J.B. MURPHY FIELD — After his family returned from Las Vegas to San Francisco during his junior year of high school, St. Ignatius running back Jahsai Shannon provided a nice boost to the Wildcats as one of the many weapons on a versatile team that went on to claim a share of the WCAL title.
As a senior, he wasted little time showing he’s clearly ready to lead the way, returning the opening kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown that set the tone in a 42-0 win over Riordan as the Wildcats opened their truncated spring season and retained the Gil Haskell Trophy.
“This whole offseason, I’ve been working with the Urban Student Athlete Development Academy,” said Shannon, who also lined up at safety after solely playing as a running back as a junior. “I told the coaches, I don’t want to step off the field.”
Even with a small fracture in his ankle last season, Shannon quickly slotted in as SI’s top running back upon his return, and with most of the skill positions from the 2019 team now enrolled in college, he made the most of his first game in the spotlight. He added a rushing touchdown before the end of the first quarter and intercepted a pass in the second as St. Ignatius (1-0, 1-0 WCAL) led by 28 at halftime and finished the scoring by the end of the third quarter as the fourth was played with a running clock.
Shannon’s work was done by the early stages of the third quarter, but he and the other returners used their time on the field to show that there would be little drop-off from last year’s team, even after graduating WCAL Player of the Year Teddye Buchanan and Wide Receiver of the Year Danny Ryan, who set the league’s single-season record for receptions.
Replacing the two-headed quarterback monster of Buchanan and Zach Taylor-Smith was an unprecedented three quarterback system, with senior Cheddar Tunney completing seven of 11 passing for 54 yards and running for an 11-yard touchdown. Junior Aidan Smith threw for a pair of scores, a 73-yard connection with Ryan Ivers and a 30-yarder to Oliver Stuart, and fellow junior Charlie Pyfer ran six times for 32 yards and threw a 12-yard touchdown to Liam McGannon.
“We’ve got three players that are very capable, and they’re all different,” head coach John Regalia said of the shared duties under center. “The great thing is they’ve all shown that they can manage our offense, and they’ve earned the opportunity to play.”
The defense, which Buchanan also led in 2019, held up its end of the bargain as well. Riordan (1-1, 0-1) was held to 105 yards, all on the ground, and SI came away with three turnovers. Sophomore Santino Franco, one of two members of the class of 2023 on the roster, recovered a fumble to end the Crusaders’ opening drive and both Shannon and Ryan Strain had interceptions. Seta Netane recovered a fumble in the second quarter and returned it 55 yards, and Shannon had two more would-be interceptions negated by penalties. The shutout was the third in a row for the Wildcats in the series, having not allowed a single point to their crosstown rivals since a 26-20 overtime loss on Oct. 20, 2017.
“Last year’s seniors really showed us the ropes and taught us how to act under pressure,” said Strain, one of the lone returners in the secondary. “Now it’s the next man up.”
Fazon Ruth led the Crusaders with 17 carries for 58 yards and Curtis Jones amassed 38 yards on six rushes. AZ Ledbetter and Michael Gormley each had interceptions for Riordan’s defense.
“We’ve got to focus on what’s ahead of us,” said head coach Mark Modeste, whose team will return to action at home against Serra on April 10. “We’ll build off the positives, but this isn’t the outcome we’re looking for.”
St. Ignatius will host Stellar Prep-Hayward on Saturday before turning attention to the Bruce-Mahoney Game. The annual rivalry will be played on April 9 at Kezar Stadium, where the Wildcats will face rival Sacred Heart Cathedral (0-2, 0-1) in the Bruce-Mahoney Game. The Fightin’ Irish lost 49-10 at Serra on Saturday but trailed just 14-7 at halftime.