The 2019 Saint Ignatius football schedule is finally complete.
We promise it was worth the wait.
The Wildcats' schedule for this fall is star-studded with top-notch opponents, both new and old. The 2019 season will be a fun one.
For starters, the Football Cats will be opening up the season in Indiana against Loyola Academy (IL).
Saint Ignatius and Loyola Academy, a Jesuit school in Wilmette, Illinois, have agreed to play a neutral site game this season at Ames Field in Michigan City, Indiana. Ames Field is a beautiful facility that seats about 4,000. The Wildcats plan to stay near the University of Notre Dame, touring the school and hopefully having Mass on campus.
Loyola Academy will offer a challenging start to the season for the Wildcats. The Ramblers reached the final four for the fourth straight season in 2018, winning the Class 8A Illinois Football Championship last season. The Ramblers are coached by John Holecek, an 8-year NFL veteran who played in the NFL from 1995-2002. Under Holecek, the Ramblers have made the playoffs every season and won 11 games in each of the last eight seasons.
An age-old rivalry will be renewed in Week 2. Saint Ignatius and Mentor will meet at Jerome T. Osborne Stadium on Friday, September 6. The matchup represents the 22nd meeting on the gridiron, the 20th and potentially the last between Coach Chuck Kyle and Coach Steve Trivisonno. The 2019 season will be the last for the longtime Mentor coach.
Archbishop Hoban returns to the schedule in 2019, this year in Week 3. The Wildcats and Knights split the last series, with Saint Ignatius winning in 2017 at Dowed Field, the site of this year's contest.
Last season, Hoban defeated the Wildcats, 21-14, en route to another state championship season. The intense showdown represented Hoban's closest game all season. Last year, the Wildcats and Knights started off the season with the contest, but this year, Hoban will open vs. Harrisburg High School (PA).
A new foe occupies the Week 4 slot – DeMatha Catholic. The Maryland powerhouse has agreed to a home-and-home with the Wildcats. Saint Ignatius will travel to the DMV for the 2019 matchup at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Maryland, which is right next to FedEx Field. DeMatha will come to Byers Field in 2020. This year's matchup will take place on Saturday, September 21 at 1 pm.
The Stags are a powerhouse program. Last year, DeMatha fell to Gonzaga (DC) in the playoffs, 46-43, in an ending you have to see to believe. More on the game here. DeMatha returns plenty of talented players, including a loaded secondary.
In Week 5, a familiar opponent returns to the fore – Clarkson Football North. The Wildcats have played and defeated Football North in each of the last two seasons, forming a good relationship with the program. The squads will meet at Byers Field for the Wildcats' home opener on Saturday, September 28 at 7 pm.
The Wildcats will stay home for Week 6. Saint Ignatius has agreed to a one-year contract with Rockledge, a public school from Florida. Rockledge sits about an hour west of Orlando, on the east coast of the Florida panhandle.
Rockledge is a Class 5A member in the FHSAA (Class 8A being the largest). The Raiders won a district title last season, earning a No. 1 seed in the Class 5A bracket. Rockledge lost to No. 5 seed American Heritage, 31-14, in the second round, finishing the season with a 10-2 record and outscoring foes 451-181. Rockledge also reached the second round in 2017.
Week 7 presents a significant twist in the schedule, as compared to last season. The Wildcats and Eagles will meet at Lakewood Stadium in Week 7, instead of Week 10, as in previous seasons.
"Years ago, we played them earlier in the season," said Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "What ended up happening is since both teams are independent, we couldn't find 10th games. The adjoining states were into their playoffs and teams here were into their leagues, so the hardest game to find was the 10th. We just decided to move it to Week 10 because we have a better chance to get teams earlier. We've done that for a few years now, but there were conversations, because it's right against the playoffs, like this past year. It wasn't a good scenario that you play Week 10 and then turn around and play six days later. Neither team liked that. It's uncomfortable and just not right."
The always intense rivalry contest is slated for Saturday, October 12 at 7 pm at Lakewood Stadium. Last season, the Wildcats defeated the Eagles in the regular season, 21-7, before losing a heartbreaker in the first round of the playoffs in overtime, 21-19. Overall, the Wildcats own the overall advantage in the series, 32-25-1.
For the fifth straight season, the Wildcats and Archbishop Moeller will meet in the regular season. The Football Cats will travel to Cincinnati for the showdown this season, after the Wildcats defeated the Crusaders at Byers Field in 2018, 32-7.
This season's contest will take place at Princeton High School, the home of the Vikings, with kickoff at 2 pm. If the name Princeton sounds familiar, that's because the Princeton Vikings lost to the Wildcats in the 1988 OHSAA Division I State Championship, the first of 11 football state titles for the Cats. The Vikings and Wildcats have not met on the gridiron since that fateful day in Ohio Stadium.
The longstanding rivalry between Saint Ignatius and St. Xavier will be renewed on Saturday, October 26. The Wildcats and Bombers have met on the gridiron in each of the last 18 seasons. The Wildcats won last year in Cincinnati, 27-20, evening the overall series at 13-13. As per usual, the game will be a matinee contest, with kickoff at 2 pm at Byers Field.
The Wildcats' 106th season, at least the regular season portion, will conclude on Saturday, November 2. The Wildcats will finish the year with West Toronto Prep. The two teams met last year in Week 7, with the Wildcats emerging with a 45-7 triumph. The win marked the 350th career win for Coach Kyle.
The regular season finale will take place at Byers Field at 7 pm.
Overall, Saint Ignatius will play a full 10-game schedule, four games at Byers Field and six away from home. The Wildcats will play three games out of town, leaving the contiguous states once for the Week 4 matchup against DeMatha Catholic.
The result is the product of countless hours of work by Athletic Director Rory Fitzpatrick '88, including hundreds of calls to other athletic directors.
"Some years are harder than others, and there's really no rhyme or reason. This year's been very difficult," Fitzpatrick said. "We've contacted a lot of schools locally, regionally and beyond the region. We've tried to get the kids the best possible competition and make it a good schedule. There are some challenging sports in there for sure, it will definitely get the team ready for the postseason."
Coach Kyle certainly realizes the difficulty level of the schedule.
For the Wildcats, the preseason preparations in the summer become even more important.
"We need to have a great offseason. So far it's been great," Kyle said. "Certainly, our summer camps will need to be very good. Once double sessions start, we don't have that many practices with school starting early. Summer will be very important to prepare for a schedule like this. The kids are well aware that this is a tough schedule. They've clearly determined that for us to be prepared for the schedule, everyone needs to work hard. If someone can't dedicate himself, then maybe this isn't the right sport for him. The schedule demands that we're thoroughly prepared. The kids have taken this challenge and made it a plus."
When the season comes, Fitzpatrick hopes that Wildcats fans will help to make the team feel appreciated with big crowds at Byers Field.
"We hope to see a lot of people at the games," Fitzpatrick said. "Attendance at high school athletic events has been trending in the wrong direction. I understand why – there are a lot of things going on. We hope to do our best to get fans in the stands to watch these games. We're able to broadcast it on the SIBN, thank goodness. But the kids on the field feel the presence of the fans. We try to build schedules that are fan-friendly, with games they want to come to.
"Unfortunately, we're not in Pennsylvania where they give you 9 games and you just have to find one," Fitzpatrick continued. "So, we have to find opponents. But our home games are very good, including Football North, which is very good. And during the West Toronto Prep game, a lot of guys will get the chance to play in that game. The schedule is balanced and tough, so it will definitely be difficult week-in, week-out. I hope to see a lot of our fans supporting these guys, just like we ask at all of our sports. We have a big school and alumni base, and hopefully, they can come in person to see these young men compete, because it really means a lot to our young men when they get a good crowd."
Season tickets will be available for purchase soon in the Athletic Department.