It's always a little strange to refer to teenage athletes as veterans, but if any high school player could fit that label, it would be St. Ignatius quarterback Ryan Hagfeldt.
When the 6-foot-4 senior takes the field against second-seeded Aptos (11-1) on Saturday for the Central Coast Section Division III football championship game, it will mark his 26th straight start for the fourth-seeded Wildcats (7-5), with many of those coming against some of the top competition in the region.
When asked if he has seen pretty much everything on the football field, Hagfeldt offers a typically modest response.
“You know, our coaches do a great job of preparing us every week, and my teammates have worked incredibly hard all season, so it's more than just me,” Hagfeldt said. “I feel confident out there, but I'm just one of the pieces.”
Although one shouldn't expect to hear anything arrogant out of Hagfeldt, he could be excused if he slipped out a few boastful words regarding his performance this season. He led the West Catholic Athletic League — generally regarded as one of the top football conferences in Northern California — with 1,898 yards passing and 160 completions (more than twice as many as anyone else in the league), while tying for the WCAL lead in touchdown passes with 15. Along the way, he has SI back in the CCS Division III title game for the second straight season.
In the Wildcats' dominant 35-17 win over top-seeded Pioneer of San Jose in the semifinals last week, Hagfeldt had a typically solid outing. He threw for 145 yards and one touchdown, and, most importantly, did not turn the ball over.
SI coach John Regalia said Hagfeldt provides a calming presence not only on the field, but off the field and in the locker room.
“He's really become a tremendous leader,” Regalia said. “That might be just as important as his contributions on the field.”
Again, Hagfeldt deflected the praise of his coach when told of these remarks.
“I did make an effort to become more actively vocal this season, but there are plenty of senior leaders on this team,” Hagfeldt said. “We've been a very tight group for a long time.”
Although SI didn't capture the WCAL title — a goal the team had heading into the season — Hagfeldt said the Wildcats can still consider the season a success.
“We're playing for a CCS title again,” Hagfeldt said. “That's something to be proud of.”
The Wildcats will get a rematch with Aptos, which defeated SI in a 41-35 shootout for the CCS Division III title last season after SI won back-to-back titles. Barring a very surprising decision by the California Interscholastic Federation — responsible for naming teams to regional bowl games after the sectional playoffs — Saturday's game will likely be the last of Hagfeldt's storied high school career, win or lose.
“That's not something I've even thought about” said Hagfeldt. “I pride myself on being calm on the field, and even though this could be my last game and I'm sure there will be some emotions afterward, for now I'm really just focusing on Aptos.”
Coming Friday: A preview of the Division III title game.