Editor's Note: To prepare for the 2019 season, we'll be releasing one position preview per week. We'll start with one of the most important positions on the field – quarterback.
“I grew up watching Saint Ignatius football,” said Griffin Hanna. “I watched some of the best quarterbacks like [Eric] Williams, [Dennis] Grosel, and [Mike] LaManna. I knew that when I grew up that’s what I wanted to do.”
The lifelong Wildcat enters the 2019 season as the Saint Ignatius starting quarterback.
Hanna, who backed up Pat Delahunty last season, has a strong arm as well as great vision of the field. Griffin has also been known to be elusive when escaping the pocket from time to time.
“We knew Griffin had ability,” said Offensive Coordinator Nick Restifo, the play-caller for 11 state championships. “We were just wondering how well he would get over his injury which kept him out all of freshman year. Having seen how well he’s done, we wanted to get him experience early last season because you never know when an injury or other circumstance can occur. Griffin ended up being the backup, and I think he learned an awful lot from Patrick. Coming into this year with our camps and our quarterback school in the spring, Griffin has shown that he has a strong grasp of the offense and he has been putting the ball on the money and making good reads and progressions.”
One of Hanna’s best assets is his deep knowledge of the game. Hanna will not typically beat himself, and if a defense is to see success against the veteran, they will need to beat him themselves.
Hanna has made a name for himself by his ability to let a play develop and fire the ball consistently to the right place. Hanna has also shown his intuitiveness throughout his time at the varsity level. Hanna showed off this gift against Archbishop Hoban last season. As two defenders rushed in to sack him and left the running back uncovered, Hanna tossed a shovel pass for a nice gain.
Last season, Hanna completed 14-of-27 passes for 155 yards. Hanna ranked fourth on the Wildcat offense for total offense per game. Also, at a 7-on-7 showcase in Canton this past week, Hanna threw the ball the furthest of any QB in attendance, proving his arm strength to pair with his knowledge.
The senior attended St. Christopher for grade school, where he grew up playing with fellow Knights turned Wildcats Jack Welcsh, Connor Cmiel, and Sam Daugstrup.
“Griffin has been throwing the ball to me since we were in fourth grade,” said star Wildcats receiver Connor Cmiel. “It’s a blessing knowing if you get open that he will get you the football.”
Hanna will have four other quarterbacks alongside him this season, all with different plusses and skill sets.
Senior Patrick Keane, who was a key signal caller from the sidelines last season, will be one of Hanna’s helpers this season.
Keane, who has been learning the offense for the past three seasons, has an incredibly in-depth knowledge of the playbook and is quick to read defenses according to other Saint Ignatius quarterbacks.
“Patrick has to show that he is capable of leading the team,” said Coach Restifo. “He will get his opportunities throughout the season.”
“Pat makes playing QB a lot more fun with his fun attitude and outgoing personality,” said Hanna. “He has been a good friend and a good football player for four years.”
Keane has also lightened everyone on the team up while helping his own team when he gets the chance. Defensive Coordinator Ryan Franzinger ‘02 once recounted to me a story from when Keane was the practice squad QB. Keane, in charge of mimicking the other team’s offense for the first team defense, would often make a funny cadence call light-heartedly poking fun at the given opponent. For example, Pat would make the snap count and cadence “hockey, hockey” when playing a Canadian opponent.
Outside of football, Pat also plays rugby and broadcasts multiple sports for the SIBN.
Joining the backup quarterback crew will be Hanna’s own cousin, junior Colin Wiehn.
The southpaw played wide receiver as a freshman and converted to the position in the summer entering his sophomore year. Wiehn played quarterback for the junior varsity Wildcats and naturally began to develop, learning bits and pieces of the game. The natural athleticism of the junior should help him grow.
“He’s still learning the position,” said Restifo. “He is very good on paper, as far as reads and progressions are, just physically, he has to mature into the position.”
Wiehn has not yet reached his full quarterbacking potential. As his knowledge of the position continues to grow, he can learn about the physical and mental sides of quarterback from Hanna and Keane.
Steven Bodamer, a rising sophomore, is filled with athleticism and will make noise as well.
“Steven started for the freshman team last year,” said Restifo. “He is a real speedster, and we are looking at him playing other positions as well as quarterback because he is so athletic. We think he can help us, maybe in the secondary. Playing quarterback, you have to know all the routes, so we think he could transfer well to receiver.
The real wildcard at quarterback will be Jaxon French. After his freshman year, French transferred from Padua to Saint Ignatius between last school year and this summer.
French played varsity for the Bruins despite being a freshman, and once he learns the offense, he will be a certain threat.
“We also have Jaxon French, a transfer student coming in from Padua,” said Restifo. “He has had varsity experience and it will be very interesting to see how quickly he adapts to our offense and our terminology and see how well he does. I’ve seen film on him and know what he does, and he’s an outgoing kid, and I think he will do very well at Saint Ignatius High School. I’m excited to see how well he does in the heat of the battle.”