By Jeremy Balan
SAN JOSE – The West Catholic Athletic League should take notice of what happened in San Jose on Saturday night.
The league should also be advised moving forward – don’t get into a shootout with the St. Ignatius football team this season, because the Wildcats might not miss.
Riding a breakout performance from junior running back Elijah Dale, the visiting Wildcats had an answer for every Valley Christian touchdown in a 42-28 WCAL-opening win that snapped a five-year St. Ignatius winless streak in league openers.
Dale ran for a game-high 213 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries, and the Wildcats specialized in grinding, clock-eating drives.
“If we can establish the run, that will help us in all phases,” said St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia. “The best defense is a good offense, moving the ball and running the clock. That worked for us and opened up the play-action game.”
Dale had six runs over 10 yards, but racked up most of the yardage by punishing the second level of the Valley Christian defense through huge holes created by the St. Ignatius offensive line.
“There were great holes all game,” Dale said. “All my success goes to my line.”
With the steady dose of Dale on the ground, senior quarterback Jack Stinn had several opportunities to find receivers downfield on play action. Stinn threw for 183 yards on 10-of-20 passing, but also showed tremendous presence in the pocket and ran for 45 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, most coming on scrambles.
Stinn shrugged off his interception issues of the non-league season, but still wasn’t entirely sharp, overthrowing open receivers on multiple occasions.
“Jack doesn’t need to be a perfect player,” Regalia said. “He just needs to be himself and he’s been doing a very good job of just being that and competing with his teammates.”
After jumping out to a 14-0 lead on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Stinn to Matt Emery (who also had a fumble recovery and an interception on defense) late in the first quarter and a 2-yard bootleg for a score by Stinn midway through the second, Valley Christian cut the lead to one possession twice.
Both were on runs by running back Kirk Johnson, who cut the SI lead to 14-7 on a 17-yard score in the second quarter and 21-14 on a 49-yard touchdown run early in the third.
But after each score the Wildcats had an answer.
Dale scored from 7 yards out just before the half to give the Wildcats a 21-7 lead at the break, then scored again in response to Johnson on a 1-yard dive late in the third quarter.
While most of St. Ignatius’ offensive success came on lengthy, sustained drives, senior Albert Waters showed the Wildcats could strike back quickly too.
After Valley Christian’s Ryan Severson scored on a 35-yard run to cut the St. Ignatius lead to 35-21 with 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, Waters took the ensuing kickoff 94 yards, through a slim crease in the center of the field, for a score.
The Wildcats racked up 460 yards of total offense and didn’t have a turnover, but one stat illustrated the St. Ignatius offensive effort best.
They didn’t punt until the 1:13 mark of the fourth quarter, with the game well in hand.
SI: 2:10 – Matt Emery 21-yard pass from Jack Stinn (Michael Capitolo kick)
SI: 5:46 – Stinn 2-yard run (Capitolo kick)
VC: 5:26 – Kirk Johnson 17-yard run (Kody Kroenig kick)
SI: 2:41 – Elijah Dale 7-yard run (Capitolo kick)
VC: 8:56 – Johnson 49-yard run (Kroenig kick)
SI: 3:38 – Dale 1-yard run (Capitolo kick)
SI: 11:57 – Stinn 1-yard run (Capitolo kick)
VC: 7:50 – Ryan Severson 35-yard run (Kroenig kick)
SI: 7:36 – Albert Waters 94-yard kick return (Capitolo kick)
VC: 3:58 – Bryce Novak 25-yard pass from Jay MacIntyre (Kroenig kick)