Big-time players make big-time plays.
Sacred Heart Cathedral has a team full of big-time players. The Fightin’ Irish snapped a six-game Bruce-Mahoney losing streak to rival St. Ignatius on Friday night behind five red zone stops. SHC won the game 21-14 despite getting overwhelmed in time of possession and playing with a roster of just 29 players.
“We just pick each other up,” said head coach Barry McLaughlin, who is off to a 4-0 start in his first year at SHC. “When you have a small roster, you have to pick each other up, and the kids just kept battling.”
The Irish took the lead on Will Irons’ 12-yard touchdown pass to Areon Mitchell with 3:27 remaining, but Charlie Katz put up a heroic effort to lead St. Ignatius (1-3, 0-1 WCAL) down the field. The Wildcats converted two third downs on the drive and, with 22 seconds remaining, a 4th-and-5 at the 15 when Katz spun his way out of a sack and found Finn Burke at the 8.
Katz’s brilliant play was just one more bump in the road for an SHC team that had faced adversity all night. The defense responded by deflecting and nearly intercepting a pass on first and goal. On second and goal, the Irish thought for a moment they had clinched the game with an interception, but the defensive back was out of bounds.
That set up a third and goal with just two seconds remaining. Katz rolled right and sent a pass to his top target, David Woodruff, but Mitchell and Anthony Heard played tight coverage to knock the ball away and end the game.
It’s amazing that the SHC defense had any energy left at the end of the game. St. Ignatius won the time of possession battle 33:54-14:06, and the Irish defense was on the field for more than 18 of the 24 minutes in the second half.
The defense was responsible for the game’s first score. After the Irish got stopped in the red zone on a drive that lasted five-and-a-half minutes, Zachary Lealao popped the ball loose on a sack and Andres Ruiz grabbed the fumble out of mid-air and took it four yards to the end zone.
The Irish defense also kept the game tied going into halftime as Amin Oglesby intercepted a pass in the end zone with 13 seconds left in the half. St. Ignatius was seven yards from a go-ahead score, but Oglesby came up with the crucial play to keep the game even.
Despite ending both halves with goal-line stops, perhaps the most impressive feat by the SHC defense came midway through the second quarter. After a blocked punt put St. Ignatius at the 17, a holding call hindered the Wildcats and led to a missed 36-yard field goal. However, Beau Sidwell intercepted the pass on the next play, sending the Irish defense right back onto the field. Once again, they stood tall, with a Lealao sack forcing a turnover on downs after St. Ignatius had driven down to the 10.
SI had tied the game at 7 early in the second on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Katz to Woodruff. The Irish had the lone score in the third, a 26-yard touchdown pass from Irons to Ronan Orford. The Wildcats overcame their red zone woes to tie the game in the fourth when Mark Biggins plunged into the end zone on fourth-and-1, but Irons responded immediately and led the go-ahead drive. Before the touchdown to Mitchell, he found Oglesby for a 35-yard gain and the Irish took advantage of two pass interference calls on deep pass attempts.
Irons finished 15-of-31 for 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Orford (5 catches-66 yards) and Oglesby (4 catches-70 yards) were his top targets. Mitchell, usually a key receiver, made just one catch, but it was the biggest play of the game.
Katz was brilliant for St. Ignatius, completing 16 of 24 passes for 145 yards and two scores. He also ran for 52 yards, most of which came on scrambles to avoid sacks. Woodruff had eight catches for 82 yards and Sidwell had five for 39. Henri Vatinel was the SI bell cow, running 21 times for 90 yards.
SHC can win the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy for the first time since the 2011-12 school year by winning the basketball game on January 12 at USF. Should SI win on the hardwood, the trophy will be decided by the baseball game, scheduled for March 17.
Prep Focus writer Ethan Kassel covers high school sports throughout the Bay Area. If you have a story tip, game to watch or player to track, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.