Forget the close losses, the losing streaks and the years of frustration — the St. Ignatius football team is finally a Central Coast Section champion.
St. Ignatius trounced Los Gatos 35-20 at Foothill College in the Medium School Division championship, avenging two straight playoff losses to the same team, and securing the first CCS title in school history.
Ryan Kirkpatrick ran for 200 yards, Chris McCaffery threw for an efficient 137 yards and Ryan Brown carried the ball three times for three short touchdown runs to lead the Wildcats to victory.
At first, it appeared this playoff match would be a repeat of the past two years, as Los Gatos took the opening possession and rolled 69 yards on six plays, capping the drive off with a Will Kapp touchdown run from 27 yards out that gave Los Gatos a 7-0 lead.
St. Ignatius, unaffected by Los Gatos’ opening statement, quickly responded, compiling a marathon-like 18-play, 82-yard drive that consumed over seven minutes and finalizing it with Brown’s first touchdown run of the night, this one from 1 yard out.
St. Ignatius got a break on the next possession as senior linebacker and captain Derek McDonald recovered Kapp’s fumble on Los Gatos’ first play of their ensuing drive, giving St. Ignatius the ball at the Los Gatos 40-yard line.
Behind therunning of Kirkpatrick (often using the holes created by All-America tackle Matt Summers-Gavin), St. Ignatius methodically moved the ball down the field, before McCaffery snuck in from the 1 to for a 14-7 lead heading into halftime.
After going nowhere on their first two drives of the second half, the Wildcats got a break midway through the third quarter, when junior defensive back Chris Martin recovered a punt that was unknowingly touched by a Los Gatos player, giving St. Ignatius the ball at the Los Gatos 29-yard-line.
Three plays later, Brown scored again from 1 yard out, putting the Wildcats up 21-7.
Los Gatos responded with a 65-yard touchdown jaunt from Kapp (16 carries, 100 yards), to pull within 21-13, but St. Ignatius used a combination of Kirkpatrick’s legs (four carries, 17 yards on the drive) and McCaffery’s arm (32-yard completion to Tom Barth) to help set up Brown’s last touchdown plunge of the night, this one a 5-yarder, to give St. Ignatius a comfortable 28-13 lead with just 11 minutes to play in the contest.
The two teams traded off scores in the waning minutes for the final score of 35-20.
"This is something you dream of," said Kirkpatrick, who went over 200 yards for the first time in his career. "To win a championship like this as a senior is something I could never imagine. It’s an amazing feeling."
Coach Steve Bluford, who led the Wildcats to a 10-2-1 record this season, acknowledged the significance of the win.
"This is for all the guys who played here and fell just a little short," Bluford said. "We won this for them and this school."
St. Ignatius 35, Los Gatos 20