The St. Ignatius Wildcats entered Friday night’s Bruce-Mahoney Game determined to shut down Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Pac-12-bound tandem of Jerry Mixon Jr. and RL Miller.
They limited the Fightin’ Irish duo to just 55 yards, but were stymied by a complete team effort as SHC won 10-0 in front of an estimated 10,000 fans at Kezar Stadium.
“Jerry and RL are great players. The game plan’s gonna be on them, obviously. I would do the same,” said junior defensive tackle Zaheer Young. “We have a lot of great players that’ll do their job, sacrifice for others and make plays.”
Young teamed up with Jay Murphy to tackle Wildcats quarterback Soren Hummel in the end zone for a safety to get Sacred Heart Cathedral (4-3, 2-2 West Catholic Athletic League) on the opening play of the second quarter, and Mixon ran for a 6-yard touchdown four minutes later after a shanked Wildcat punt gave the Irish a short field. Mixon also ran in the ensuing two-point conversion.
It was all the offense the Irish would need. St. Ignatius (2-5, 1-3) forced three SHC turnovers at the goal line to keep the score at 10-0, with an Atticus Moustakas interception in the end zone in the final minute of the first half and Pierce St. Geme picking a pass off midway through the third quarter at the same spot, but the Wildcats mustered just 139 yards of total offense on the night. Hummel completed just 12 of his 24 passes for 95 yards, and SI averaged just under three yards per carry.
“You don’t get experience without getting in games like this,” Wildcats head coach John Regalia said after his team was shut out in the Bruce-Mahoney Game for the first time since 1987. “We’ll watch tape and we’ll keep getting better.”
An ineligible man downfield penalty wiped out a 25-yard completion to Moe Barnum in the third quarter that would have served as SI’s longest play of the night. Without it, the Wildcats’ longest play went for just 13 yards.
“We just have to be able to sustain drives and eliminate the negative plays,” Regalia said. “The little things add up, whether it’s a missed assignment or a penalty.”
The Ignatians’ two best chances to score went, quite literally, right through their fingertips. A dropped pick-six early in the second quarter would have given SI a 7-2 lead, and a pass on fourth down with 9:32 left was just out of a receiver’s reach. There were few other opportunities against an SHC team under the guidance of Antoine Evans, who served as defensive coordinator before taking the head coaching job in the spring.
“We made a few changes and put more speed on the field,” Evans said.
With Jasaun Mabrey and Danilo Salgado starting in the secondary, Murphy moving to middle linebacker and Kendric Sanders playing the outside, the Irish defense was impenetrable. Mabrey intercepted a pass late in the second quarter, and after a Gus Parker fumble recovery at the goal line gave SI one last possession in the dying moments, Murphy’s interception served as the icing on the proverbial green and white cake.
“This game was so surreal,” a beaming Murphy said. “I’ve been coming here, playing on the lawn since I was in fifth or sixth grade. Being a senior now, getting that shutout was special.”
Murphy, who’s heavily involved with student leadership organizations on campus, was front and center in postgame celebrations, which featured backflips by sophomore defensive back Caleb Rollins, the traditional alma mater and the “Big Steppin’” dance that became synonymous with the team during the 2021 playoff run.
“We’re the heart of the city,” Murphy explained. “You see SI’s kids; they all come from Marin. I have my best friends on this team.”
With Miller and Mixon facing double coverage all night, Mikey Calonico, who missed the 2021 game with a broken arm, was SHC’s top receiver with five catches for 50 yards. Aidan McGrath completed 15 of his 23 passes for 113 yards; Isaiah Keishk, who recently returned from a broken leg, finished with 27 yards on four receptions. Mixon accounted for 23 receiving yards, including a diving grab in double coverage in the second quarter, on four catches. He also ran eight times for 29 yards. Sanders led the way with 107 yards on 19 carries, and his 15-yard carry in the second quarter served as the longest offensive play of the night for either team.
“We felt like we had to run the ball and take their souls,” Evans said of the offensive approach.
Miller and Parker essentially canceled each other out in coverage. Parker finished with just two catches, but was instrumental in limiting Miller to one, though the Arizona State commit did draw a pass interference penalty in the red zone.
“I think we did a great job of executing in a number of different ways defensively,” Regalia said of a unit that allowed 42 points two weeks earlier against St. Francis. “Our players have been growing up a lot and improving as a full defensive unit.”
The best-of-five Bruce-Mahoney Series is tied at one apiece. St. Ignatius won the Sept. 14 volleyball match. The series will resume with the boys basketball game, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 10, while the girls are slated to play on Jan. 25.
Sacred Heart Cathedral hosts Bellarmine (3-4, 2-2) next Friday, while St. Ignatius faces Mitty (6-1, 3-1) at Foothill College, the Monarchs’ home stadium. Both games are set for 7 p.m. kickoffs. Mitty beat Bellarmine on Friday night, 31-17, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]