Football Game of the Week: SI playing for more than CCS Open title against Bellarmine

St. Ignatius senior quarterback Jack Sinn winds up for a throw against Mitty on Saturday at Independence High School in San Jose. (Photo by Eric Sun)

By Jeremy Balan

The St. Ignatius football team’s matchup against Bellarmine in the Central Coast Section Open Division championship on Friday night may not be the biggest game in the school’s long football history, but it’s awfully close.

It would be hard to argue anything can top last season’s win over eternal rival Sacred Heart Cathedral in front of 12,000 fans at AT&T Park in the Division III championship, but that was the end of the season for the Wildcats.

Much more is on the line Friday.

With a win over the top-seeded Bells, St. Ignatius would almost surely secure a regional title game bid (it is the first year the CIF is having regional championships before state title games), giving the sixth-seeded Wildcats a shot at a state championship, an unprecedented accomplishment for any City football program (state title games began in 2006).

“That stuff is not on our radar,” St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia said of the implications a win over Bellarmine might bring. “We know those things are there and if you win a section title, you can get recognized there, but we’re concerned about preparing the best we can for Bellarmine this week.”

Based on history, the game is an inarguable mismatch.

The Bells have 19 West Catholic Athletic League titles (the highest total of any school in the league), have won six CCS championships and have been to two state championship games (one of just four schools from Northern California to make a state bowl game multiple times).

St. Ignatius, conversely, has won two WCAL titles (a split title with Serra in 2006 and a outright championship in 1967, the WCAL’s first year of competition), has won two CCS titles (both in lower divisions) and has never sniffed a state bowl game.

Stopping Bellarmine junior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels will be a top priority for St. Ignatius on Friday night. (Photo by Doug Ko)

The game is also on Bellarmine’s home field at San Jose City College and the Bells have nearly double the enrollment of boys St. Ignatius has. On the field, Bellarmine has also won the last six meetings between the two teams.

While it would be easy to embrace the underdog role, for Regalia and the Wildcats, it’s like a normal WCAL week, just on a bigger stage.

“Our guys have been on plenty of big stages this year and in the past few years,” Regalia said. “We have a good, mature group and haven’t really changed our routine, and haven’t needed to.”

The regular-season meeting between the two teams was also very close, with Bellarmine prevailing in a 35-28 win at St. Ignatius on Oct. 27.

That game ultimately came down to St. Ignatius’ inability to stop the run-first, double-wing Bellarmine offense, specifically on the Bells’ last drive of the game, when they ate up the final 3:56 of game time when the Wildcats desperately needed a stop.

The Bells ran for 299 yards in the double-wing directed by Vanderbilt-bound junior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels in October and had possession for 19 of the 24 minutes of game time.

That game plan likely won’t change on Friday night.

“We’re going to run our offense and we’re a running team,” said Bellarmine head coach Mike Janda. “We’re going to run our offense and throw the ball as needed. Each team will throw in a few wrinkles, but when it comes down to it, each team will go to what they do best.”

If there is a team that could pull off the upset, it would be hard to find a better candidate than St. Ignatius, which has rivaled Bellarmine’s recent success in CCS play.

The Wildcats have won eight straight CCS playoff games, including five in a row by the current group of seniors, and they’ve also shown a flair for the dramatic.

Other than their win over Palma in the first round of the Open playoffs this season, the Wildcats have come from behind in every other CCS win over the past two seasons, including a heart-stopping 25-22 win over Mitty in the Open semifinal round last week.

Almost all of those comebacks have been directed by St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Stinn, who has thrown for 2,152 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.

Against Mitty last week, the left-hander marched the St. Ignatius offense 64 yards for the game-winning score, capped by a 15-yard touchdown run from junior running back Elijah Dale with 2:33 left in the fourth quarter.

“They’ve shown a lot of heart and a lot of resolve to make big plays at the end of games,” Janda said.

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36 Comments

  1. Lance says:

    jbalan with an SI win what would be the likelihood that they would advance with the 3 loses?

    • jbalan says:

      From the people I’ve talked to it would be almost guaranteed.

      With only section champs eligible, It really comes down to a process of elimination.

      The NCS D-I winner (De La Salle) will be in the Open regional game against a Sac-Joaquin team (probably).

      The only other teams eligible for the Division I game are the CCS Open winner and the Sac-Joaquin D-II winner (even the CCS D-I winner is considered a D-II team by the state, for whatever reason).

      So, unless the committee puts up a low-division team to the Open regional game, which doesn’t seem to be likely, SI, with a win, would be guaranteed a spot.

      You can look at the division breakdowns on this link: http://www.cifstate.org/index.php/state-championships-/football/385-2012-state-football-divisions

  2. M Air J says:

    Good luck to Saint Ignatius this weekend. They should be very proud of their accomplishments to date but a victory this weekend would be awesome!

  3. SI Sports Radio says:

    Watch the CCS Championship football game with SI vs. Bellarmine on Friday night at 730pm on Comcast SportsNet California on HD cable channel 721 or standard definition cable channel 41. Check the listings on the link if you have satellite http:/​/​www.csnbayarea.com/​info/​channels-california in order to watch the Wildcats live.

    Also game and scoring updates will be on Twitter Friday night. Click http://twitter.com/stignatius to follow SI.

  4. Ari Gold says:

    I am very proud of the cross town Wildcats and their successful season. Stinn, Dale, Waters, Vollert, & Lang have provided much entertainment. I love how these guys have more than 4 plays in their playbook unlike another team. … BUT, it has to end here. You can win games, but not the ones that allow you to display hardware in the trophy case or hang a banner. Go Bells!!!!

    • Lance says:

      Ari you had me at the end of my chair spitting up my coffee. Gosh he is going to pick the Cats, But then boom ” Go Bells”.

      • Ari Gold says:

        I wouldve said Go Padres if your team made it. Where is Redwood going? Its too bad Erich Wilson had to pick a sorry program like Colorado. But nothing beats free college education.

        • Lance says:

          Ari, Wilson actually decided to go Washington. He got a few( very few) touches. I am not sure about Redwood. He would not have played this week due to breaking his collarbone on the last drive. His father played at Serra for 3 years before transfering to Hillsdale for his senior year. He went on to CSM before transfering to Fresno State. Eric JR has tremendous heart but is undersized. Very disappointed the same result happened twice against the Bells this year. That explains why the Bells are the Bells.

          • Chris says:

            Haha, I hate SI too but I got to say I want a SF school to represent and beat Bellarmine for once in a long time. If you can’t beat em, join them this year and for this year only. SI has a very good team this year, they accomplished a lot for San Francisco. Lance, I am friends with SI lads just not when we play each other:)

            • Lance says:

              Hey Chris I too would like to see a non-San Jose team win. During my days I have daily dealings with grads from SI,ARHS,SHC.But I must admit I grudgingly respect the Bells for being a power for decades. Who do I want to see win? Drum roll please………..sorry JJ but I have to go with Ari. Go Bells!!!!! If SI were to win that would be fine, but there is just something about SI.

              • Chris says:

                Lance I can certainly respect your comments. It wasn’t an easy decision for me either..lol.

              • Lance says:

                Either way the WCAL is the winner. If SI wins it may have some coat tails for the other City WCAL teams moving forward. Remember, SI was struggling not too long ago. I only wish that Serra would have incorporated more of the West Coast offense that SI has been running. With their physicality, a more diverse offense would have matched up better with the Bells.SI has the diverse offense, but I’m not sure their front 7 is physical enough to match the Bells.

              • Nicholas S says:

                I am predicting an SI victory in the same fashion as when SI beat Balboa in basketball in 1996. This is going to be one of the few times that most of SI’s rivals will be cheering for them.

    • IC Stars says:

      If you’re an Irish, you have two favorite teams, SHC and whoever plays SI… unless it’s Serra, then you hope they both lose.

      • Lance says:

        Since that can’t happen tonight, I assume you will be hoping for a Bells win.

        • Ari Gold says:

          Just our luck, its raining! Which means Stinn’s passing will be less efficient due to a wet football and receivers not running crisp patterns. Bells running game will be even more brutal and bruising against the Wildcat D-Line.

      • Ari Gold says:

        I take it to a more deeper level IC. I want these guys to make it so far and then lose at the end. It just hurts more. Like Giants losing to Angels in 2002. Since I know its coming I will say it, like SHC losing last year to SI in CCS championship and SHC losing the state championship game vs Alemany.

      • Nicholas S says:

        To To’s tonight. Well done Cats. Lance – tonight we will order a # 2.

  5. Roll Cats says:

    Coach Regalia is one of the best football minds around and deserves a lot of credit for getting SI in position. In terms of attendance, this game won’t come close to rivaling last year’s DIII Championship at AT&T. In terms of overall importance, I would venture to say this is the biggest game in school history (Or at least since Tringali coached the team to the mythical national title back in the day). With the advent of media like Sanfranpreps devoted to covering high school sports, these games receive much more attention than a Tringali team ever could have. I’m very proud of how far the program has come under Coach Regalia and I wish the Wildcats the best of luck on Friday night. Great job on the story Jeremy as SI will assuredly be the underdog and making their first non-Bruce appearance on television, but there is no group of players more deserving of a title right now.

    • Lance says:

      Could not agree with you more about Coach Regalia. I think some of the other WCAL coaches (are you listening coach Walsh) should be incorporating the SI offense to try and beat the Bells.ie. mix in a pass now and then to keep the Bells honest on D. What is the background of coach Regalia?

      • wcalsf says:

        Lance, maybe Sweeney can look at Regalia’s film and do a better job with the Crusaders. Lol!
        Good luck SI! Definitely a huge game for the program.

      • Data says:

        He was my receiver and db coach back when Vollert/Bluford was the HC. SI graduate, but I forgot where he played college ball at… Oregon St., Wazzu, or ASU… one of the Pac-10 state schools. Came up through the SI coaching ranks starting with the freshman squad and moving up over the years.

  6. JJ says:

    Regalia is from the SI Class of 1993, I believe. He played football at Oregon State, graduating from there in 1997. I think he coached a few years of football at a high school in Oregon, before coaching at SI.

    • TTerritory says:

      Do you know which school in oregon?

      • JJ says:

        Coach Regalia was the JV football coach at Crescent Valley HS in Corvallis, OR. in 2005 and 2006. Perhaps he wanted to be a head varsity coach, that’s why he came back to SI. It’s unfortunate, but SI gave Coach Bluford a pink slip in order for Regalia to get the job.

  7. WCAL Alum says:

    Good luck to the Cats. An open title for a San Francisco school would be nice.

  8. BELLS67 says:

    Hope both teams have a great game and represent their schools and the WCAL with class tonight. Go Bells!

  9. Cats Pride says:

    This game is going to be broadcasted on ESPN3.com That’s kind of amazing and awesome. GO CATS!!!!

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