The ground game has always been an important feature of the Saint Ignatius offense. A balanced attack has always been a primary trait of the Wildcats' attack, and that will not change in 2019.
A dynamic group of running backs will carry the rock for the Wildcats this season. Behind a strong returning offensive line group, the Wildcats' running game could be explosive.
The Wildcats will largely employ a 2-headed monster attack at running back, featuring seniors James Crosby and Jack Welcsh. But plenty of young weapons will feature into the mix at a deep position.
"I'm very excited for the season," said running backs coach Terry Fergus '71. "We have a young team this year, but they're a cohesive group. They're very positive, nobody is ripping each other apart. It's a very good group of kids."
Entering the season, Crosby and Welcsh are the leaders of the running backs group. Each brings a different skillset to the position.
Welcsh will be the powerback for the Wildcats. At 6'0, 201 pounds, Welcsh can bully the ball between the tackles with plenty of effectiveness. Just as important, he also possesses the quickness to bounce outside and use his feet to pick up extra yardage.
Last season, Welcsh finished with 65 carries for 350 yards, an average of 5.4 yards per carry. The strong back reached the end zone five times, adding 9 receptions for 115 yards.
A team captain, Welcsh will also be playing at safety this year. For that reason, the coaching staff will make a concerted effort not to overwork him at running back.
"Jack is playing both ways, so we need to make sure he gets through the whole season. But he's in great shape and he's a leader on this team," Fergus said.
Crosby is the other half of the talented duo. The 5'8, 171 pound back is a speedster, with breakaway speed. Crosby did not see many carries last season, rushing 10 times for 29 yards and one touchdown. But he did impress in track and field this spring.
Crosby was a consistent contributor for Coach Chuck Kyle '69 in the 4x100 relay and the 800 sprint medley. Crosby helped the 4x100 team earn first at the GlenOak Invite and second place at the Titan Relays. Crosby just missed qualifying for Regionals in the 200m dash with a time of 23.47. His speed makes him a dangerous option at running back.
But his speed is not his only standout trait. Crosby has great elusiveness and quickness when carrying the ball. Against McKinley last week, Crosby turned a five-yard loss into a two-yard gain. That talent will be valuable this season, as will be his pass-catching ability. Crosby hauled in a short pass to the flat against the Pups on Thursday and turned it into a 20-yard touchdown.
"James has breakaway speed. When James gets the ball, watch out, because he's a track star," Fergus said. "He's been working hard, especially with his hands. He's not dropping the ball, and with him, that's a big plus."
Another senior who will figure in some is senior Michael McNamara.
The recently named captain will mostly play linebacker, but look for him to occasionally carry the ball in goal-line situations. The 6'2, 220-pound force of nature can punish opponents in short-yardage situations. The Wildcats may utilize the "Mac Attack" this season.
The leading junior running back is Mike Simcak. An excellent player at the JV level last year, Simcak offers a mix of size and speed in his skill set.
The 5'9, 180-pound runner can bruise you in between the tackles or gallop past you on outside runs. He's a man to watch this season, particularly after wowing in the Jamboree.
"Mike Simcak is a big and fast back," said Fergus. "We have a lot of durability in our backfield this year. Mike is a junior, he can be the guy who goes out there and surprises everybody."
Another X factor is Adam Ormstead.
A transfer from Battle Creek, Michigan, Ormstead could experience a breakout junior season. Standing at 5'11, 185 pounds, Ormstead is a strong player with some speed. The lacrosse coaching staff is also excited about him, as Ormstead starred in Michigan last season.
The youngest member of the contingent is sophomore Ryan Waldron. The JV/varsity swing player may see some carries in 2019. Waldron is an outstanding young back with a bright future.
A strong back with nice speed, Waldron turned heads during summer camp and two-a-days. Against McKinley, Waldron saw some playing time in the third quarter with the second-teamers. The 5'10, 188-pound back can also play defensive back.
"If he keeps playing the way he's playing, he could factor in. He's big, he's fast, and he's very aware of where he needs to be on the field, which is very good for a sophomore," Fergus said. "A lot of it is mental, you have to have a good head on your shoulders."
Running back will be a position of strength for the Saint Ignatius offense this season. Up and down the depth chart, the Wildcats have promising talent. With some good blocking in the trenches, the Saint Ignatius running game could be a dangerous threat for opponents.