Offseason commitment has St. Ignatius ready for more big things 

click to enlarge Ryan Hagfeldt
  • Eric Sun/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Returning senior quarterback Ryan Hagfeldt will help St. Ignatius get back to the CCS title game.
Competing in the West Catholic Athletic League — arguably the toughest high school football conference in California — requires a grueling, yearlong commitment.

Fortunately for St. Ignatius coach John Regalia, he’s receiving that kind of dedication from his team, and those efforts are being led by the best players on his team.

“I really like our group of guys,” Regalia said. “They’re very committed to each other, and they began that process in January. We’ve got a long road ahead, but I like what we’ve done so far.”

Seniors Ryan Hagfeldt, who started all 13 games at quarterback for St. Ignatius last season, and Dominic Burke, the leading tackler on the 2013 team, have been at the forefront of the Wildcats’ offseason conditioning program.

“Those guys have been great,” Regalia said. “It’s one thing to have an impact on the field. It’s another to combine that experience with great leadership skills, and I’m seeing that in Ryan and Dominic.”

After piling up 10 wins and capturing the vaunted Central Coast Section Open Division championship in 2012, the Wildcats had a rebuilding season last year, going just 2-8 in regular-season play. However — illustrating the insane depth of the WCAL — St. Ignatius did advance to the championship game of the CCS Division III playoffs, where they lost a heartbreaker to Aptos 41-35.

Along with Hagfeldt, who threw for 1,425 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and Burke, who racked up 62 tackles from his safety position, the Wildcats return several key contributors from their 2013 team. Regalia said Freddie Gaines, a defensive back-wide receiver who saw spot duty last season, has been very impressive in offseason workouts. Senior offensive guard-fullback Thomas McGovern, whom Regalia called the strongest player on the team, also comes back after seeing significant time last season.

“I could probably name about 17 to 20 guys who I’m really high on right now,” Regalia said. “These guys are ready to move up to the next phase of this program.”

Regalia will certainly need all the help he can get from those players. Along with competing in the ridiculously competitive WCAL — six league teams are ranked in the Bay Area Preseason Top 25 poll — the Wildcats have loaded up their nonconference schedule with perennial local powers Terra Nova and Marin Catholic (both of whom they lost to last season).

“We love that challenge, we want that challenge” Regalia said. “I know it’s a cliche, but we take it one week at a time because we know we can never look ahead. That keeps up focused, and that keeps us excited to play each game, each week.”

Wildcats breakdown

Last season: 4-9 overall (2-5 WCAL; lost to Aptos 41-35 in Central Coast Section Division III championship game)

Three things to watch:

- About that schedule: Terra Nova and Marin Catholic, two of the Wildcat’s nonconference opponents, are ranked fourth and 14th respectively in the Bay Area Top 25 poll. A third opponent, St. Mary’s (Stockton), is a perennial contender in the San Joaquin Section. St. Ignatius is ranked 17th in the poll.

- Departed running back Elijah Dale will be hard to replace. Dale was named most valuable running back in the WCAL last season.

- The Wildcats’ rematch with Terra Nova — a team that loves to throw the ball — will be a fun one to watch. Last year, Hagfeldt threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats 50-33 loss.

St. Ignatius schedule

Sept. 6 at Marin Catholic* 2 p.m.

Sept. 12 at Terra Nova* 7 p.m. Sept. 20 vs. St. Mary’s (Stockton)* 1 p.m.

Oct. 4 vs. Bellarmine 1 p.m.

Oct. 10 at Serra 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 vs. Mitty 1 p.m.

Oct. 25 vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral 1 p.m.

Oct. 31 at Valley Christian 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 8 at Riordan 2 p.m.

Nov. 14 at St. Francis 7:30 p.m.

* nonconference game

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Will Reisman

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