Nearly every team in every sport has a special rival, but there are few feuds quite like The City’s grudge match between St. Ignatius College Preparatory and Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory.
Students from the two schools grew up together, playing with and against their rivals in youth leagues, and when the teams square off in their annual meetings, they’re cheered on by thousands of rabid alumni.
“Whenever we played SH, I knew about 75 percent of the guys on the other team,” said Adam Handlos, a former St. Ignatius football player who graduated in 2002. “I’d hang out with those guys the next night and there was never a better feeling than being on the winning side.”
“It’s just an old city rivalry,” said Joe Toboni, a 1970 graduate of SI. “You have guys from the same neighborhood, same grammar school, playing against each other. ”
The West Coast’s oldest high school rivalry — the two teams have been competing in sports since 1892 — will take on even more significance Saturday, when SI and SH face off in the Central Coast Section Division III football championship game. It’s the first time in history that the schools will meet with a football title on the line.
“Any time we play SI, it’s special, but to play them for the title makes this game all the more unique,” said SH athletic director Phil Freed, himself a 1980 graduate of the school.
Originally, the contest was scheduled to be held at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, but with the 5,000 to 10,000 fans expected for the game, the venue was shifted to AT&T Park at 7 p.m.
“You had to play this game in San Francisco,” Toboni said. “Playing on the same field as so many famous pro athletes will make this game incredibly memorable for these kids.”
The teams compete annually for the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy, named after graduates from the two schools who both died heroically in World War II. The award goes to the team that posts a winning record in the school’s three major sports — football, boys’ basketball and baseball. SI has a 45-19 advantage in the annual award (with two ties), but Sacred Heart won this year’s regular-season football game in convincing fashion 38-14.
Neighborhood: Cathedral Hill
Sacred Heart: Former mayors Frank Jordan and Joseph Alioto, NFL wide receiver Jason Hill, former NFL player Kevin Gogan, MLB Hall of Famer Joe Cronin and Jerry Mahoney (Bruce-MahoneyTrophy namesake).
St. Ignatius: Gov. Jerry Brown, former Mayor George Moscone, NFL Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, NFL lineman Igor Olshansky, supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell, SFPD police Chief Greg Suhr and Bill Bruce (Bruce-Mahoney trophy namesake).