Four plays into the Bruce-Mahoney Game, St. Ignatius found itself down 7-0 after Sacred Heart Cathedral senior running back Nick Mikovich took the Fightin' Irish's first offensive play 59 yards for a touchdown.
But from that point on, St. Ignatius dominated.
In the first leg of the Bruce-Mahoney, St. Ignatius answered SHC's touchdown with 49 unanswered points for a third straight victory against its longtime rival, 49-14, Friday night at a chilly Kezar Stadium.
Junior quarterback Ryan Hagfeldt finished 4-of-6 for 93 yards and two touchdowns — both to junior tight end Nik Bell, senior running back Elijah Bell ran for a team-high 67-yards and a touchdown, and senior Joe Lang had two touchdowns — on an interception and punt return — helping the Wildcats (2-7, 2-4) cruise over the Fightin' Irish.
“That was a team effort and our guys worked for success, and they keep pushing each other and making sure we're working together,” St. Ignatius coach John Regalia said. “The energy around this game is great and significance of this rivalry is special.”
After three Wildcats rushing touchdowns — one of which was set up by a Scott Serrato punt block — Lang cut in front of a Logan White pass, intercepting it and taking it 32 yards for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a commanding 35-7 lead with 4:47 left in the first half.
Late in the fourth quarter, Lang electrified the SI faithful with a dazzling 62-yard punt return, as he streaked down the sideline in front of the Wildcats' bench before cutting back across the field and outracing SHC defenders.
“We scouted them and watched film all week, and our coaches do a great job of prepping us. Returning punts is one of my favorite plays in football, and our blockers did a great job of getting a hat on a hat,” Lang said.
From the SHC 24-yard line wIth 33 seconds left in the half, St. Ignatius provided the dagger as Hagfeldt found Bell wide open crossing over the middle at the 15-yard line, and Bell outraced the SHC defense to the right pylon, giving St. Ignatius a 42-7 lead.
“I've known Bell for 10 years, and he's a great teammate to have,” Hagfeldt said. “He's big, has soft hands, and really makes plays out there.”
First-year SHC coach Ken Peralta and the Irish (2-6, 0-5) have taken their lumps this season and now face the prospect of going through the WCAL gauntlet without a win.
“This is our first year with the program, but we're going to figure this out and I know that. We just have to be patient,” Peralta said. “For us it's about our effort level staying up, and I thought our kids played hard in the second half. But it's just one of those nights. Wish we kept it a bit closer, but again, St. Ignatius did a very nice job.”
The Fightin' Irish, who came into the game having been outscored 171-38 in WCAL games, couldn't get anything going offensively after taking a 7-0 lead. Senior running back James Zhi'ir added a late fourth quarter 54-yard touchdown for SHC.
Overall, the Irish rushed for 237 yards, with most coming of their yards coming in the second half.
St. Ignatius will have an opportunity to keep the Bruce-Mahoney trophy in the Sunset District on Jan. 7 when the schools face off at USF in basketball. If SHC wins that, the Bruce-Mahoney will be decided when their baseball teams meet in the spring.