone for an easy score.
“Honestly, I thought [Schuller] scored, but the ball just went right into my hands,” Brisbane said. “I didn’t even know what happened. Luck of the draw right there.”
The win gives St. Ignatius’ its fifth consecutive win in the series and Brisbane, a senior, has never seen a Bruce-Mahoney football game the Wildcats didn’t win.
“It’s been a tough season,” Brisbane said. “We’ve been really trying to fight and come back, loss after loss, but we came to play today, every single guy.”
Even though St. Ignatius has dominated the teams’ recent meetings, it was Sacred Heart (4-5, 1-5) that came into this matchup as the favorite, likely needing a win to secure a CIF-Central Coast Section playoff spot.
“I am so utterly frustrated right now,” said Sacred Heart head coach John Lee. “How we are going to bounce back is what I want to know. I could understand if we were getting blown out, but we’re right there and don’t know how to close the book.”
Sacred Heart running back Valentino Miles had another standout performance, running for a game-high 120 yards on 13 carries, but left the game midway through the third quarter with a leg injury and did not return.
Miles had 109 yards in the first half, but the rest of the team had just 13 yards and the Irish only scored once, trailing 10-7 at the half.
The deficit proved to be one the Irish would never overcome, even after a frenetic fourth-quarter passing display that featured 156 yards from quarterback Sean Murphy.
The Irish cut the lead to 24-21 on a 2-yard run from Zach Tapel with 2:35 remaining, but St. Ignatius recovered the ensuing onside kick and Shuller broke a 33-yard touchdown run to seal the game with 1:40 remaining.
Still, the Irish will have another opportunity to keep their playoff hopes alive, when they face powerhouse Valley Christian next week.
“I’m not giving up on these guys and I don’t want them to give up on us,” Lee said. “We’re going to make a battle of it.”
Miles will likely be back for the game against Valley Christian, but junior offensive lineman Devon Villanueva-Blair may not be so lucky. After a chilling knee injury in the fourth quarter, Villanueva-Blair was removed from the field on a cart and was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center after the game.
SI: 6:49 — Zac Shuller 8-yard run (Will McKee kick good)
SH: 6:14 — Zach Tapel 1-yard run (Sean Murphy kick good)
SI: 0:36 — McKee 28-yard field goal
SI: 11:29 — Jacob Brisbane 1-yard run (McKee kick good)
SH: 10:15 — Taylor Johns 14-yard pass from Murphy (Murphy kick good)
SI: 5:33 — Brisbane 1-yard fumble recovery (McKee kick good)
SH: 2:35 — Tapel 2-yard run (Murphy kick good)
SI: 1:40 —Schuller 33-yard run (McKee kick good)
Slideshow by AJ Canaria