By Jeremy Balan
One word best describes the St. Ignatius football team’s trip to Phelan Avenue on Saturday afternoon.
It was downright businesslike.
The Wildcats didn’t provide much flair or take any chances, but played clean, made no mistakes and had their second straight standout defensive effort in a 31-0 West Catholic Athletic League road win over Riordan.
St. Ignatius (6-1, 4-0) ran 47 rushing plays that totaled 242 yards, led by a game-high 118 and a touchdown on 19 carries from junior running back Elijah Dale.
“We always want to establish the run,” said St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia. “We wanted to continue to do that and get better in that area this week.”
Regalia said he didn’t feel the St. Ignatius play calling was conservative, but the Wildcats had just 10 pass attempts and came in averaging 27.5 throws per game. St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Stinn still threw for an efficient 107 yards on 6-of-9 passing, including two play-action touchdowns to Andrew Vollert and Stephan Ostrowski in the second quarter.
“They lined up with double tight [ends] and in power-I [formation] and hammered for a while,” said Riordan head coach Richard Sweeney. “It’s not hard to figure out we have a bunch of guys playing both ways and it takes its toll.”
The reasons for St. Ignatius’ offensive game plan likely stemmed from its confidence in the Wildcats’ defense, which limited Riordan (3-4, 0-4) to just 110 yards of total offense. Forty-three of those yards came on a single Riordan drive in the fourth quarter with SI’s second-team defense in the game. Riordan had just six downs in the game and didn’t advance the ball past the St. Ignatius 33-yard line.
The St. Ignatius defensive lockdown comes after the Wildcats held St. Francis to just 124 yards last week.
“Riordan has moved the ball on teams they’ve played all season,” Regalia said. “We’ve made improvements defensively, not just last week. We’ve been steady in that area and we wanted to make sure we kept doing it.”
The Wildcats started slow and punted on their first two drives, then got the two touchdown passes from Stinn to take a 14-0 lead into the halftime break and quickly put the game away in the third quarter.
St. Ignatius kicker Michael Capitolo extended the lead to 17-0 after Riordan came up short on a fake punt on its own 24-yard line, on the first drive of the second half. Then, after the Crusaders fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Dale scored from 9 yards out to push the lead to 24-0. Backup fullback Blaise Ducharme capped the scoring with a 2-yard run with 21 seconds left in the third quarter and the St. Ignatius backups took over for the rest of the game.
The lone bright spot for the Crusaders was the play of senior Kyle Craig, who began the season as a tight end, but has taken over the role of Riordan’s feature running back. Far from a prototypical tailback, Craig had a team-high 59 yards on 10 carries, including a bruising 27-yarder in the second quarter that was Riordan’s biggest gain of the afternoon.
The win now sets St. Ignatius up for a first-place showdown with fellow WCAL unbeaten Bellarmine next week and the Bells’ coaching staff, including head coach Mike Janda, was in the stands to scout the Wildcats on Saturday.
For Riordan, the slide in league play continues, but the Crusaders have the relatively weak portion of their league schedule upcoming. Remaining opponents St. Francis, Sacred Heart Cathedral and Valley Christian have a combined 3-9 record in WCAL play.
“I firmly believe that in the next three weeks, we’ll get a win. We just have to stay the course, stay together and keep battling,” Sweeney said. “We’re making progress and I think the kids know that, but the reason they turn on the scoreboard is to keep score. There’s winners and losers. We want to get on that ‘W’ side.”
SI: 9:23 – Andrew Vollert 32-yard pass from Jack Stinn (Michael Capitolo kick)
SI: 1:54 – Stephan Ostrowski 14-yard pass from Stinn (Capitolo kick)
SI: 8:04 – Capitolo 30-yard field goal
SI: 5:41 – Elijah Dale 9-yard run (Capitolo kick)
SI: 0:21 – Blaise Ducharme 2-yard run (Capitolo kick)