ST. IGNATIUS — Everything seems to be coming together at the right time for Danny Ryan and the St. Ignatius Wildcats.
The senior wide receiver, a three-sport athlete who’s heavily involved in campus activities, put together another remarkable performance on a day when his team was firing on all cylinders, with nine receptions for 132 yards in a 45-0 pasting of Riordan to retain the Gil Haskell Trophy.
“It’s been a really exciting season,” Ryan said. “It’s so much fun to have the school come out to the games.”
St. Ignatius (6-2, 4-1 WCAL) has lost just once at home on the year, a tight affair with Valley Christian, one of the best teams in the entire Bay Area. Saturday’s win allowed the Wildcats to keep pace with the Warriors as well as Serra, remaining a game out of first place by winning a game that was never in doubt.
Teddye Buchanan threw for 206 yards and had a sack as part of a suffocating team effort on defense, holding the visiting Crusaders to just 30 yards on the afternoon. SI led 14-0 on a pair of Buchanan touchdowns just six minutes in and forced four turnovers while holding Riordan (2-6, 0-5) to just two first downs.
Both of those first downs were, however, part of an uplifting story for the Crusaders, who lost their sixth straight but saw the return of one of their leaders, junior wide receiver Aden Jackson. He finished the day with 24 yards in his first action since a scary collision in an Oct. 4 loss to Mitty that led to him being stretchered off and taken away in an ambulance.
“It’s good for him to get a game under his belt,” head coach Mark Modeste said of Jackson. “He’s still getting his legs back under him. You miss that long, you’re not going to be perfect.”
Jackson’s performance was one of the only positives for a Riordan team that’s been thrown through the gauntlet of the WCAL while trying to keep morale high in Modeste’s first season at the helm.
“You’re here to play football but also to grow as young men. That doesn’t change, regardless of the outcome,” he said. “That experience is still very viable and attainable.”
Considering that St. Ignatius went on a six-game losing streak to open last year, such lessons are available for the Crusaders in close proximity. The Wildcats looked more like a champion than a team that barely squeaked into the playoffs last year, a continuation of the upward trajectory that the program has seen since last October. Saturday was a continuation of that growth, a convincing beatdown that was nowhere near as close as the final score suggested.
After the Wildcat defense forced a three-and-out to start the game, a 33-yard completion to Ryan and an eight-yard Joe Celentano run set up a two-yard Buchanan touchdown run. A Siaki Gallegos-Hunkin fumble recovery on the opening play of the next Riordan drive and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Mike Harrison made it a two-score advantage, and a Marcelo Villavicencio fumble recovery on the second play of the second quarter led to a 32-yard Kealan O’Connell field goal.
Celentano would intercept the very next Riordan play from scrimmage, and though a O’Connell’s attempt from 42 would go wide left, Buchanan found Ryan for an eight-yard touchdown with four seconds left in the half, his ninth of the season, and SI needed just four minutes to score again in the third quarter on a one-yard Celentano run.
Zach Taylor-Smith, who stepped up at quarterback in 2018 when Buchanan dealt with a broken finger, largely handled the offense from there, throwing for an 18-yard score to Davis DeSouza and running one in from 30 yards to finish off the scoring.
“We’re always competing and making each other better,” Taylor-Smith said after posting a team-high 60 rushing yards on nine carries and throwing for 48 more on just three attempts. “As long as we’re pushing each other, it doesn’t really matter who’s in there.”
A Peter Quill fumble recovery marked the fourth and final turnover as the Wildcats were able to finish the game off with juniors who will likely be key contributors next year, including quarterback Cheddar Tunney and running back Petros Harris. They’ll accompany Jahsai Shannon, who ran 12 times for 58 yards and had a 19-yard reception in his third game since his family moved back to San Francisco, by far his best outing.
“The first couple of games I was shaky,” he said. Shannon not only was briefly at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas this year as his family explored job opportunities; he was also dealing with an ankle injury while living in Nevada. “It just feels great to be back on the field.”
Next up for St. Ignatius is a trip to Mitty (6-2, 4-1) with second place in the WCAL on the line in a Friday-night game at Foothill College, the Monarchs’ de facto home field. Riordan will play at home Saturday against St. Francis (2-6, 1-4), though the location of the game is yet to be confirmed. The Crusaders hope to be able to play on their newly renovated field for the first time, but if the finishing touches can’t be done until the following week, the game would be played at Jefferson.