Usually in rivalry games you throw out the records. In this case – the Division I Regional Championship Bowl Game — throw them out as well.
St. Ignatius (San Francisco)
and Granite Bay
have three losses each, which usually eliminates hand-picked selections.
But because the teams were the last two left standing, and each got stronger and better as the season progressed, this figures to be an entertaining, evenly matched fight.
"We do understand the significance of that, to represent our school, our league – and it's a great honor to do," St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia told SanFranPreps.com. "We also know that we're a San Francisco school and we represent high school football in San Francisco. It's an honor and we take that very seriously. There's a lot of pride there."
Because St. Ignatius is a private school, it does not play in the San Francisco Section. Instead it competes in the Central Coast Section's West Catholic Athletic League.
Granite Bay (11-3) fought back from a 1-3 start to win 10 straight games, including a 35-23 game over Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) at Sacramento State on Friday
in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title game.
Sacramento State will be the site of Granite Bay's tilt with St. Ignatius, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
"On our wall it says 'perseverance' and that's what this team did — you persevered this year," Ernie Cooper told MaxPreps editor Colin Ward-Henninger after Friday's game.
With Cooper as head coach, Granite Bay has built a fabulous dynasty. Since 1999 – that team went 13-0 – the Grizzlies have won at least 10 games seven times, including the last three seasons. They won SJS titles in 1999, 2000, 2007 and 2012.
This year's team – as most Granite Bay teams are – is extremely balanced, led by senior quarterback
(136 of 208, 1,638 yards, 27 touchdowns, 5 interceptions). His best offensive weapons are tailback John Cooley
(1,341 yards rushing, 12 TDs), Tony Ellison
(1,096 yards rushing, 45 catches, 18 total touchdowns) and receiver Steven Graber
(25 catches, 10 touchdowns).
The defense is led by one of the SJS's best in Cameron Smith
Cooper told the team after beating Oak Ridge: "I think we're the greatest football team in the history of Granite Bay High School."
St. Ignatius' teams go way back. To the 1800s, in fact. The Wildcats' greatest team was in 1967, a team that was led by quarterback Dan Fouts and that won a mythical national title.
St. Ignatius (10-3) had some lean years until the 2000s, when it began to turn around. It has won three CCS championships — two at the Division III level in 2007 and 2011 — but the Wildcats claimed their first Open Division crown Friday with an emotional 13-10 triumph over defending champion Bellarmine
, which lost in last year's Division I Bowl game.
In that game,
, the team's leading rusher with more than 1,400 rushing yards, scored two touchdowns, one in the fourth quarter to tie and one in overtime to win it.
The team had struggled most of the game, but found a way late.
"That's just SI football," Dale said. "We play hard to the finish. It's four quarters of football. ... You have to play every minute, every second."
Athletic southpaw quarterback Jack Stinn
leads the Wildcats. He's thrown for more than 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns and he has good feet to run out of trouble. He has two 6-foot-5 receivers to throw to, including Andrew Vollert
(50 catches, 800 yards, 13 TDs) and Albert Waters
is the team's most versatile player. He can score via the rush, pass or return. He's also the team's best cornerback, while senior middle linebacker Noah Bull
is a rock.
St. Ignatius plays out of the notoriously tough WCAL. Granite Bay always plays one of Northern California's toughest schedules. Both teams are definitely battle-tested.
The Wildcats have a long trip from San Francisco to Sacramento, about two hours. Granite Bay is a suburb of Sacramento, so it should be about a 20-minute trek.
Regalia said it won't matter.
"Of our 13 games, 10 have been away from home and we understand what it takes to play on the road," he said.Watch more videos of Granite Bay football