By Jeremy Balan
The St. Ignatius football and baseball teams won unprecedented section titles in the 2011-2012 school year and one player was at the center of it all.
At quarterback and in the outfield, junior Jack Stinn led
each team to its first respective both to Central Coast Section titles in school history.
That’s why he’s the SanFranPreps.com Male Athlete of the Year.
On the football field, the 6-foot, 183-pound left-hander was far and away the best passing quarterback in the West Catholic Athletic League and was named Junior Player of the Year by the league. He lead the largely run-oriented league in passing yards (2,597), touchdowns (18) and completions (168), and he’s also the best quarterback on the 37th Avenue campus since Zac Lee, who graduated from the school in 2004 and went on to play at the University of Nebraska.
While his individual highlight on the football field was a heart-stopping, come-from-behind victory over Valley Christian in the Central Coast Section semifinals, in which he threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns, he steadfastly stuck to the winning game plan in the section championship game against rival Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“One of Jack’s strengths is his competitive spirit,” said St. Ignatius head football coach John Regalia. “What’s really special is that he likes to compete in a group effort. There was never a question in his mind about a game plan this year, but we know that when he has something to say, he’s offering it for the right reasons and he has good ideas, because he’s a student of the game.”
While others would seek the spotlight in front of more than 12,000 fans at AT&T Park, Stinn threw only six passes and completed none, but continuously fed St. Ignatius running backs for 51 total rushing plays, successfully grinding down the Irish defense.
“Throwing would have been fun, but in the end, if we got the win, that’s all I really cared about,” Stinn said. “I wish I could have played better, but it is what it is and I’ll have another shot [against Sacred Heart Cathedral] next year.”
Stinn’s competitive spirit was on full display frequently on the sideline, when he had a chronic problem with a cut opening up on the bridge of his nose after particularly violent hits that would come when he scrambled from the pocket. With blood dripping down his face, while the training staff worked to close the wound, Stinn could not take his eyes off the field and often shouted words of encouragement.
He also ran into injury trouble on the baseball field in the WCAL championship game against Serra, in which he tried to make up for an error-riddled play with a throw home from the outfield, but threw the so hard and off-balance, that he tore the labrum in his shoulder.
Still, his coaches are hesitant to reign in his sometimes all-or-nothing playing style.
“If you ask him to hold back, you’re asking him not to be who he is,” Regalia said. “It definitely speaks to his toughness and you have to have that mental and physical toughness to compete at a high level.”
Stinn didn’t have his best games on the biggest football stages in his junior year, but he had a penchant for clutch hits in the baseball season.
He led the Wildcats in RBIs (19) even though he regularly hit in the bottom half of the order and had much fewer at-bats than the other team leaders. He hit .355, but no hit was bigger than a game-winner against St. Francis, which was nationally ranked for most of the season.
Locked in a scoreless tie on the road, with ace Collin Monsour locking the Lancers down, Stinn crushed a solo home run off the scoreboard in left-center field in the top of the seventh inning to give the Wildcats the edge in a 1-0 win.
“He’s one of those guys who is just a gamer,” said St. Ignatius head baseball coach Matt Stecher. “You get him in a tough situation and he has a knack for producing big runs.”
When the Wildcats lost Stanford-bound junior center fielder and pitcher Jack Klein to an injury early in the season, Stecher shifted Stinn from left to center and also moved him into the starting rotation.
Most of his innings were in relief, but he had a 0.51 ERA and was a key left-handed arm Stecher used late in games.
“I don’t think there are many players that compare to Klein, but knowing that we had someone like Stinn to step into that role was tremendous,” Stecher said.
Next season, Stinn figures to be part of a nasty three-man rotation that will include Klein and hard-throwing lefty Matt Krook. All three are part of a lauded St. Ignatius senior baseball class that has been talked about for years.
“He’s got great leadership qualities and I’m going to look for that net year,” Stecher said. “We want him in the lineup every day and want to work him into the rotation. We’re going to set [a WCAL championship] as a lofty goal, but we have the potential to reach it. We have those guys on the mound and we have young guys coming up too. It’s a realistic goal.”
Even with all of the success he had with the Wildcats in 2011-2012 and the Ivy-League interest he’s receiving, it’s still the losses that bother Stinn, especially the error-filled defeat to Serra in the WCAL championship baseball game. The Padres also took down St. Ignatius in football the football season, a 49-28 rout.
“There is no one I hate losing to more than Serra,” Stinn said. “Sacred Heart is not that bad, because we grew up with those guys and know them, but there’s just something about Serra.”
Honorable Mention: Antoine Porter, junior, Mission
The junior point guard didn’t have the breakout basketball season that many expected, but still led the Bears to a Academic Athletic Association title, averaging 11 points per game, 4.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals.
On the football field, Porter wasn’t a main ball-carrier, but when he did get the ball, he was electric, including a go-ahead touchdown run on a reverse that gave the Bears their first AAA football championship since 1954.
Honorable Mention: Will McKee, senior, St. Ignatius
McKee, who was awarded the Brophy Award by St. Ignatius as the school’s best senior male athlete, was one of the most dynamic athletes in the City last season, with enough athleticism to play cornerback for the football team and also enough skill to become a master of faceoffs for the lacrosse team.
The latter earned McKee a scholarship to play lacrosse at at Lehigh University, but it was his shoestring, touchdown-saving tackle of Valentino Miles (pictured) in the CCS championship football game that will always be remembered by SI faithful.
Honorable Mention: Connor Mattoon, senior, Bay
Known best for his shooting touch on the Bay basketball team, where he led the Breakers to a Bay Counties League Central championship by scoring at 15.9 points per game, Mattoon also was a top player on the school’s golf team that won its first league championship in the sport in the spring.
Honorable Mention: James Cullinane, junior, Riordan
Arguably the Crusaders’ best hitter, even though a mid-season slump lowered his season average to .299, Cullinane led Riordan in runs scored (14), hits (23) and doubles (7), and had a 3.33 ERA in 21 innings pitched on the mound.
On the soccer team, Cullinane was one of just two Riordan players that earned second-team All-WCAL honors, scored three of the Crusaders’ 13 total goals in the winter and led the team in assists (2).
Honorable Mention: Nick Johnson, senior, St. Ignatius
Johnson, a lanky left-handed hitter, settled in as a top-of-the order threat for the Wildcats in his senior season, hitting .404, but was also a solid contributor for the basketball team. He averaged 7.5 points per game on the hardwood, primarily as a 3-point shooting threat, and also took in 3.6 rebounds per game.
Honorable Mention: Isaiah Boone, senior, Lick-Wilmerding
The fact that Boone finished second in the North Coast Section Class A high jump finals would shock no one who saw the senior play basketball for the Tigers.
Listed at a generous 6-foot-3, Boone slashed through defenses with regularity and had enough lift to dunk on several occasions in the winter, and led the Tigers in scoring at 13.3 points per game and also led the team in assists.
Honorable Mention: Max Pollard, senior, Lowell
A deadly threat in the air on soccer field, Pollard regularly scored on headers, was named first-team All-AAA and helped the Cardinals complete their second-straight undefeated AAA season.
He used that elevation to be a rebounding leader for the Lowell basketball team, as well as being a plus defender. Although he struggled at times to score, in many ways he embodied the Cardinals’ lock-down defensive identity.