In the Central Coast Section Open Division finals, St. Ignatius topped Bellarmine in a thrilling 13-10 overtime victory.
Bellarmine opened the game with a dominant 75 yard touchdown drive that consisted of 14 straight run plays. Quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels capped the drive with a two yard run after almost eight minutes had passed. St. Ignatius responded with a 37 yard field goal attempt on their next possession, but the ball hit the upright early in the second quarter and the Wildcats were held scoreless.
For the rest of the second quarter, each team missed a field goal as the defenses held firm. Although the Bells only took a 7-0 lead into the half, they seemed to be in control.
"[Head Coach John Regalia] said to go hard and finish, and that's what we did," said junior running back Elijah Dale. "He said to play SI football and that's what we had to do until the finish."
The Wildcats took this message to heart and made their comeback in the fourth quarter. St. Ignatius gained possession with 11:31 left in the game and a 71 yard drive ended with a one yard Dale touchdown. Dale had 41 of his 80 total rushing yards on the drive as the Wildcats tied the game at seven.
However, Bellarmine was definitely not finished. The Bells took over with 6:43 left on their own 24 yard line. They picked up five first downs and were eight yards from the goal line. Three consecutive run plays amassed five yards, and Bellarmine faced a fourth-and-goal from the three yard line. Instead of sending out the field goal unit, Bellarmine gave the ball to senior Kenneth Olugbode who was stopped inches from the goal line with less than a minute remaining. The game was sent into overtime.
"I had a feeling they were going to stop them," Dale added about the defense. "They were going hard all game and I remember they stopped them on the one, so after that I knew they had momentum. They'd been playing great all game, so I'm not surprised that they stopped them at all."
Bellarmine was forced to kick a 20 yard field goal in their overtime possession after two costly false start penalties, but this would not be enough for the Bells. Dale took the first Wildcat play for a touchdown to win the game as St. Ignatius captured its first Open Division title.
"It was so surreal," said Dale. "We played hard to the finish. It's four quarters of football and in the WCAL you never know when the game's going to end, so you have to play every minute, every second."
Now the question for the Wildcats is if they will qualify for the Division I state play-in game against a likely Granite Bay opponent. St. Ignatius holds a 10-3 overall record with quality wins over Mitty (twice), Valley Christian, Palma, and Terra Nova. Its three losses occurred to quality teams Marin Catholic (28-21), Bellarmine (35-28), and Serra (47-21).
When asked if the Wildcats are worthy of a play-in nomination, Dale responded "I believe so. I think we're a good team and I think we can definitely compete with other teams. I'm just ready to get out there and see who we can play next."
Bellarmine - 4:06 - Carta-Samuels 2 yard run (PAT Good) 7-0
St. Ignatius - 6:49 - Dale 1 yard run (PAT Good) 7-7
Bellarmine - Grant Bush 20 yard field goal 10-7
St. Ignatius - Dale 10 yard run 13-7