By Jeremy Balan
As tough a pill as St. Ignatius’ 28-26 loss to Marin Catholic was to swallow last week, the excitement surrounding the football program is palpable.
The reason for the excitement is a revamped offense the Wildcats displayed against Marin Catholic, and first-year junior starting quarterback Jack Stinn.
Unlike the straight-ahead, run-heavy offensive attack the Wildcats have employed in recent years, Stinn completed 23-of-43 passes for 300 yards and a touchdown against Marin Catholic.
Now, riding Stinn’s live left arm, the Wildcats will host Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland on Saturday, but St. Ignatius coach John Regalia stressed the need for versatility.
“With offense, defense and even kicking, we have to adapt,” Regalia said. “There will be different opponents that run different things, or matchups will be different. Maybe this week we do or don’t throw 43 times. If we do, we’re doing that because that’s what puts us in a situation to be successful.”
St. Ignatius served the Dragons their only regular-season loss last year, before the O’Dowd fell to eventual North Coast Section Division III champion Cardinal Newman in the postseason.
The Dragons dropped their opener to Franklin of Elk Grove last week, but the aspect of a potential hangover from last week’s close loss is something the Wildcats can’t afford against a quality opponent.
“The focus has to be O’Dowd, whether we’re ready [to bounce back] or not, it has to be,” Regalia said. “I do think we’ve processed [the Marin Catholic] game and we are looking ahead and we’d be foolish not to. They’re a good team, they’re well coached and we have to be ready to play.”
The offense may have stolen the spotlight, but it was the St. Ignatius defense that was just as much of a factor early against Marin Catholic. The Wildcats only allowed 118 yards through three quarters, but could not stop Marin Catholic in the fourth.
Regalia also noted that the defense didn’t force any turnovers against Marin Catholic and showed plenty of room for improvement.
“We need to force takeaways and be that opportunistic defense.” Regalia said. “We know the things that we need to work on, and those are the things we have to maintain through four quarters of football. We need to address those areas and have to improve.”
Saturday will likely be a fervent atmosphere, as O’Dowd travels well and has a considerable fan presence, but Stinn and company are embracing the opportunity — they just won’t commit to the details.
“The number of throws or points, I don’t know,” Stinn said of a potential shootout against O’Dowd. “As long as it’s enough for us to win.”
Mission at Menlo (Atherton), 3:15 p.m.
Mission looked like an Academic Athletic Association powerhouse in a dominating 36-0 win over Tomales on Saturday night, but will take a considerable step up on the road against the Knights. Menlo fell to eventual champion Sacred Heart Prep in the Central Coast Section Division IV semifinals in 2010 and edged Santa Cruz in its opener this season.
Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton) at Riordan, 3:30 p.m.
The Crusaders made considerable strides in the second half against Dougherty Valley last week, but will face another game opponent in the defending CCS champs. The Gators and Tyler McCool dismantled San Lorenzo Valley 39-0 in their opener and defeated Riordan 56-26 last year.
Stuart Hall at Pinewood, 4 p.m.
The Knights certainly started off their season with a bang after a 40-8 win over rival Woodside Priory and will look to avenge another loss from 2010. Pinewood beat Stuart Hall 50-30 in last season’s meeting.
Galileo at Gonzales, 7 p.m.
Originally scheduled to play Fremont of Oakland on Saturday, the Lions had to scramble to schedule Gonzales after the Fremont game was canceled. The young Lions looked solid against Mills last week, and will look to continue their success on the road against the Spartans, who went 3-7 last season.
Marshall at Ukiah, 7:30 p.m.
After surprising many by beating Richmond on the road last week, the Phoenix will travel more than 100 miles to face the Wildcats, which went 4-6 last season and won their opener 47-37 against Casa Grande last week.
Sacred Heart Cathedral at St. Mary’s (Albany), 1:30 p.m.
The Irish escaped with a win against Terra Nova last week and will come into their matchup against the Panthers as considerable favorites. Sacred Heart cruised to a 49-27 win over St. Mary’s in last year’s meeting and the Panthers were routed by Justin-Siena last week 60-25.
Oakland Tech at Balboa, 2 p.m.
Oakland Tech defeated the Bucs 41-20 last season and will be favorites again, but Balboa shrugged off last season’s non-league funk with a 13-12 win over Kennedy last week.
Tamalpais at Lincoln, 2 p.m.
It’s hard to see the Mustangs challenging the Red-Tailed Hawks, after a 41-0 loss to San Marin last week and a 34-8 loss to Tamalpais last season.
El Camino at Washington, 2 p.m.
The defending AAA champs welcome the Colts, whom they beat 21-14 last season, but could be undermanned at quarterback, as starter Aram Gevandian might miss significant time with a thumb injury. El Camino didn’t impress in its opener, falling to Menlo-Atherton 43-7 last week. The Colts went 5-5 last season, but were winless on the road.