Football: St. Ignatius rolls on the road against Palma, advances to CCS semifinals

By Jeremy Balan

SALINAS – It’s going to be an all-West Catholic Athletic League semifinal round in the Central Coast Section Open Division football playoffs and St. Ignatius is a part of the party.

With a commanding 49-14 win over third-seeded Palma on the road at Salinas Sports Complex on Friday, the Wildcats claimed their first Open Division playoff win in school history.

Bellarmine, Mitty and Serra also dispatched their opponents in first-round matchups and the sixth-seeded Wildcats (8-3) will take on the seventh-seeded Monarchs in the semifinals.

“It’s the best league and it really prepares you for these games,” St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Stinn said of the WCAL’s first-round sweep. “It feels great to be here. Last year, winning the Division III championship was awesome, but you’re still not the best. If you win the Open Division, you’re the best, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Stinn had his best game of the season, with 190 yards and three touchdowns on 9-of-10 passing to go along with 68 yards rushing on eight carries.

The Wildcats totaled 408 yards of offense and got another big game from junior running back Elijah Dale, who had 116 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.

“For the whole four quarters, that was our most complete game,” Stinn said. “If we eliminated those fumbles, we would have killed them.”

The one nagging issue for St. Ignatius was fumbles, but the Wildcats only lost two of five that hit the turf, including a 70-yard recovery for a touchdown by Palma’s Austin Wahl that cut the SI lead to 21-14 with 49 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

What happened on the next drive, however, changed the course of the entire game.

It took the Wildcats just two plays to get into the Chieftains’ territory, but during a 15-yard scramble by Stinn, Palma senior defensive lineman Tyler Escoto made helmet-to-helmet contact with one of his own teammates while making the tackle. Escoto remained on the turf for nearly 30 minutes after the collision and was removed from the field on a stretcher by paramedics.

Two plays later, Stinn hit Andrew Vollert for his second touchdown of the night from 23 yards out with 19 seconds left in the half. Vollert had five receptions for 94 yards and the last-minute touchdown started a run of 28 unanswered points for St. Ignatius. Palma (8-3) didn’t score again.

“It felt like we were getting back in there, but they had to go through the same thing,” Palma head coach Jeff Carnazzo said of the emotional swing and extended break that occurred after Escoto’s injury. “It’s our teammate and our guys were worried about it, but the fact is, we have to make a stop and we didn’t. That score changed the whole complexion of the game.”

The Wildcats put the game away in the third quarter with an interception returned for a touchdown by senior cornerback Albert Waters and a winding, 64-yard touchdown pass from Stinn to Joe Lang. Lang broke one tackle after taking in a short-distance pass, then burst down the right sideline before cutting back to the middle of the field for the score.

Waters’ interception was his sixth of the year, but he nearly had his seventh and broke up several passes in the Wildcats’ secondary that held Palma quarterback Mitch Kidd to 160 yards on 13-of-29 passing.

“Albert has a lot of experience [as a three-year starter], which is a big deal at that position, because sometimes you’re going to be on an island and you have to be able to make plays,” said St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia. “That’s a great thing to have for our defense and our secondary is really starting to play well.”

St. Ignatius fed the ball to Dale with regularity to wind down the clock in the second half and junior fullback Brian Wollitz capped the Wildcats’ scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Wollitz played in his first game since dislocating his elbow against Marin Catholic in the first week of the season. He finished with 24 yards on seven carries.

Stinn only threw the ball twice in the third quarter and didn’t attempt a pass in the fourth.

“That’s how we like to end games,” Regalia said. “We definitely want to be on that side, with the ball and running the ball.”

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
SI: 4:32 – Elijah Dale 1-yard run (Michael Capitolo kick)
SI: 0:28 – Andrew Vollert 36-yard pass from Jack Stinn (Capitolo kick)

Second Quarter
SI: 9:45 – Dale 2-yard run (Capitolo kick)
P: 8:26 – Brandon Olivares 7-yard run (Eddy Munoz kick)
P: 0:49 – Austin Wahl 70-yard fumble return (Munoz kick)
SI: 0:19 – Vollert 23-yard pass from Stinn (Capitolo kick)

Third Quarter
SI: 2:18 – Albert Waters 18-yard interception return (Capitolo kick)
SI: 0:16 – Joe Lang 64-yard pass from Stinn (Capitolo kick)

Fourth Quarter
SI: 3:30 – Brian Wollitz 4-yard run (Capitolo kick)

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15 Comments

  1. jbalan says:

    Wanted to get the story up ASAP, but we might be adding photos a little bit later.

  2. manifest Destiny says:

    Great game from the Wildcats. That unfortunate delay took the wind out of Palma. I hope that player is doing OK. They took way too long to get the medical personnel in there to deal with the situation. That was the longest delay I have seen in high school football. All the fans and players understood and respected the delay. That player deserved timely professional medical assistance. Fifteen plus minutes for a code 3 fire department response?

    • jbalan says:

      Palma’s coach after the game said he was doing well, moving is extremities and was going in for x-rays.

      • manifest Destiny says:

        That is great news. Hate to see injuries like that at any level of play. I heard Palma is getting a new field and will finally be able to leave the Rodeo grounds. Very unique setting for high school football.

    • JJ says:

      Earlier in the season, same scenario happened in the SHC-BOD game (very long delay) where a player lied on the field for about 30 minutes due to a big hit, but BOD still came out on top. I wasn’t at the game in Salinas, but it sounded on the radio that Palma was overmatched. Stinn was just playing catch with his receivers and when SI ran the ball, they would get 6-10 yards at a time.

  3. CrusaderNation says:

    i think we can all agree, that with the exception of De La SAlle, the WCAL is far superior to the other leagues. Congrats Cats! Bellermine, Serra and Mitty – good night. Let’s see if the Crusaders can hold up and make it a clean sweep.

    Go WCAL!!!

    • Lance says:

      I think you are correct. It can be argued the best league in NORCAL. I hope ARHS wins tonight to really drive the point home that even a last place team in the WCAL is a team to be reckoned with when it plays a non-WCAL team. The ARHS and the SHP coaches staff should use what happened last night as motivation to current players and players who may want to venture into the rigors of WCAL, to get serious and commit to be a part of a league that is head and shoulders better than any around.

  4. Lance says:

    If Serra “rolled over” against Saint Francis to avoid the Bell’s it didn’t work.

  5. Big guy 24 says:

    Congrats to a city school SI, keep representing with Sf pride and showing the WCAL is the best league in California!

    • City Lights says:

      What he said! lol

      Seriously though, the DIII championship was an epic win for the ages because it was SI vs. SHC and a great game. That being said, the Open Division is the best of the best. Good luck Cats!

      Also great to hear the Palma player is going to be OK. No parent deserves to see their kid lying motionless on the field.

  6. SI Sports Radio says:

    It’s the semi final round in the top Open Division in the CCS football playoffs this Saturday, Nov 24 with SI vs. Mitty at Independence High in San Jose. Can’t make it to the game and want to listen to it at home or on the go? Then log on to SI Sports Radio on your computer, smart phone, iPad, or iPod Touch starting at 645pm on Saturday for the pre game show. Kickoff is at 7pm.

    Click here to listen http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/siprep.portal# or type http://www.siprep.org into your browser.

  7. Paul B. says:

    Brian Wollitz played? I thought he’s injured.

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