After reeling in a 28-yard touchdown pass with a defender draped all over him, St. Ignatius wide receiver Moe Barnum drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag for his high-stepping celebration, a rare break from the discipline that the Wildcats preach.
The exuberance was warranted.
Barnum’s catch gave the Wildcats a 28-0 lead in the second quarter and effectively served as the kill shot in a 35-14 win over Riordan as St. Ignatius (4-6, 3-4 West Catholic Athletic League) retained the Gil Haskell Trophy, secured a playoff spot and ended the Crusaders’ season in one fell swoop.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” said quarterback Soren Hummel, who threw for three touchdowns on the night, including two in an 83-second span in the first quarter.
Both of those scores were set up by exceptional special teams play. SI pinned the Crusaders at the 2 on Cooper Lucey’s 46-yard punt, then got the ball back at the Riordan 37 three minutes later, and two Cameron Jones runs paved the way for Hummel’s 9-yard strike to Pierce St. Geme. Lucey then placed a kickoff in an empty spot between three Crusader special teamers, and JJ Casey swooped in to recover it.
“Coach Rags (head coach John Regalia) put together a great special teams game plan to attack ‘em in every way we can,” Lucey said.
Jones’ 14-yard carry set up Hummel’s second touchdown, which a run play in nature but goes in the books as a touchdown pass. Gus Parker took Hummel’s forward toss in from nine yards out. The Wildcats continued to shine on special teams as Lucey managed to push Javius Redding out of bounds at the end of a 61-yard kick return that Riordan (3-7, 1-6) failed to convert into points, and Parker’s 60-yard punt return with 8:54 left in the second quarter made it 21-0.
Needing to shake things up to get back in the game, the Crusaders briefly experimented with a wildcat formation, but fumbled a handoff that Sui Gallegos-Hunkin recovered to set up Barnum’s highlight-reel catch.
The Crusaders got on the board on the opening possession of the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Michael Mitchell Jr. connected with Redding on a well-designed swing pass for a 27-yard pickup and hit Tyrone Jackson in the end zone for a 9-yard score. SI needed just four minutes to respond, using a 25-yard completion to Parker and 17-yard pickup by Jarious Hogan to enter the red zone before Hogan scored from a yard out.
“The run game’s really started to move, and it’s opened up a lot of play action,” Hummel said. “We’ve also just been able to run it down teams’ throats, which is good in general.”
Moving the ball on the ground had been a glaring issue for St. Ignatius over the past two seasons, as the Wildcats had struggled to generate any momentum in the run game since graduating Jahsai Shannon. The ‘Cats averaged over four yards per carry on Friday night, a number that would have been higher if not for some plays by second-stringers and a few toss plays that technically qualified as passes.
“We’ve invested a lot of time in our run game,” Regalia said. “Our players work tirelessly at it, and our coaches do too, and we’re seeing that hard work pay off.”
Zachary Jones recorded a late interception for the Crusaders that would have gone for a touchdown had he not slipped on the return. He did find the end zone in his final game in a Riordan uniform, catching a 26-yard Mitchell touchdown pass with 3:26 left.
“I’m really gonna miss these seniors,” Crusaders head coach Adhir Ravipati said.
Ravipati’s hiring in February and three wins in four games to start the season brought new fanfare and energy to the Riordan program, but with six straight losses to conclude the season, the Crusaders finished seventh in the WCAL. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2015, when they lost a Central Coast Section (CCS) Championship Game to Sacred Heart Prep on a trick play.
As Riordan struggled to conclude the season, injuries played a significant factor. The Crusaders had lost basketball standout King-Njhsanni Wilhite to a collarbone injury, safety Tobey Weydemuller tore his ACL and linebacker/tight end Jacob Kleppin hurt his elbow. Defensive end Isiah Chala, Riordan’s top player on defense and a 3-star recruit, missed Friday’s game after breaking his finger late in the previous week’s loss to Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“Did we have bigger expectations than what happened? Yes. Did injuries play a part in that? Yes,” Ravipati said. “But there’s things we’ve got to improve as a program and as coaches. We’re actually gonna get a full offseason. I got the job in March, so it was a little bit of a short turnaround.”
Much of Ravipati’s focus during his first year at Riordan has been on changing the culture, and he introduced a new tradition following the season-ending loss, lining up his seniors on the goal line for his players and staff to each thank them, one-by-one.
“Mike Parodi’s a good friend of mine, and he does that at Hillsdale,” Ravipati said. “It’s a chance for everyone to say goodbye to the seniors while they’re still on the field and still in their pads.”
While Riordan’s season is over, St. Ignatius secured the second seed in the CCS Division II bracket. The Wildcats will host No. 7 Half Moon Bay (7-3) at 7 p.m. next Friday.
“We’re just gonna carry this win and this momentum to the playoffs,” said Hummel, who completed 14 of his 18 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
Parker had four catches for 52 yards, while St. Geme had three for 25. Cameron Jones ran 11 times for 68 yards, and Junior Tutoe intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter. Mitchell went 18-for-34 for 195 yards for Riordan; Jackson (six catches) and Zachary Jones (four catches) had 55 yards apiece.