While advancing to Friday’s Central Coast Section Division III football championship, St. Ignatius has proven to all doubters that its subpar 4-8 record is due to playing in the powerful West Catholic Athletic League.
In the semifinals at Burlingame High School, the No. 1-seeded Panthers (11-1) experienced just how loaded the WCAL is, as they were dominated by the sixth-place team in the WCAL, fifth-seeded St. Ignatius, 41-21.
Vying for its third consecutive CCS championship, St. Ignatius (4-8) finds itself pitted against No. 2 Aptos (Santa Cruz) in the championship on Friday at Westmont High School in Campbell. St. Ignatius beat Aptos 35-31 two years ago in the CCS playoffs.
The Wildcats’ defense will need to be just as stout against Aptos (10-2) as it was against Burlingame, where it limited the Panthers to 126 rushing yards — 161 below their average. Aptos, which has won the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League three straight seasons and is seeking its first section title since 2003, rushed for 373 yards and four touchdowns in its 42-24 semifinal victory over Willow Glen.
Running backs C.J. Pistorino, Miles Beaudoinior and Michael Chavez are the main cogs for an Aptos offense that’s averaged 42 points per game.
It will be a test for the Wildcats, who have given up an average of 11 points per game in their past four games.
“Aptos is a very good football team,” St. Ignatius coach John Regalia said. “They play with great confidence and they are very well-coached and prepared, and they’re very disciplined.”
St. Ignatius’ offense will have the tough task of facing a Mariners defense that has given up only 12.6 points per game and has four shutouts. However, the recent play of quarterback Ryan Hagfeldt, and the return of senior fullback Brian Wollitz has the Wildcats’ offense rolling.
In the victory over Burlingame, Hagfeldt was 12-of-16 for 218 yards and four TDs, while Wollitz, who missed the previous seven games with a concussion, scored three touchdowns.
Regalia praised his junior QB for managing to get the St. Ignatius offense into a rhythm in the last month of the season.
“Ryan has handled himself very well all season,” Regalia said. “We ask the quarterback in our system to be a great manager of our offense. He is the guy that stays out after practice to get extra reps with the receivers.”
Despite the sub-.500 record and the struggles in possibly the toughest league in Northern California, according to Regalia, there is no secret to the Wildcats’ success this late in the season, but rather a commitment and belief in the system.
“Our players and coaches have stayed the course of committing themselves to building this team of 2013, and they have never wavered from that,” he said. “They take responsibility for one another, building their relationships each week. They compete at a high level each day and hold each other to that expectation.”
St. Ignatius vs. Aptos
WHAT: Central Coast Section Division III championship
WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Westmont High School, Campbell