Jahsai Shannon emerges as a potentially explosive back, despite St. Ignatius loss to Campolindo

Without its top offensive lineman and its first-string quarterback, St. Ignatius was at somewhat of a disadvantage against Moraga-Campolindo in a matinee match-up on Saturday in the Sunset.

Though the Cougars (2-0) lost their starting quarterback, top two rushers and top two receivers from last season, they nevertheless racked up a 27-0 lead against the Wildcats, who were playing without interior lineman Jack Dyke and exciting dual-threat quarterback Teddye Buchanan.

“They’re good, it’s just this week, they had to sit from some injuries on our first game against Palo Alto,” said head coach John Regalia said. “Both of those guys obviously want to play, they want to be there. Our guys know that, but we know how football works. We’ve got a full team of players for a reason.”

Without those two, a new star emerged: Jahsai Shannon. The sophomore tailback rushed for 113 yards on 13 second-half carries as St. Ignatius made things respectable in a 34-21 loss, and at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Shannon already looks the part of an every-down back.

“He’s up with us for a reason at this level,” Regalia said. “He can compete at this level. He’s a tremendous young man. Very smart kid. He’s very much, in many ways, mature beyond his years, and not just physically — how he handles himself, how he carries himself, the kind of teammate he is, his work ethic … So, to me, no surprise with what he’s able to do.”

Shannon was one of the leaders on the freshman team last season, and worked out with the varsity team over the course of the offseason.

“As we evaluate guys in the offseason, he was one of the guys we touched on and said, ‘Let’s take a look and see where he’s at in spring and summer,'” Regalia said. “He worked out with us all offseason, trained, and physically, he’s developing. He’s done that through his work with us.”

Shannon played on the offensive side of the ball in the opener, but got run on both sides of the ball against Campolindo.

“We expect him to compete, to run and catch and be prepared on the defensive side, so we’re excited about him,” Regalia said. “He played the whole game, but he’s in packages, and we package our guys differently, so when his number’s called, we know he’s going to be ready.”

The Wildcats turned to Shannon as the primarily offensive weapon after a first half that saw second-string quarterback Jack Hagfeldt punished by the Campolindo rush. He was sacked twice in the first quarter, and as he threw incomplete to Mark Biggins with less than four minutes left in the first half, he was crushed by Mason Mastrov. That sent a wobbly Hagfeldt to the sidelines, replaced by Zach Taylor-Smith.

When Hagfeldt was on the field in the first half, he couldn’t match the dynamism of Buchanan, completing all four passes he attempted, but for just 17 yards.

Meanwhile, the Cougars scored on each of their first four drives.

Campolindo struck first on a two-yard Michael Brewer run with 7:27 to go in the first quarter — finishing off a 70-yard drive — and again after a three-and-out by the Wildcats. It took just one play for Campolindo to score its second touchdown — a 61-yard bomb from Grant Harper to senior Max Schoenberger with 4:57 to go in the first period.

The Cougars scored on their next drive, starting the second quarter with a 10-yard out to Ryan O’Neil turning into a 48-yard touchdown, and on their next after that, with Harper hitting Lucas Allen on an end zone fade from 15 yards out with 4:06 to go before the half.

Down 27-0, St. Ignatius got a 28-yard kickoff return by Mark Biggins, but couldn’t crack the red zone, as a fourth-and-eight pass by Taylor-Smith to Brian Blake was broken up by Will Windatt.

With Hagfeld tback under center in the second half, the Wildcats were able to get down to the Campolindo 13, but a holding call on a Topher Bligh run and yet another sack brought up third-and-14. Hagfeldt couldn’t find any open receivers, and instead of throwing the ball away, took a big hit by Mastrov and was taken down by Jake Crumbaugh for a sack. A bomb to Taylor-Smith went off the backup-QB-cum-receiver’s fingers, and was broken up by Steffen Westphal.

Campolindo promptly went right back down and scored on a 72-yard drive, with Harper hitting Allen on a roll out to his left for a 10-yard touchdown with 1:05 to go in the third. They would not score again.

“Campolindo’s an awesome team,” Regalia said. “They’re really, really well coached, and their players play really smart, hard football, physical football, and we like that. We like the challenge. We respect their program. From that standpoint, what do we take away? We take away the fact that we were challenged by a very good opponent today, and in many cases, we met the challenge.”

After running for 14 yards on two third-quarter carries, Shannon rushed for 33 yards on four carries to open the fourth, scoring on a 20-yard bullying charge up the middle. Shannon certainly looked green at times, but there’s a bit of wiggle and a lot of strength in his frame, to go along with some developing instincts. Last week against Palo Alto, he had several runs where he was tripped up by a foot tackle, and if he starts breaking those, he could be a player to watch.

Over the next nine minutes, he proceeded to run roughshod over Campolindo’s second-team defense. With 6:15 togo, he rushed for 19 yards on three of the first four plays of an eventual scoring drive — finished off with a six-yard run from Danny Burke with 1:40 to go. Burke rushed for 56 yards on 13 carries on the day as St. Ignatius’s second leading rusher. Cormac Gallagher added three carries for 32 yards in the fourth quarter.

On the next drive, Shannon rushed for another 31 yards on three carries, impressing by on the final play pressing the B gap and stretching outside, turning the corner for a 10-yard touchdown run.

Regalia said he hopes for Buchanan to be back for next week’s game against Gonzaga Prep on Sept. 8 in Spokane, Washington, a game set for a 6 p.m. kick in eastern Washington.

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