Three months ago, St. Ignatius linebacker Sui Gallegos-Hunkin had played just a handful of snaps at the varsity level. Quarterback Soren Hummel had only played for the freshman team, while running back Jarious Hogan, defensive back Chase Wiley and safety Jake Boyden were starting the season on the JV roster.
All four sophomores made key contributions on Friday night as the Wildcats advanced to their first Central Coast Section (CCS) Championship Game since 2014, beating Aptos 28-14.
“Those guys have done a really nice job of making the adjustment to the varsity level, sliding in and competing,” head coach John Regalia said.
Hummel completed 17 of 22 passes for 210 yards, while Hogan ran 15 times for 115 yards and a pair of scores. Gallegos-Hunkin made the biggest play of the night, channeling his inner Charles Tillman with a “Peanut Punch” at the 2-yard line to force a turnover in the second quarter.
“I just knew we needed a turnover,” Gallegos-Hunkin said.
That fumble, which soared in the air before Wiley recovered it in the end zone for a touchback, prevented the visiting Mariners from tying the game and completely altered the flow of the game altogether. After second-seeded St. Ignatius (6-6) took a 21-7 lead on the heels of a 20-yard Gus Parker sweep, 30-yard Hogan run and 6-yard Hogan touchdown, the Wildcats shifted their focus to beat the Mariners at their own game. The teams combined for just six possessions in the entire second half.
“We’ve been a big-play offense all year,” Hummel said. “It’s good to finally get some consistency on our drives.”
Aptos (9-3) used a 12-play drive to get within seven with 5:36 left in the third quarter, scoring on a 31-yard Caden Prichard catch-and-run on a fourth-and-7, but SI held the ball for the remainder of the third quarter, then scored early in the fourth. Hogan made his flashiest play of the night by catching a low Hummel pass to convert a fourth-and-2 in the final minute of the third quarter, and his 2-yard touchdown run on the third play of the final period opened up a 28-14 lead with 10:32 left.
The Mariners immediately reentered Wildcat territory on Lawrence Ingram IV’s 28-yard run, but Santino Franco came out of a scrum with a fumble just two plays later, one that Colin Mulkerrins appeared to force in the midst of a crowded pile. Cameron Jones then spelled Hogan and carried on the next seven plays before the hosts relinquished possession with the game’s lone punt with 4:06 left. Aptos crossed midfield as quarterback Nick Hood completed an 18-yard pass to Prichard and found sophomore Ryan Solorio for a gain of 12, but four straight incompletions ended the game.
The first quarter gave off the impression that the Wildcats and Mariners were in for a shootout. Hummel’s 22-yard completion to Monroe Barnum paved the way for a 9-yard Parker touchdown off a screen pass to conclude the opening drive, and third-seeded Aptos immediately fired back with a nine-play, 73-yard drive, crossing midfield on Hood’s 25-yard completion to Solorio and scoring on Ingram’s 13-yard run. SI responded less than two minutes later, taking a 14-7 lead on Hummel’s 20-yard pass to Con McKeon. Parker opened the drive with a 23-yard reception and Hogan gained 14 on a toss play to set up the score.
“We’ve had a problem with starting fast, and we made sure we started fast this week,” McKeon said.
At the time, it would have been ludicrous to assume that McKeon’s touchdown would have put SI in front for good. Aptos was in position to tie the game with a methodical drive that consumed more than half of the second quarter, but on the 15th play of the possession, Gallegos-Hunkin managed to pop the ball out of Prichard’s grasp.
While Hogan and Hummel were constant movers for the SI offense, seven different receivers got involved. Parker had four catches for 50 yards and added 26 more yards on the ground. Barnum caught three passes for 55 yards, and McKeon, whose role has continued to expand in recent weeks, had 45 yards on three receptions.
“I’ve been working to get it to my tight ends. They do so much for us,” Hummel said. “Con just had a great game today.”
Hood, a junior, completed eight of his 17 passes for 117 yards and ran five times for 20 yards as the key cog in the Mariners’ wing-T. Ingram ran seven times for 59 yards and Prichard picked up 46 on 11 carries. He also had three catches for 61 yards. Solorio had 45 receiving yards on three catches, and Dante Aranda ran 13 times for 57 yards. The 14 points Aptos scored was a low mark on the season. The Mariners entered Friday’s game averaging 40.2.
Next week’s championship game against Bellarmine, set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26 at San Jose City College, will be the Wildcats’ first championship appearance since an 11-8 loss to Aptos in 2014. SI hasn’t won a section title since the 2012 Open Division Championship, a 13-10 overtime upset against the Bells.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]