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St. Ignatius football welcomes Aptos for section semifinal tilt

The St. Ignatius defense swarms Valley Christian running back Uchenna Eke (6) during the second quarter of the Wildcats’ 24-0 win over the Warriors in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 7, 2022. | Courtesy Paul Ghiglieri/St. Ignatius Athletics

Friday night’s Central Coast Section (CCS) Division II Semifinal opponent won’t be familiar for anyone on the St. Ignatius Wildcats’ roster, but head coach John Regalia is no stranger to the Aptos Mariners.

St. Ignatius faced Aptos three times in four years from 2011 to 2014, with all three playoff games decided by one score. The Wildcats won a 2011 Division III Quarterfinal, while the Mariners emerged victorious in Division III Championship Games in 2013 and 2014.

None of the current SI players were even in middle school yet, but the familiarity doesn’t hurt.

“Our programs have a history,” Regalia said to Shayna Rubin of the San Jose Mercury News. “They have a system-based offense, so they’re going to have our full attention.”

Third-seeded Aptos (9-2) plays an up-tempo version of the wing-T that’s especially hard to defend, relying on quick handoffs and deception to stymie defenses. It’s a scheme that allows the Mariners to terrorize unfamiliar opponents. In 2021, Aptos beat Campolindo 49-0, taking advantage of a Cougar team that had only seen Randy Blankenship’s schemes on film. Those Cougars went on to win a North Coast Section (NCS) championship.

Deception isn’t the only thing the Mariners boast. They’re also quite talented, led by Caden Prichard, Colin Mennie and Lawrence Ingram IV. Prichard, like many of his teammates, starts on both offense and defense, playing at both running back and free safety. Aptos finished in a three-way tie for the Pacific Coast Athletic League (PCAL) Gabilan Division title with Salinas and Palma. The Mariners are the only team to beat Salinas this year, and their loss to Palma, a team that beat Sacred Heart Cathedral comfortably, came on a last-second field goal.

No. 1 Wilcox (10-1) hosts No. 5 Bellarmine (5-6) in the other Division II semifinal. The Chargers run a lightning-quick veer offense.