Football Game of the Week: The Bruce-Mahoney

The Bruce-Mahoney game occupies the spotlight in the City all by itself on Friday night and is the biggest crowd draw in San Francisco high school athletics every year. (Photo by AJ Canaria)

By Jeremy Balan

The players may change on the field year to year, but the storyline stays the same.

It’s the Bruce-Mahoney game — enough said.

This year’s edition of the 118-year-old rivalry is scheduled for Friday night at Kezar Stadium and is not short on subplots, with Sacred Heart Cathedral needing only one more win for a Central Coast Section playoff berth and St. Ignatius also seeking crucial CCS points.

“Not only is it a huge rivalry and we’ve all been waiting for it for years, but it’s huge playoff-wise and could change the directions of our seasons,” said Sacred Heart senior linebacker John Morello. “Words can’t really describe how much we’ve been waiting for this.”

St. Ignatius' run defense has been shaky lately, and the Wildcats will be tasked with stopping Sacred Heart Cathedral standout running back Valentino Miles on Friday. (Photo by Aaron Perez)

Each player seems to have a personal story in relation to the game that dates back to the 1800s.

“My dad played in the game years ago and he still talks about it today,” said St. Ignatius senior running back/linebacker Kerry Crowley. “I’ve grown up with it and I definitely know the significance of the game.”

Each team has had its share of opportunities to win games in the West Catholic Athletic League this season, but most have resulted in disappointment.

“Right now we’re still looking forward to our first league win and we’re excited about that opportunity,” Crowley said. “We know the game is important, but we’re looking at this like any other game. We have to go out and execute and if we’re going to be where we want to be at the end of the season, this is a critical week.”

The success of the Irish could be determined by their high-pressure defense, led by Morello, a vocal and emotional leader.

“The key [to this game] is domination by our defense,” said Sacred Heart head coach John Lee. “We need our defense coming out like banshees and our offense needs to hold our end of the bargain. If our defense can dominate, we’re going to have a lot of fun Friday night.”

The Irish will look to put pressure on St. Ignatius junior quarterback Jack Stinn, who will be playing in his first game on the biggest stage in San Francisco high school football. Stinn has passed for 1,186 yards on the season with five TDs and four picks.

“[Sacred Heart’s defense] is kind of confusing, but once you figure it out, it’s just like any other defense,” Stinn said. “Especially out of shotgun, I know they’re going to bring [the pressure]. I have to hit the hot route and let our athletes get all the yards.”

Stinn, Crowley and shifty junior running back Albert Waters will all be factors on offense for the Wildcats, but their most glaring issue in recent weeks has been run defense, and Sacred Heart has standout running back Valentino Miles.

Miles has run for 710 yards on 94 carries this season and has also been one of the most targeted receivers for senior quarterback Jack Harrington.

St. Ignatius junior quarterback Jack Stinn (center) will be playing in his first Bruce-Mahoney game on Friday, but will be a key to the Wildcats' success. (Photo by Devin Chen)

“The biggest thing for us defensively is being fundamentally sound, to be able to tackle and to be able to pursue,” said St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia. “It breaks down to that.”

The Wildcats have a tradition of shutting down Sacred Heart backs, but Miles had 120 yards on 13 carries in last season’s game before leaving early in the third quarter with a leg injury.

“The way their defense is designed, they do an excellent job with our backs,” Lee said. “They did a good job with Miles last year, [Desarte] Yarnway a few years back, and we’ve got to get past that.”

The game plans and player matchups will certainly factor into the result, but the biggest hurdle for both teams can be the stage and the pressure that comes with it — something Lee knows all too well.

The Irish have only won one Bruce-Mahoney game in Lee’s seven-year tenure, and came into last season’s 31-21 loss as favorites.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, this is the SI game, and we know it’s a big game, but we can’t worry about the fans, or the school or the alumni,” Lee said. “We need to worry about ourselves and not get psyched out. In the past, we’ve had kids go robotic and we don’t do that for Mitty, we don’t do that for Serra. It’s just another important game.”

Still, it will be the players that decide the game, and they’re very familiar with each other, as cross-town rivals should be.

“I know the running backs, I know the offensive linemen, I know the quarterback, I know all those guys,” Morello said. “We grew up with those guys and hang out with them on the weekends, but we’re not friends this week.”

Other Games


Balboa @ Lowell, 3 p.m.

The two teams are at entirely different stages in comparison to last season, when Lowell was winless at this point and Balboa was in the thick of a playoff race.

This season, the Cardinals (3-2, 2-1) are tied for third place and the Bucs (1-5, 0-3) are struggling mightily and coming off a loss to Marshall.

Galileo vs. Mission @ Kezar Stadium, 3 p.m.

If the Lions (3-3, 1-2) want to keep their slim playoffs hopes alive, they will have to upset the first-place Bears (4-2, 3-0) and their dominant defense.

Mission has yet to allow a single point in AAA play and has only allowed 18 points in six games.


Stuart Hall vs. Mendocino @ Treasure Island, 1 p.m.

With a bye last week, the Knights (5-1) had to stew over their first loss of the season, but will be favored again against the Cardinals (2-3).

Serra (San Mateo) @ Riordan, 1 p.m.

The Crusaders’ (1-5, 0-3) daunting trek through the WCAL season continues with another power rushing team in Serra (5-1, 2-1), which received its first loss against Mitty last week.

Washington @ Burton, 2 p.m.

The defending AAA champs will have their first true AAA road game of the season and will be considerable favorites over an undermanned Burton (0-4, 0-3) squad.

Washington (4-2, 3-0) has outscored AAA opponents 93-28 this season.

Marshall @ Lincoln, 2 p.m.

The Phoenix (2-3, 1-1) stunned Balboa last week to stay alive in the AAA playoff race and a win over Lincoln (2-4, 2-1) would put them into at least a tie for the final postseason spot.

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  1. Justa Fan says:

    Go Irish. Lets get this W!

  2. Ari Gold says:

    Just another game. Old trophy that SI has dropped and broken a few times. Wont recognize the awarding of this trophy until the girls volleyball and basketball teams get factored into the series (EVEN IF SH WINS). Traditions evolve, just as the schools are no longer all-boys and became coed schools.

    • Bob MArley says:

      i agree that girls sports shud be seen as equal to guys, but tradition is tradition. Maybe they can start a new tradition for the girls with their own series and trophy. I think if they expanded to girls vball and girls bball, than other sports wud complain that they dont expand the bruce to all sports and genders. Like boys vball, lacrosse, soccer, etc, etc, etc,etc, etc. It would get too out of hand and cause more of a problem than before. Just a thot, open for discussion.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Let’s face it, the Wildcats are a good “team” but the Irish have better players. SI has a smaller margain for error but the Irish have the atheletes and the defense to make up for many mistakes. For the past three years, SHC has been the better team but it looks like they just get too stiff. This should be a pretty close game but if the Irish defense stays stout throughout the game, this could get ugly. SI can’t give up the ball or have many “three and outs.” However, i do believe that the IRISH are the better of the two. I predict an SHC victory…35-6

  4. No Girls says:

    Yeah no offense to any of the ladies out there, but if one school went 1-2 in the Bruce Mahoney boys sections and then their girls team went 2-0 and they won the trophy, no one would respect it.

    • Ari Gold says:

      @ no girls… youre entitled to your no respect opinion. I’ll quickly defuse your statement. UCLA and Stanford both are the only schools in the NCAA that have 100+ championships. Thats across all sports men and women. So if more than half of those championships are by women’s teams, then you wont respect those school’s championships? Thats how ridiculous your statement is.

      The BM series would be TRULY be between the schools which would be both boys and girls. Fact is if you go to any of the games (football, both basketball games, volleyball and baseball), you see great support amongst the school’s athletes in the other sports. And the women’s games are ultra competitive between the two schools. Its not as one sided as say the men’s games.

      • Cats Pride says:

        I’m not saying I don’t respect those championships, but you don’t open up the paper or go online and see articles about ucla’s latest women’s whatever championship. You do see articles about their men’s basketball team, even when they are doing poorly. It’s just the way our society is, and I don’t see that changing.

      • Johnny Drama says:

        @Ari, my man……you know girls sports are only for light entertainment! They don’t count! The worst game/league ever created was the WNBA.

        • Ari Gold says:

          Drama, if you have a daughter or when you have a daughter, I’d love for you to tell her if she plays sports at any level starting from high school and up that her games are just for light entertainment and not something that enables her to compete and develops life qualities. You tell your daughter or niece or little sister that. =)

          • Johnny Drama says:

            I tell my 3 niece’s that all the time. They play/played V-Ball for Convent (1 played hoops) and I NEVER ever saw them play. As long as I hook them up on X-mas and birthdays they love their uncle Drama!

  5. WCAL Alum says:

    About 10 years ago, I asked a high ranking SI admniistrator if they would consider adding the womens basketball and volleyball game to the Bruce-Mahoney series. It was a resounding NO as they knew the SHC girls teams would sway the pendulum towards SHC and they liked keeping it all boys (due to their continued dominance in football).

    • IC Stars says:

      If you counted all varsity competition the results would be a lot more even. But I don’t think you’ll get 5000 people paying to see the deciding game if it’s cross country.

      • Ari Gold says:

        @IC , youre thinking too broad. The major sports are the obvious ones like womens volleyball and basketball. Make it a simple series.

        @wcal alum, maybe the two principals of the schools if they were both women can change this. Dont see Fr. Walsh and John Scudder being too eager to change anything.

  6. No Girls says:

    You can give me as many facts as you want, but it really doesn’t change anything. Of course a school supports their women’s teams! Nobody wants to see any group that they are affiliated with lose. I’m not denying that. Also, please don’t think that I am making some sexist comment about how girl’s sports don’t matter, so let me revise my original comment. When I say people wouldn’t respect it, I mean that the high school boys (who grow into alumni parents) no matter how ardent supporters of the girls’ teams they are, just don’t have the same level of reverence for female athletes, and that compounds in how the guys would feel amongst themselves in the locker room and then how they would feel when they watch their sons play. It’s evident in society today. The WNBA is operated at a loss by the NBA! And WPS has an average 5000 fan attendance rate at PLAYOFF games. Compare that to the 70,141 fans who showed up in 2008 to watch Detroit go 0-16. You can’t argue with that, and any male high school athlete, no matter how honest and true a guy he is, can’t help but feel much more moved by male sports than by women’s sports. Whether this is a sad truth or not, it up to each of us, but its a truth. So even if I agreed with you and thought that they should do what you propose, my comment would still ring painfully true.

    So Sorry Ari (It rhymes!)
    Even if you don’t want to agree with me, this is how it is.

    • IC Stars says:

      Actually it all boils down to revenue. If all varsity sports were considered, do you really think you’ll get a packed house to watch girls lacrosse compete for the trophy?

  7. Fan says:

    The game is going to stay with it’s current male sport format period. If both schools want to create something for the female sport then that would be a nice gesture to recognize their female athletes from both schools. But the old guard is staying firm on the Bruce Mahoney as it should be.

    Now for the game itself, if the SH defense can get to the QB and the RB’s, stop the quick slant to the TE and play like they have been, then they can win. Hopefully they offense has resolved those ball security issues with solid practice this week and if SI tries to key on Miles everyone else steps up and makes them pay for it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Every year SH is said to have the better team and they choke. I know from personal experience. The coaches at SI will have them prepared and ready to go. The guys at SI will take care of business and everyone will act surprised saying SH had the better team.
    Let’s Go Cats!

  9. City fan says:

    38-14 final can u say thorough?!

  10. Don L. says:

    As a non SI / SH alum, I would support having the ladies compete for something. After all, when the boys play basketball at USF, the girls also play the same night. Just like the boys, lots of the girls have played each other in CYO or AAU so I’m sure bragging rights would be great among the girls as much as the boys.

    As someone who’s watched a few SH / SI basketball games (non Mahoney at either SH or SI), I will say that it seems the fan turnout is greater for the boys games than the girls.

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