The St. Ignatius football team may be sailing into uncharted territory — the Wildcats will be making their first appearance in a Central Coast Section championship game — but the opponent will certainly be a familiar foe.
Los Gatos, whom the Wildcats will face on today at 7 p.m. at Foothill College for the Medium School Division title, has knocked St. Ignatius out of the playoffs the past two seasons.
Things might be different this year as the two will be meeting in the title game — as opposed to the earlier rounds — and St. Ignatius’ defense, led by senior linebacker Tommy Kilgore, is hoping to shut down another opponent.
In winning a share of the West Catholic Athletic League title for the first time since 1967, the Wildcats surrendered just 82 points in six games, by far the stingiest effort in the league.
The Wildcats matched their season average of 13.7 points per game allowed in the two playoff games, giving up just 14 points in wins over Aptos and Los Altos. Those stingy playoff efforts were just an extension of the Wildcats’ season-long play of inspiring defense.
Kilgore, who picked up five tackles in each of the playoff wins, believes St. Ignatius’ stifling defensive performance this season can be attributed to a sterling combination of experienced veterans and talented underclassmen.
"We returned a lot of defensive starters this season and we felt like we got some momentum from playing well at the end of last season," said Kilgore, who has been on the varsity since the end of his sophomore season. "We were able to help out some of the younger guys on this team, who are really physically talented. Plus, we’ve got the best defensive coaches in the league and they really helped prepare us and bring us together."
At the core of the mix is Kilgore, who directs the defense from his middle linebacker position.
"Tommy is the heartbeat of the defense," Wildcats coach Steve Bluford said. "He’s passionate, emotional, tough and physical and he plays hard every game. His teammates appreciate that and feed off his energy and his play."
Kilgore will look to direct all of that energy into preventing another SI loss to Los Gatos.
"The last two years we felt like we were just as good as them, but we made too many mistakes," Kilgore said. "If we can limit our mistakes this time, we feel confident about our chances."