Saint Ignatius holds off late game push from Bellarmine

By: Charlie Logan ’18

After receiving the opening kickoff on a rainy night at San Jose City College, Bellarmine ran only three plays before a high snap evaded senior quarterback Jack Devine and hit the turf. Saint Ignatius lineman David Woodruff dove on the ball, turning it over to the Wildcat offense to set up shop on the Bellarmine 10-yard line. It took SI just two plays to set up a one-yard touchdown rush by senior quarterback Charlie Katz. Saint Ignatius would hold this early lead for the remainder of the game, beating Bellarmine 28-21 on the road.

After a shaky first possession, the Bells (4-6, 2-5 WCAL) took over on their own 31-yard line, hoping to put together a more successful drive and tie the game. Their woes continued, however, when the Bells went three-and-out and junior punter Casey Jaeb’s punt was blocked and recovered by Finn Burke on the Bellarmine two yard line.

Despite a tackle for a loss, the Bellarmine defense could not force a stop, as Katz found Woodruff for a 10-yard fade to the corner of the end zone, giving Saint Ignatius a 14-0 lead less than half way through the first quarter. Woodruff was a favorite target of Katz’s, as he notched 80 yards on 6 receptions on the game.

Saint Ignatius (3-7, 2-5 WCAL) kept the momentum rolling through the second quarter, as Katz connected with junior back Mark Biggins for a 69-yard touchdown, giving the Wildcats a three score lead.

“It was really a team effort” said Katz, “A lot of guys stepped up and made plays. [The catch by] Mark Biggins, that was amazing.”

Katz was the clear star of the game, scoring all four of his team’s touchdowns. The senior quarterback seemingly could not be stopped, completing 9-of-15 passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and adding two touchdowns and 25 yards on the ground.

“We made our plan of how to attack them on the ground and through the air offensively, and our coaches did a good job of putting that together,” said head coach John Regalia. “[Our success] definitely was not on a whim, we made a plan and our guys stepped up and executed it.”

Just when the Wildcats were beginning to feel comfortable with their lead, Bellarmine began to fight its way back.

A long drive with a string of runs by star senior back Austin Ajiake set up a one-yard touchdown run for Devine late in the second quarter to bring the Bells within two scores.

Bellarmine didn’t stop there, making some big defensive stops in the third quarter and setting up another successful drive on the ground, finished off by a four-yard touchdown run by Ajiake early in the fourth quarter. The touchdown made the score 21-14 in favor of Saint Ignatius, striking distance for Bellarmine.

The Bells’ offense rode Ajiake as their workhorse back in their run-heavy offense. Ajiake finished the game with an impressive 140 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Head coach Mike Janda also leaned on senior back Brandon Bumanlag for run support, who added 47 tough yards on five carries.

The Bells had all the momentum on their side in the fourth quarter, having scored 14 unanswered points. Just as they began to march down the field, Ajiake fumbled the ball on a 10-yard run, recovered around midfield by Saint Ignatius.

The Wildcats worked the clock as they moved the ball into the red zone, finally punching the ball in with Katz’s second rushing touchdown, an eight-yard rush to reimplement a two-score lead for SI.

With under two minutes remaining and a 14-point differential, the game seemed to be all but over for the Bells. They began to show some life, however, when Devine connected with junior receiver Anthony Magri for a 49-yard touchdown pass.

With just over a minute remaining and a seven point differential, the Bells needed to recover an onside kick to survive. Jaeb’s kick was cleanly fielded by the Wildcats, who went into victory formation to hold off the late comeback.

“I’m really just proud of our team,” said Regalia. “We stayed the course over the course of the season, focusing on our goals and focusing on what we can control, and that’s what we did tonight.”

With the win, Saint Ignatius hoped to make it to CCS playoffs, waiting on a ruling from the CCS selection committee.

“I just hope we get [to CCS playoffs], and once we get there, we want to keep going as long as we can,” said Regalia.

The committee, however, chose Bellarmine for the #8 seed. The Bells will play the undefeated Milpitas on Friday.