By Jeremy Balan
APTOS — St. Ignatius’ season of heartbreak continued on Friday night, but this time it was the Wildcats that dealt the pain.
SI rallied back from a 24-7 third-quarter deficit to beat Aptos 35-31 on the road in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs.
Senior fullback Dom Truoccolo put the Wildcats up for good on a 3-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds remaining and junior linebacker Noah Bull sealed the game with an interception on Aptos’ first play of the ensuing drive to cap the furious St. Ignatius comeback.
“It hasn’t really set in yet, but it was amazing,” Truoccolo said. “It’s not going to last long, though, because we have two more weeks to come together to win a championship. That’s our goal.”
Truoccolo punctuated the win, but for nearly three complete quarters, the Wildcats were simply outplayed. St. Ignatius lost three fumbles in the first half, had costly penalties stall multiple drives and allowed 24 unanswered Aptos points in the second quarter.
One play, however, shifted the momentum of the entire game.
With the St. Ignatius offense struggling to move the ball, Aptos inexplicably ran a fake punt with 42 seconds left in the third quarter. The fake fell well short of the first down and St. Ignatius took over on the Aptos 45-yard line.
That was the spark the Wildcats needed.
Three plays later, St. Ignatius junior quarterback Jack Stinn connected with wideout Andrew Vollert for a 34-yard score to cut the Aptos lead to 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
St. Ignatius forced a punt on Aptos’ next drive after a three-and-out, and Stinn led the Wildcats on an 11-play, 77-yard scoring drive, capped by a 6-yard run from Truoccolo, to cut the Aptos lead to 24-21 with 7:36 remaining.
Aptos responded, though, and pushed their lead to 31-21 on an eight-play scoring drive spurred by a 32-yard run from senior quarterback Riggs Powell, who ran for 119 yards on 20 carries in the game.
Stinn responded again with a 7-yard touchdown run with 3:56 remaining, set up by a 42-yard reverse pass from tight end Travis McDow to Mike Pia.
Still, the Mariners held a 31-28 lead and only needed a few first downs to run the clock out. But the Aptos running game that racked up 349 yards of rushing offense on the St. Ignatius defense went three-and-out again, setting up another game-changing special teams play.
Again, the Mariners ran a fake punt, and again, the Wildcats stopped them short of the first down with 3:03 remaining, setting up the game-winning drive.
“The kids are devastated,” said Aptos head coach Randy Blankenship. “They played their hearts out and we made one too many gambles. We just didn’t want to give them the ball back. On the first fake punt, I definitely thought we had it, I just didn’t think we executed. The kids played hard and that’s all we ask of them. I wish we could have given them a chance. It was my fault.”
As the tears of disbelief flowed on the somber Aptos sideline, the Wildcats were engulfed in jubilation.
With the win, St. Ignatius advances to take on the winner of the Valley Christian-Burlingame matchup, which kicks off on Saturday night.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys and our coaches to be able to come back on the road against a very good team,” said St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia. “We finished this game and the great thing is, we get to move on. It’s a great feeling and it’s a great opportunity for us.”
SI: 1:59 — Kerry Crowley 9-yard run (Michael Capitolo kick good)
A: 11:52 — Tyler Morgan 25-yard run (kick good)
A: 6:33 — Philip Rojas 3-yard run (kick good)
A: 1:00 — Riggs Powell 1-yard run (kick good)
A: 0:00 — 31-yard field goal
SI: 0:17 —Andrew Vollert 34-yard pass from Jack Stinn (Capitolo kick good)
SI: 7:36 — Dom Truoccolo 6-yard run (Capitolo kick good)
A: 4:48 — Cody Capurro 1-yard run (kick good)
SI: 3:56 —Stinn 7-yard run (Capitolo kick good)
SI: 0:38 — Truoccolo 3-yard run (Capitolo kick good)