St. Ignatius falls to Bells in opener

St. Ignatius couldn’t overcome early offensive struggles in a 35-10 loss to visiting Bellarmine of San Jose in both teams’ West Catholic Athletic League opener on Saturday.

The Wildcats (1-2-1, 0-1) managed only 41 yards of total offense in the first half and trailed 21-3 at the break, but Bellarmine (4-0, 1-0) held off a third-quarter surge and pulled away late with 342 total rushing yards in its ball-control, clock-eating option offense.

“We have to start better and we have to finish better,” said St. Ignatius head coach Steve Bluford. “We knew that if we got down a couple of touchdowns, we would have to get going on the offensive side to gain momentum. [Holding the ball] is what they do. That’s where our defense has to make plays.”

The 25-point final deficit is slightly deceiving, however, as St. Ignatius held Bellarmine to punts on its two opening drives in the second half and cut the lead to 21-10 on a 3-yard run from senior running back Zac Schuller with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter.

After forcing another punt, the Wildcats were driving again and had the ball at the Bellarmine 28-yard line before the Bells recovered a Jacob Brisbane fumble with 1:53 remaining in the third quarter.

“Our rhythm was disrupted, and when we got the ball back, it was late,” Bluford said. “We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and putting points on the board.”

After the turnover, the Bells dominated possession and ran the clock down while scoring 14 unanswered points to end the game.

“You gotta stop us somehow from getting those first downs and eating that clock up,” said Bellarmine head coach Mike Janda. “Fortunately we got it rolling again and were able to finish the clock off. I was really proud of them, because we didn’t panic.”

The dynamic Bells’ rushing attack featured seven ball carriers, led by junior quarterback Travis McHugh, who had a game-high
120 yards on 17 carries. Bellarmine senior running back Kristoffer Olugbode also finished over the century mark with 111 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries.

Brisbane led the Wildcats run-heavy attack with 85 yards on 10 carries, but St. Ignatius struggled again passing the ball as senior quarterback Jeff Farlow threw for just 14 yards on 4-of-11 passing with two interceptions.

“We had some trouble today, yet at the same time we’ve gotten better in our passing game,” Bluford said. “It’s hard to see that growth, because of what happened today, but we are getting better. Every team wants 60, 70, 80 percent pass completions. That’s not realistic, but we definitely need to be more efficient in our passing game.”

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