St. Francis football team completes do-or-die play to earn playoff berth

St. Francis QB Colin Johnson launched a ball into the end zone to win the game against St. Ignatius and send the Lancers to the playoffs. (Eric Luis/Special to The Examiner)St. Francis QB Colin Johnson launched a ball into the end zone to win the game against St. Ignatius and send the Lancers to the playoffs. (Eric Luis/Special to The Examiner)

Add another dagger to the St. Ignatius football team’s season of heartbreak.

The Wildcats dropped another gut-wrenching game at home, this time a 38-35 West Catholic Athletic League loss to St. Francis, and it came down to one play.

After St. Ignatius (2-5-1, 0-4-1 WCAL) took a 35-31 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run from fullback Dom Truoccolo with 1:34 remaining in the game, St. Francis (4-4, 3-2) drove down to the Wildcats 25-yard line with just over 30 seconds to play.

After a sack by St. Ignatius defensive lineman Kevin Sullivan, the Lancers faced a fourth-and-17 from the SI 27-yard line. On the next play after a St. Francis timeout, senior quarterback Colin Johnson lofted a throw to the left pylon, where senior wide receiver Braden Bishop outleaped St. Ignatius cornerback Albert Waters and came down with the ball for the game-winning score.

“It was up and down and all over the place, but that’s all right when you come out on top,” said St. Francis coach Nick Navarro. “In the timeout, all I said was, ‘We need a play. Go get the ball.’ Not much sophistication to it, just throw it in the air and somebody has to come down with it.”

A last-ditch-effort lateral play by St. Ignatius as time ran out was fumbled and recovered by St. Francis to give the Wildcats their third loss of the season by three points or less.

“I’m proud of our guys and their resolve, and I’m proud of their poise,” said St. Ignatius coach John Regalia. “We have a coaching staff and players that have worked their tails off every single week and we haven’t deviated or changed anything we do, because we believe in each other and our plan. That I can’t be more proud of, representing the school after a tough week.”

The Wildcats took a 21-17 lead into the half on the strength of three touchdown passes from junior quarterback Jack Stinn to senior wide receiver Mike Pia, and appeared to take control of the game in the third quarter, when Stinn connected with tight end Travis McDow for an 11-yard score to extend the lead to 28-17 with 5:57 remaining in the quarter.

Stinn finished with 255 yards and four touchdowns on 16-of-23 passing.

“He did a great job, as usual,” Regalia said. “He remained poised and managed the game really well.”

St. Francis answered right back, through, on a 58-yard touchdown run from senior running back Durrell Crooks, who finished with a game-high 144 yards rushing on 17 carries, then the momentum shifted abruptly to the Lancers.

Navarro and the Lancers were happy to escape with a win and seal a Central Coast Section playoff berth.

“Every team in this league has a chance to win in this league, every week,” Navarro said. “Every win helps, and this was a big one for us.”

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