Football: Running game leads St. Ignatius to Bruce-Mahoney win over Sacred Heart Cathedral

St. Ignatius senior running back Jacob Brisbane breaks through the Sacred Heart Cathedral defense on Friday at Kezar Stadium. (Photo by AJ Canaria)

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.

Sacred Heart Cathedral junior running back Valentino Miles avoids a St. Ignatius defender on Friday at Kezar Stadium. (Photo by AJ Canaria)

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.

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
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

Fourth Quarter
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

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  1. Anonymous says:

    UNREAL! Goes to show you that you can’t underestimate pride and heart in a rivalry game. First Riordan and now SI. The MYTHICAL CITY CHAMPIONSHIP is a 3-way tie. SHC is clearly the best team but that is why they play the game I guess.

  2. blank says:

    How is SH obviously the best? SI just pounded them..

  3. Anonymous says:

    just goes to show how much of a fluke SI’s loss to Riordan was. SI just made their season and ruined SH’s by keeping them out of the playoffs. no way that SH can stop byron marshall and valley christian next week

  4. Anonymous says:

    The Riordan loss was no fluke, Riordan was the better team on that day. To call that loss a fluke then you must call this win a fluke as well. SHC has been the only city school to be able to battle the peninsula schools while ARHS and SI have been slaughtered by the other WCAL teams. SHC was a clear cut favorite in this game so this is even more of a “fluke” than the Riordan win in which SI wasn’t favored by much. Riordan was the better team on that day and SI was the better team last night. Do not denigrate others’ accomplishments to satisfy your own ego. All three schools will end up with the same league record so this year is a draw.

  5. Anonymous says:

    so you’re saying that if SI and Riordan were to play again that Riordan would win.
    you must be a comedian.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I say Riordan would be the favorite since Riordan has beaten them already. SI beat SHC for their ONLY league win and you make it seem like they are better than the 1972 Dolphins. SI came ready to play and they won, but I have news for you, they are not world beaters!

  7. blank says:

    have you seen it?

  8. Manifest Destiny says:

    I have something to say to the sleeping multitudes of one game a year fair weather high school football experts who only attend the “Bruce” game. Support high school football in the City every week by watching practice or going to a game! S.H. should not have lost that game. Period. You will not see me crying in my beer over that result. Go Wildcats!
    For those Irish alums who are turning on the coach: I will say that no one wanted to win that game more than Coach Lee. Maybe that is the problem. He is a good man and an excellent coach. He is die hard S.H. and brought the football program back where it belongs , in the WCAL. Are you guys so quick to forget recent the victories over long time league opponents? Give Little Hollywood a chance , I don’t see SHC running a bus to Marin or the Peninsula to bring in players!

  9. Anonymous says:

    If SI played Riordan 100 more times they would win 100 of them. There is a new style of offense that Si runs and they have been racking up huge yardage against teams that have superior defenses. The SH game was no fluke. The defense controlled SH’s offense and the SI offense dominated that Irish defense. SH may have more wins because of their easy pre-season, but the Cats have been slugging it out with physical and talented teams. It just upsets me anytime that people TRY to compare SI and SH’s strength of schedule. SI took on Marin Catholic, Milpitas, and O’Dowd. That is no easy task. I didnt notice SH line up any difficult games for their pre-season. As far as league goes SH has played well but have nothing to show for it. SI ran for 230 yards against Serra, who has a superior run defense. SI moved the ball for over 300 yards of offense against the #4 team in the state Valley Christian. The only thing that can be drawn from the 3-way city title is that on any given day, anyone can win.

  10. IC says:

    Sorry Anon., the game was a flaming sheer fluke. SI ran up yards on Valley Christian after VC dropped a 50 spot on them and brought in their third stringers.

    Re: “just goes to show how much of a fluke SI’s loss to Riordan was. SI just made their season and ruined SH’s by keeping them out of the playoffs. no way that SH can stop byron marshall and valley christian next week”. Really? Who thought SHC would do the usual rollover against SI no matter how bad they are?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hey IC i was at the Valley Game and it happened that they left their first string in the whole game. Not one of their stud players left the game. As a matter of fact, VC was still throwing up 50.

  12. Anonymous says:

    100 out of 100…whatever you’re smoking, I would love some. They have ONE, I repeat ONE league win. You need to stop being delusional and get real. They beat SHC, congrats on a great win, but again, it is ONE WIN. Slugging it out? With who because the scores do not back that statement. SI got handled by Riordan and 3 weeks later they are unbeatable. Check in after this weeks game to see if you are still singing the same tune. Again, if the Riordan loss was a fluke, then so is the SHC win. And let me leave you with this thought…….it is ONE WIN!!!!!!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Manifest Destiny. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Regardless of which high school you attended or which team you happen to be supporting today, no one can deny that SH should have won that game. They have the skill, the spirit, and most importantly, the heart. The only problem they had last Friday was their heads. The pressure placed on these kids to win this ONE game is unreal. Clearly the outcome of the Bruce Mahoney is not an indication of who the better team is, it’s an indication of who can better handle the pressure. I grew up in the city so I get the rivalry and I share in the excitement, but seriously, it’s just one game, it’s not life and death. John Lee has worked so hard and has poured his heart and soul into this program over the last few years to bring it where it is today — what about that? Does all of that get thrown out the window because of a loss to SI? It wouldn’t with a loss to any other school.

  14. Anonymous says:

    SH played terrible teams during the preseason, so everyone thought that they are the next big team out of the city. SI took on grade A opponents in Marin Catholic (9-0) Milpitas (5-3-1) and Bishop O’Dowd (8-1) while SH played average and terrible teams such as Terra Nova (6-3) Justin Siena (1-8) and St. Mary’s (4-5). The only “team” SH played this preseason is Terra Nova (debatable). If SH had the same preseason schedule as SI they would have the same if not a worse record than SI.

  15. Anonymous says:

    to anonymous^^^

    Its funny how SH also only has one league win too? People seem to forget that.

  16. Anonymous says:

    even though SH only has one league win. they should have been undefeated i believe. i mean the only reason why the have loss some games were by a few tough losses.. no blow outs just bad calls and some terrible play calling during a few games. If that sacred heart Running back stays in the game and doesn’t get hurt. i think SH blows out Si. I mean he averaged almost 10 yards a carry with a leg injury i’m assuming. i’m really looking foward to seeing if this kid can bounce back from that injury and lead his team to an upset over valley christian.. that’s gonna be a good game. the best backs in the bay area going against each other in a heavy weight fight. i think who ever does better in the rushing game, will win this game. these two kids from valley and SH might be the best backs in the state. Miles is more of an all around complete back and marshall can shake you and leave you hanging or run right past you. i wanna see how they do against eachother in this game.

  17. Anonymous says:

    To all the pundits out there, there are no dominant football teams in SF, PERIOD. What makes SF football special are the rivalries and inspired play by the young men of San Francisco. This year, all 3 schools finished 1 and 1 against each other and each win was their only respective WCAL win. Let’s accept the facts, rivalry games are exciting and certainly one win can make a teams’ year. SI and Riordan had a successful year because SI beat SHC and Riordan beat SI. SHC killed Riordan for the highlight of their year. In years past, these schools were able to compete and win league and CCS titles in football, but not at this time. The demographic changes have completely changed the landscape of city sports. We can all go back and forth about this but the truth is, the young men of SF play hard and give us moments we will remember for years to come, but we are not competitive enough to make a dent in WCAL play at this time, although SHC came close a couple times, but at the end of the day, each city school has 1 league win, and this is an accurate reflection of where they stand.

  18. IC says:

    Anon. RE: “Hey IC i was at the Valley Game and it happened that they left their first string in the whole game. Not one of their stud players left the game. As a matter of fact, VC was still throwing up 50.”

    Ever hear of Prevent Defense?

  19. Anonymous says:

    ^to IC:

    you obviously no nothing about football. when it comes down to it, and you’re blowing a team out you don’t throw the football, because that makes the game longer. You run the football and run out the clock out of respect and keep it classy. Your comment just makes you look ignorant.

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