Stakes raised in battle of familiar foes with St. Ignatius and Bellarmine 

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 night.

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

“That stuff is not on our radar,” St. Ignatius 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.

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.

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 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.

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

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Jeremy Balan

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