BURLINGAME — Top-seeded Burlingame High School came into the Central Coast Section Division III semifinal against St. Ignatius a perfect 11-0, averaging 45.5 points a game and allowing just 6.6 points per game this season.
But Friday night at Burlingame, fifth-seeded St. Ignatius (4-8) looked like the team without a blemish on its record as the Wildcats carved up the Panthers 41-21, advancing to the CCS Division III championship, where they'll take on Aptos High School.
St. Ignatius junior quarterback Ryan Hagfeldt had his best game of the season, going 12 of 16 for 218 yards with four touchdown passes, and the Wildcats got a spark from senior fullback Brian Wollitz, who missed the last seven games with a concussion.
Wollitz scored three touchdowns and had two big fourth-down receptions, including a 23-yard catch and run for a touchdown on 4th-and-5 that gave St. Ignatius a commanding 34-14 lead with 29 seconds left in the third quarter. Wollitz added two rushing touchdowns in his first action since Oct. 5 against St. Francis.
Wildcats coach John Regalia, who is seeking to guide SI to its third straight CCS title, was more than pleased afterwards with his team's performance, as SI contained Burlingame's vaunted rushing attack, limiting the Panthers to 126 yards on the ground — 161 below their average.
“[Hagfeldt] has really matured over the course of the season, and he did a good job managing the game against Burlingame's great defense. Wollitz brings great energy to the team, so it's good to have him back,” Regalia said. “Our defense has really been playing well the last five weeks, and like our team, we're really growing.”
After both teams traded punts on their first two possessions, St. Ignatius rattled off 21 straight points on the strength of its play-action passing. Hagfeldt connected with tight end Nik Bell for two touchdowns, and senior Joe Lang hauled in a dart from Hagfeldt on a deep post, for a 75-yard catch-and-run with 7:33 left in the first half.
“It comes down to our work in practice,” Hagfeldt said. “We work on our play-action passing every day. Hopefully we can string another win together and bring home another CCS title.”
However, St. Ignatius saw its commanding 21-0 lead quickly shrink as Burlingame scored 14 points in the last 1:13 in the first half. Burlingame senior running back Manase Palu broke through the Wildcats defense for a 50-yard touchdown run, and after Burlingame blocked an SI punt, junior Griffin Intrieri scampered around the left end for a 17-yard touchdown.
Burlingame (11-1) coach John Phillipopoulos thought the momentum his team garnered before halftime would carry into the second half, but that proved not to be the case.
The Panthers' offense went three-and-out after the second half kickoff, kept an SI drive alive with a roughing the kicker penalty on 4th-and-11, and early in the fourth quarter, turned the ball over on downs as they couldn't convert on 4th-and-2 from the Wildcats' 33-yard line down 34-14.
“If you look at high school, college or pro, it usually comes down to five plays, and we didn't make them today,” Phillipopoulos said. “Going into the locker room at halftime, we thought we could stick to the game plan, but St. Ignatius has a great team, they have a great defense, and they have a formidable defensive front that is hard to block. Credit St. Ignatius.”