The Central Coast Section Division III football championship game between St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart Cathedral essentially came down to a bounce.
With the game tied at 14-14 in the third quarter, a botched snap caromed off Sacred Heart quarterback Jack Harrington and hit the turf.
St. Ignatius senior linebacker Danny O’Malley scooped up the ball and ran 50 yards for the decisive score with 4:18 remaining in the Wildcats’ 21-14 win on Saturday night in front of 12,000 raucous fans at AT&T Park.
It is the second CCS title in St. Ignatius’ history.
“It just rolled and I saw it, then I saw the open stands [past the end zone],” O’Malley said. “We brought it when we needed to.”
After a mistake-free first half, the Irish were plagued with errors in the second, and the Wildcats pounced on the opportunities.
Harrington also threw three interceptions in the second half, but it was a failed fake punt that set the Wildcats up for the tying score.
On its first possession of the second half, Sacred Heart punter Daniel Lalor rolled out right and appeared to be opting for one of his normal, rugby-style kicks. Instead, Lalor tried to run for the first down, but was stopped short.
“It wasn’t a fake punt,” Sacred Heart coach John Lee said. “It’s a call. He has that ability to run and I’m not going to blame the kid. He dives and he comes up this short.”
After taking over on the Irish 38-yard line, St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Stinn scored on a 1-yard sneak nearly five minutes later to tie the score 14-14.
“[St. Ignatius] took care of their opportunities when they had them and we didn’t,” Lee said.
The Wildcats’ defense not only capitalized on Sacred Heart’s miscues, but held the Irish to just 46 yards in the second half.
“Our defensive coaches put our guys in the right position to make plays,” St. Ignatius coach John Regalia said. “Our guys responded.”
While the St. Ignatius defense held firm, the Wildcats’ offense found production from newfound halfback Dom Truoccolo.
The senior, who was the Wildcats’ starting fullback until starting halfback Kerry Crowley was injured in the first round of the postseason against Aptos, ran for 179 yards on 36 carries and scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter to even the score 7-7.
On the first drive of the game, the Wildcats handed the ball to Truoccolo on 12 of their first 13 plays. He had 116 yards in the first quarter alone.
“We rode him and we’re going to ride him because of who he is — a senior captain,” Regalia said. “His work ethic is second to none and we definitely needed to establish the run.”
Truoccolo and fellow running back Albert Waters were literally the entire Wildcats offense, as Stinn, who has been so essential in their playoff run, did not complete a pass.
“Jack is a part of our offense, and because he is such a team player, that’s him managing the game,” Regalia said.
“I’m not surprised that we were successful [when he didn’t complete a pass]. We were running the ball really well too.”
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