Rolling St. Ignatius set to meet reeling SHC in Bruce-Mahoney game

Eric Sun/Special to the S.F. ExaminerAT STAKE: This is the first in the best-of-three series for the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy

Eric Sun/Special to the S.F. ExaminerAT STAKE: This is the first in the best-of-three series for the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy

The Bruce-Mahoney game between St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart Cathedral is the crown jewel of any football season, but this year’s edition features one of the greatest disparities in expectations for the two teams heading into the game.

All you have to do is look at their schedules to see the teams are going in different directions.

The Wildcats have rolled since a season-opening loss to Marin Catholic, winning three straight games including a 42-28 win on the road against Valley Christian of San Jose in their West Catholic Athletic League opener last week.

The Irish, conversely, have lost three straight after their win over Terra Nova to start the season, including a disappointing 28-0 loss to St. Francis in their league opener.

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“We have some soul-searching to do,” Sacred Heart senior Kelvin Sanders said. “We need to believe in ourselves as much as our coaches do, because we know we can go far.”

Last season, the Irish had the workhorse running back in Valentino Miles, who ran for 310 yards in Sacred Heart’s 38-14 win to secure the first leg of the three-sport series, but this year the Wildcats have the standout back.

Junior tailback Elijah Dale ran for 213 yards on 38 carries against Valley Christian and will look to repeat the Wildcats’ grinding 21-14 win over the Irish in the Division III Central Coast Section championship game last season, where fullback Dom Truoccolo pounded out 179 yards on 36 carries.

The fact that the teams played twice in one season for the first time in 119-year-old rivalry in 2012, adds little to the annual event, but does give each team that much more to pull from in preparation.

For St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Stinn, who has admitted in the past that the constantly moving and shifting Irish defense has caused him trouble, there is comfort in the familiarity, even though he struggled in each game, completing a combined 11-of-40 passes.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s the same defense as last year.” Stinn said. “We know for the most part what it looks like and what the tendencies are, but we just have to play sharp, run the ball and if they load the box, complete some passes.”

Despite their record, the Irish do have talent, specifically in dynamic junior Brett Rasso, who plays safety and running back, along with returning kicks and punts, but Sacred Heart has seemingly already lost the war of attrition.

The trickle-down effect of losing senior Matthew Hewitson for the season due to a broken collarbone has impacted the entire team.

Hewitson, a starter at wide receiver and cornerback, was injured late in Sacred Heart’s third game against Bishop O’Dowd, forcing starting quarterback Jerry Peralta to play at corner. At the beginning of the season, Peralta was not playing on defense at all, and against St. Francis, sophomore quarterback Logan White took most of the snaps behind center because of Peralta’s expanded role.

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