The St. Ignatius football team probably deserves a home game for its Central Coast Section Open Division semifinal matchup against Mitty on Saturday, but the Wildcats are more than comfortable on the road.
The sixth-seeded Wildcats will make the hour drive from the Sunset to take on Mitty in its own back yard at Independence High School in San Jose on Saturday night.
All other CCS divisions give the better seed a home game in the semifinals, but due to the attendance draw of the Open, its semifinals are both being played at the “neutral” site of Independence.
St. Ignatius coach John Regalia shrugged off the significance of the game’s location and probably has good reason to. The Wildcats have played eight of their 11 games away from their 37th Avenue campus, including a 49-14 drubbing of third-seeded Palma in Salinas in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’re just excited to still be playing,” Regalia said. “That’s our focus.”
The Open is an entirely different animal than the Division III tournament the Wildcats won last season, but like last year, St. Ignatius appears to be hitting its stride in the postseason.
The brightest spot for the Wildcats has been senior quarterback Jack Stinn, who had his best game of the season against Palma last week, totaling 190 yards and three touchdowns on 9-of-10 passing to go along with 68 yards rushing on eight carries.
“There’s no question Jack has continued to grow as a leader all season,” Regalia said.
Though the St. Ignatius offense was impressive against Palma, it’s been the defense in recent weeks that may be the most encouraging for the SI faithful.
The Wildcats allowed 271 yards of offense against Palma, but much of the yardage came late in the fourth quarter with the game decided. The St. Ignatius stop unit was even better against Mitty in the final game of the regular season (a 21-6 SI win), limiting the Monarchs’ option offense to 19 rushing plays of 1 yard or less, including eight for negative yardage.
“We already know what we did the first time around and we’ve prepared for each other already,” Regalia said. “We need to prepare as if we hadn’t played them two weeks ago.”