Football: O’Malley’s fumble return gives St. Ignatius CCS title win over Sacred Heart

St. Ignatius senior running back Dom Truoccolo drags a Sacred Heart Cathedral defender for extra yardage in the CCS Division III championship game on Saturday at AT&T Park. (Photo by Doug Ko)

By Jeremy Balan

The Central Coast Section Division III championship between St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart Cathedral essentially came down to a bounce.

With the game tied at 14-14 with 4:18 remaining in the third quarter, a botched snap caromed off Sacred Heart quarterback Jack Harrington and hit the turf.

St. Ignatius junior linebacker Danny O’Malley scooped up the ball and ran 50 yards for the game-winning score in the Wildcats’ 21-14 win on Saturday night in front of 12,000 fans at AT&T Park.

It is the second CCS title in St. Ignatius’ history.


Photo slideshow by Doug Ko and Eric Luis

“It just rolled and I saw it, then I saw the open stands [past the end zone],” O’Malley said. “We brought it when we needed to.”

After a mistake-free first half, the Irish (7-6) had a 14-7 lead, but were plagued with errors in the second, and the Wildcats (6-6-1) pounced on the opportunities.

Sacred Heart Cathedral punter Daniel Lalor gets hit out of bounds just short of a first down on a fake punt in the CCS Division III championship game on Saturday at AT&T Park. (Photo by Eric Luis)

Harrington also threw three interceptions in the second half, but it was a failed fake punt that set the Wildcats up for the tying score.

On the first possession of the second half, Sacred Heart punter Daniel Lalor rolled out right and appeared to be opting for one of his normal, rugby-style kicks. Instead, Lalor tried to run for the first down, but was stopped short.

“It wasn’t a fake punt,” said Sacred Heart head coach John Lee. “It’s a call. He has that ability to run and I’m not going to blame the kid. He dives and he comes up this short.”

After taking over on the Irish 38-yard line, St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Stinn scored on a 1-yard sneak nearly five minutes later to tie the score at 14-14.

“[St. Ignatius] took care of their opportunities when they had them and we didn’t,” Lee said.

The Wildcats’ defense not only capitalized on Sacred Heart’s miscues, but held the Irish to just 46 yards in the second half.

“Our defensive coaches put our guys in the right position to make plays,” said St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia said. “Our guys responded.”

While the St. Ignatius defense held firm, the Wildcats’ offense found production from newfound halfback Dom Truoccolo.

The senior, who was the Wildcats’ starting fullback until starting running back Kerry Crowley was injured in the first round of the postseason against Aptos, ran for 179 yards on 36 carries and scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter to even the score at 7-7.

On the first drive of the game, the Wildcats handed the ball to Truoccolo on 12 of their first 13 plays and he had 116 yards in the first quarter alone.

“We rode him and we’re going to ride him because of who he is — a senior captain,” Regalia said. “His work ethic is second to none and we definitely needed to establish the run.”

Truoccolo and fellow running back Albert Waters (who had 65 yards on 13 carries) were practically the entire Wildcats offense, as Stinn, who has been so essential in their playoff run, did not complete a pass on just six attempts.

“Jack is a part of our offense, and because he is such a team player, that’s him managing the game,” Regalia said. “I’m not surprised that we were successful [when he didn’t complete a pass]. We were running the ball really well too.”

St. Ignatius senior Will McKee dives to make a shoestring tackle on standout Sacred Heart Cathedral running back Valentino Miles in the CCS Division III championship game on Saturday at AT&T Park. (Photo by Doug Ko)

Still, the Sacred Heart defense played well enough to give the Irish a final shot to tie late in the fourth quarter. The Irish defense held St. Ignatius to just 76 yards in the second half and forced a punt with 2:26 remaining.

Harrington led the Irish into St. Ignatius territory, but was picked off by senior David Bornstein with 33 seconds left.

Harrington was looking for standout running back Valentino Miles deep down the middle of the field, but Bonrstein stepped in front of the lofted pass to make the interception. Miles was held to 80 yards on 16 carries and scored on a 1-yard run to give the Irish a 14-7 lead right before the half, but was injured midway through the fourth quarter and returned for the final drive.

“I told him all week and before the game, ‘They’re going to have two guys on you,'” Lee said. “That was going to open up everything. He’s that kind of a special player.”

Miles ran for over 300 yards in the first meeting between the two teams, and early on, the Irish capitalized on the run-focused St. Ignatius defense.

Following a stop by the Irish defense on the Wildcats’ opening drive, Harrington connected with wide receiver Matt Hewitson for a 79-yard score on Sacred Heart’s second play from scrimmage.

“We hit the big pass, and we were moving the ball at times, but we weren’t consistent,” Lee said. “We just came up short too many times.”

A scary moment after the final whistle

After a railing collapsed in the stands at AT&T Park on Saturday, several St. Ignatius students dangerously fell to the field. (Photo by Doug Ko)

The game provided exciting moments for both sides and the stage of AT&T Park was unprecedented for high school football in San Francisco, but the event was almost marred by tragedy.

After receiving the championship trophy, the St. Ignatius players went to the student section, as they do after every game, to recite the school’s fight song.

With St. Ignatius fans in the temporary bleachers in right field and increased pressure from a sea of students on the railing, the barrier collapsed and several students fell nearly 10 feet down to the field.

Two students and one player received medical attention, while a group of police held the gate in place as the crowd was cleared away from the area. One student was down on her back and received attention from paramedics for an extended period of time, but later walked away with no apparent serious injuries.

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
SH: 6:09 — Matt Hewitson 79-yard pass from Jack Harrington (Harrington kick good)

Second Quarter
SI: 10:58 — Dom Truoccolo 5-yard run (Michael Capitolo kick good)
SH: 1:22 — Valentino Miles 1-yard run (Harrington kick good)

Third Quarter
SI: 6:25 — Jack Stinn 1-yard run (Capitolo kick good)
SI: 4:18 — Danny O’Malley 50-yard fumble return (Capitolo kick good)

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60 Comments

  1. jbalan says:

    Sorry for the delay, everyone who has been waiting for the story to be posted. It has been a long night and a very long week.

  2. GCJ01 says:

    Congrats to both SI and SH for playing such a great game. I hope those who were involved in the collapsed railing incident are all okay.

    • WildcatsSF says:

      Fortunately, all the kids who fell from the stands have minor injuries and none left AT&T Park with the paramedics. AT&T needs stronger fence/railings drilled into the bleachers, that’s for sure.

      • City Lights says:

        That looked really dangerous on the news when all those kids were falling out of the stands to the ground 10 feet below. Looked like a soccer riot. Glad to hear they’re all OK. Who’s responsible for crowd control?

        It was cool to sit on the third base line for a football game. You could hear a pin drop from the SHC fans all around me though in the second half.

        Great game by both teams. Kudos to both schools. Hopefully Miles isn’t hurt and gets to play at the next level. Maybe CCSF?

    • Cats Pride says:

      so good job on the predictions. haha jkjk

  3. Chris says:

    SH had more mistakes but their Defense kept them in the game. SI could have beaten them 35-14 but the Irish D held SI. Congrats on both schools success and making it this far. Their was no losers to this game, a great win for the city.

  4. WCAL Alum says:

    Congratulation to SI for winning the CCS III title in a memorable game for both squads. Both schools should be proud of their accomplishes this year. Now onto basketball and the second leg of the Bruce-Mahoney game. A fine night of prep football in The City.

  5. Fan says:

    12,000 fans! Shows the power of a great rivalry that can attract alumni and others to a high school event.

    • Mickey Blue Eyes says:

      So If CCS stood by their guns and kept this at Terra Nova what would have happened to the 10000 fans unable to get in due to capacity crowd? CCS see when these two schools promise that they can sell they will deliver. It would be wise of CCS to listen to the schools when they offer advice.

    • WildcatsSF says:

      Put that in your pipe and smoke it, CCS Commissioner and officials. They thought Terra Nova and it’s 2,500 seats and standing room would have fit the SI & SHC crowd last night. HA!

      • RC Cola says:

        The sites are PREDETERMINED! Its not like they decided to put the game in Terra Nova after both schools made it to the championship game. Geez. Quit it.

        • GCJ01 says:

          I seriously think you’re missing the point!

        • Mickey Blue Eyes says:

          If sites are predetermined RC, why when teh brackets come out, do all games after the first round say TBD?????

          • ARHS Stats says:

            The C.C.S. has sites reserved for the Championship Games, but waits until all the semi-final games have been won, before deciding which site to assign to which division championship game.

            If the C.C.S. had assigned a site before the Semi-Finals had been played, it would have been in San Jose, since everyone expected Valley Christian to be in the Championship Game. And that was probably the plan until VC lost to SI. The other teams would have come from either Gilroy or San Francisco, before the Semi Final Games were played.

        • merkinworld says:

          rc, your village called. they miss you. you really need to loosen the chin strap on your leather helmet, take a deep breath and let go of the negative waves.

  6. Jacob Wang says:

    Jeremy: Is the fence that collapsed above the 3rd base dugout?

  7. Nick M says:

    Good game Sh, but go SI!

  8. FAN says:

    I work at At & T park and was a Kid who was coming out of the stadium he was very upset that there team didn’t win I thought that was heart warming knowing that he wanted to win. Then I look back to seeing SHC Qb after throwing interception after interception no concern where was the run game same defense against them all season so why stop running can someone help me with this.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Congrats to SI!! Both teams put up a great fight and I’m proud to see the city represented so well in section playoffs. Congrats to both teams on phenomenal seasons, and I can’t wait til next season!

  10. WCAL Fan says:

    It was great to be down at AT&T park on Friday. The streets were alive and eaters were filled with people. Congrats to both teams and all the fans that came out to support high school football in SF.

  11. mike says:

    does this mean sh isnt the city champion because the are both 2-1?

  12. John says:

    Sh are city champs. They won by a larger margin, hence being the tie breaker

    • JJ says:

      So if Alabama beats LSU by 1 point on January 9, LSU are college football champs, since LSU beat BAMA earlier in the season by more points???

    • ARHS Stats says:

      I would say the game won on the neutral field would be the tie breaker.

      In other words, the game at AT&T

    • City Lights says:

      This WAS the championship game. End of story.

      Incredible night in the City. I can only hope there are more like this in the future. Without the SI fans falling out of the stands of course. I thought cats always landed on their feet. lmao

      • JJ says:

        The bleachers collapsing didn’t look that bad when I saw it on KTVU, Channel 2. It said the kids fell from 10 feet, but it looked more like 7 feet on TV. One guy even landed on his feet, like he just jumped off his bed. It probably collapsed because 1000 kids were leaning up against a rail that wasn’t bolted down properly.

        • SM says:

          JJ- The kids falling down wasn’t the kids fault at all. I couls shake the whole railing by myself before the game. Also, if you saw the kids falling from where I was (on the field), it was bad.

  13. Paul B. says:

    WOW!!! I can’t believe that SI RB/LB Kerry Crowley didn’t make any WCAL team this year.

  14. Anonymous says:

    So when do the awards come out ???????

    • ARHS Stats says:

      The W.C.A.L. All League team is listed on the W.C.A.L. Web Site.

      And I am sure Jeremy will be putting the all league team up on this web site, when he has time to do it, later in the week.

      Maybe, Tuesday or Wednesday?

  15. merkinworld says:

    An interesting article in today’s Santa Cruz Sentinel. CCS football commitee is contemplating putting all private schools in one division for the playoffs. The public school coaches are upset that they can’t compete on a level playing field. They are mad that 4 0f the 5 divisions were won by private schools. I don’t see public schools in the NCS complaining about DLS.

    • JJ says:

      The CCS probably wants this to happen, so they can sell $100,000 worth of tickets in a 1st or 2nd round CCS playoffs match up between SI and SHC.

  16. Fan says:

    Ok saw the all league WCAL names and wow we have come a long way from back in the day! What are there like 80 plus names for 1st, 2nd and honorable mention!

    Sorry but how long have we been giving a sophomore of the year award? Masoli may have some skill but he missed 3 games and he gets that award plus he is the only one from his school to get 1st team selection? I am sorry but that is just wrong. Compared to the other QBs in the league how did his stats compare to theirs?

    Again the dominance of the southern teams shows greatly in post season play and awards

    • JJ says:

      MASOLI IS A GOOD PLAYER, But I am somewhat surprised Riordan’s RB (I forget his name) didn’t make at least honorable mention. That guy would’ve ran for two hundred yards a game if he had a decent offensive line.

  17. Cats Pride says:

    completely unrelated to the game but does any one know when the CIF brackets come out? I’m interested to know is the Bells will get a bid.

    • jbalan says:

      I wouldn’t call them brackets. They’re just the state championship bowl games.

      You have to wait till after this week. Some sections (like NCS) have championship games this weekend.

  18. merkinworld says:

    I heard from some reliable sources that Serra tried to move their playoff game to AT&T park. The giants agreed to let them play their game at 3:00 last Saturday. The CCS said no.

    • sfpatriot says:

      The NCS played their games at the O.com Colesium. CCS should get with the program and play more games at AT&T. It was a terrific venue for the SI/SHCP championship (I’m sure the sideline railing will be improved to eliminate any future collapse).

  19. Ari Gold says:

    Jeremy, it was hard to see from where both you and I were situated (behind home plate), but when O’Malley returned the fumble for a TD, when did he raise his arms up in celebration? Was it before he crossed the goal line or after? Im checking out pics from the chronicle and it seems that he did it before the goal line which should have been a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct which wouldve nullified the TD and it still wouldve been 14-14. Theres media outlets that have showed some Boston HS team losing because the QB prematurely celebrated by raising his arm up in victory as he was scoring the game winning TD with time expiring but he had done it at the 20 yard line or so.

    • Anonymous says:

      First of all, you’re being ridiculous. Second of all, if you watch the highlights on sportsfocus.com you can see the play. it’s hard to tell because someone jumps right in the frame, but it looks like he was over the line before any celebration took place. Now stop complaining and get on with your life.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t be bitter. SI won, get over it. Every one would do the same thing. I’d be going crazy. If you ever played a sport in your life you would know that you dream about moments like that.

  20. FAN says:

    I watched SHC all season if you take the St.Mary’s game away where the defense scored 4 or 5 TD’s without Miles SHC would have been 1-9 and would have never made the playoffs. Miles would have ran all over them again but politics change the way plays were called it will be another 10 years before they make it to another championship.

    • IC Stars says:

      Oh that’s a crock. Take away any teams’ best player and see how they do. Interesting I only hear this barb against SHC.

      • JJ says:

        I agree that sometimes politics play a role in the coach’s play-calling. If a player’s parents donate a whole bunch of money, the coach could draw up some plays in order for that player to get some “playing time”. I remember sitting in the SI stands during a basketball game and one of the player’s DAD was complaining to another player’s father that his son was not starting because the other player’s parent donated tons of money to the school.

        • Anonymous says:

          Donations, school influence although true can never be proven to be
          true especially SI. Happens every year from freshman to varsity in SI.

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