ST. IGNATIUS — With 4:40 left on Senior Day, St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Hagfeldt stepped in at quarterback for Zach Taylor-Smith.
Having broken his right clavicle in a fall camp Oklahoma drill last August, and missing his junior year, the Wildcats’ two-way senior had stepped aside early in the season to make way for junior Zach Taylor-Smith, who has dazzled as a dual-threat signal caller. Hagfeldt had his late-game snaps back of center, but he’s made his biggest impact as a breakup machine in coverage.
On Saturday, though, in the fourth quarter, he stepped up on a zone read and found a hole for a 40-yard touchdown — his first of the season — to seal a 34-0 win over San Jose-Bellarmine Prep, giving the one-time 0-6 Wildcats a realistic shot at an at-large playoff bid. As he ran to the back of the end zone, he leaped high in the air for a body bump with receiver Matt Rosen.
“I was reading the play-side D-end, he crashed down hard on Cormac [Gallagher], and Cormac had a great ball fake,” Hagfeldt said. “Matt Rosen had a nice block on the corner, and no one was there, so I ran as fast as I could to the end zone … It felt great. Definitely excited for more in the playoffs.”
The win was St. Ignatius’s third in the last four weeks, and second straight shutout.
“It’s amazing,” Hagfeldt said. “Last year, I got a lot of mental reps because I wasn’t playing, but [head coach John Regalia] has helped me ever since, with film in the offseason, and coach [Gustavo] Manzanares. Playing DB the whole season after playing quarterback the first few games, the transition has been smooth, because I knew what I was doing from watching film.”
Hagfeldt’s midseason replacement at quarterback, the dual-threat Zach Taylor-Smith, completed his first 10 passes and went 10-of-13 for 126 yards and a touchdown, but the star of the day was senior captain Mark Biggins.
With 9:20 to go in the third quarter, Biggins stepped in front of a seed down field from Bells quarterback Harry Mingrone.
Biggins — the Wildcats’ starting running back — shifted into ball-carrier mode, found a green path in front of him and sprinted 55 yards for a backbreaking touchdown.
“First, I saw that slant to their No.1 receiver coming in, and I just knew to cut it off right away,” Biggins said. “That’s all we’ve been practicing through the week. Once I got that, I knew it was just me and the quarterback, one-on-one, and I’ve got that Mamba mentality — I was looking to score.”
It was one of his three touchdowns on the day — including a pair of 18-yard runs — as he rushed for 75 yards on 11 carries. He was one of five players with at least three carries.
The Wildcats came out in a different look, executing a run-heavy power-I attack better than Bellarmine could execute its famed Wing-T. On the game, St. Ignatius rushed 39 times for 215 net yards, which includes a pair of sacks for -16 yards.
“We’re versatile enough to be able to do that, with different players and scheme,” said head coach John Regalia. “We have that, and it allows us to be able to be versatile and to do that against different opponents … It’s something we knew we wanted to work at to see if it was there.”
Biggins rushed for 43 of his 75 yards on a punishing, 8:11, 16-play, 79-yard drive to start the game, capped by an 8-yard jump pass to tight end Alfred Ugaitafa for the game’s first score. Two drives later, Biggins took a sweep off the left edge for his first touchdown on the day.
The Wildcats forced a three-and-out — their third of four on the day — and then Biggins scored again, capping off a 76-yard, seven-play drive by bouncing off of two tacklers in the backfield and rumbling for another 18-yard score.
After Biggins’s pick six, Hagfeldt turned in his final of four pass breakups, and then Biggins stepped up and made a fourth-and-3 stop on Joaquin Moreno at the Wildcats’ 17, stoning Bellarmine’s best scoring chance of the day.
“We get excited about fourth-down stops no matter where they are or when they are,” Regalia said. “It’s that defensive mentality of taking the ball away or stopping them on fourth down, we get excited for that … The energy was high for that.”
With the win, St. Ignatius now heads into Sunday’s Central Coast Section seeding meeting with a very good chance at the postseason. The Wildcats started the season 0-6, but four of their seven losses have come to Moraga-Campolindo (North Coast Section Division II champions), Spokane (Wash.) Gonzaga Prep (Washington state 4A quarterfinalist), Mountain View-St. Francis (Open Division 2 finalist) and Serra (Division 2-AA state champions).
St. Ignatius may very well make the playoffs on the strength of their schedule alone, and they’re playing their best football of the season, to boot.
“Our guys are not taking anything for granted,” Regalia said. “Are we in the playoffs? We don’t know. We’ll find out tomorrow. Do we feel pretty good about it? Yeah, but nothing’s guaranteed, and our guys know that. I think our guys are much more excited about how we’ve been playing over the last four or five weeks, and still very hungry to improve and get better, if we have the opportunity.”