On Friday, for perhaps the last time, two local gridiron legends will square off.
The 2019 season will be the final one in an illustrious career for Steve Trivisonno. Unless Saint Ignatius and Mentor meet in the playoffs, this matchup represents the final one between Trivisonno and his friend and colleague, Saint Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle ’69.
The meetings between Trivisonno’s Cards and Kyle’s Cats have become stuff of legend. Some of the greatest games in the histories of the schools have taken place at Byers Field and Jerome T. Osborne Sr. Stadium. Trivisonno owns a narrow 10-9 margin in the rivarly, while the Wildcats own the overall 13-10 series advantage.
Over the years, Kyle and Trivisonno have become friends as they've worked together to grow and improve youth football in Northeast Ohio. Kyle has great respect and admiration for his colleague at Mentor.
“I credit Steve – his program at Mentor and the Mentor community is an excellent example for school systems athletically not only in Northeast Ohio, but in America," Kyle said. "Steve has done a wonderful job not just with the high school kids, but with the youth players. I’ve worked with him and their youth group and this rookie tackle idea from USA Football. The Mentor community and surrounding communities put together a pilot league and experimented with the program. With his help, we teamed up and got a lot of things going in Northeast Ohio. He’s always been very attached to their youth programs, and you see the results. Other programs should see how the head coach of the high school does have a strong influence and be a great ally to the youth football programs in the area."
Friday’s matchup may prove to be another in a series of instant classics. Both teams enter with a 1-0 record. Mentor bested St. Edward, 29-28, and Saint Ignatius traveled out of state to beat Loyola Academy, 27-10. The Cardinals and Wildcats each have very talented teams with the potential to break a big play on any given down.
"With our games, it usually comes down to the fourth quarter and somebody will make plays to win," Kyle said. "We play early in the year because of Mentor’s conference, but playing a game like that early in the year, you learn a lot about your team, one way or the other. If you win, great, if not, there’s plenty of season left. Either way, you find out in a playoff-caliber situation how will our players respond? We’ve both benefitted from that and his willingness to play."
One thing working against the Wildcats is timing.
Mentor enjoyed two extra days to rest and prepare after playing St. Edward on Thursday, while the Wildcats played on Saturday. Kyle's men have been very deliberate with practices this week.
“They played last Thursday, which gives them two extra days. We’re coming off a Saturday game and a long road trip, and trying to get right back into it," Kyle said. "That’s not an excuse, we knew it was going to happen and planned it out. But it’s something we had to look at for how to practice. It’s a very short week for us."
Before breaking down Friday's game, here's how to watch this weekend.
SIBN to cover all three games
The Saint Ignatius Broadcast Network will broadcast all three games vs. Mentor this weekend.
Ryan Wellman '23 will lead coverage of the freshmen game on Thursday at 6 pm on Wasmer Field. Bobby Gerome '21, Adam Eagleeye '21, and Owen Gerba '21 will anchor the JV coverage on Saturday at 10 am from Wasmer Field. Both freshmen and JV will be full video.
As per OHSAA rules, Friday's varsity game will be audio-only. Jack O'Rourke '20 will have the play-by-play, with Nick Fletcher '20 providing color commentary. Max Marazzi '20 will host the Cleveland Home Title pregame, halftime, and postgame shows and help with commentary during the game.
Fans can tune into the SIBN at ignatiuswildcats.com/SIBN-live
Purchase tickets in advance
The lines are expected to be long at Jerome T. Osborne Stadium Sr. on Friday. Fans are encouraged to arrive in advance and purchase the tickets online in advance via this link:
SAINT IGNATIUS OFFENSE VS. MENTOR DEFENSE
The Wildcats started slow but heated up nicely in the season opener. Getting out to a fast start will be more important against a talented Mentor squad with a loaded offense.
Griffin Hanna showcased his arm and mobility, totaling 243 passing yards, 23 rushing yards, and 3 touchdowns. Hanna has a firm grip of the offense, with the ability to find wideouts in all parts of the field.
Jack Welcsh and James Crosby will lead the rushing attack this week. The senior tandem combined for just 10 rushes last week – look for the two to carry the rock much more in Week 2.
Connor Cmiel showed his big-play ability on an 80-yard screen play last week. As in the opener, Mentor may blanket him in double coverage, but the Cats will look for creative ways to get Cmiel open.
Henry Cook, Domenic Fabe, Sam Daugstrup, and Jake Lang will also play large roles in the passing game this week.
Mentor’s defense transitioned to a 3-man front last year, and continues to employ a 3-4 philosophy. The Cardinals will often have a linebacker at the line of scrimmage and 2 or 3 ‘backers about 5 yards deep.
A young but strong defense, Mentor loves to blitz in different ways. The Cardinals can attack you in waves, forcing you to throw the ball earlier than you wanted to do so.
“Defensively, they’ve moved to more of a 3-man front, which they started worked with last year, with a 3-4 philosophy. There’s more blitzing involved and changing alignment," Kyle said. "They don’t want to give you the same look too many times in a row, and use the blitz packages to disrupt things.”
In terms of coverages, Mentor varies looks, from man free to Cover 2 or Cover 4. Mentor’s secondary was burned for some big plays vs. St. Edward, but can still disguise coverages and looks quite well. Griffin Hanna will be tasked with making quick pre-snap reads and varying plays and routes accordingly.
SAINT IGNATIUS DEFENSE VS. MENTOR OFFENSE
The strength of the Cardinals is the offense, without a doubt. Under Trivisonno, the offense has become a calling card for Mentor.
This season, the Cardinals’ skill players are, in a word, extraordinary.
Ian Kipp leads the offense as the quarterback for a second straight season. Standing at 6’2, 210, Kipp is as slippery in the pocket as they come. The junior flusters opposing coaching staffs with his elusiveness – just when you think you have him sacked, he slips out to run. And don’t give him too much time in the pocket, because he’ll burn you deep with the passing game. Kipp tallied 121 yards rushing and 127 yards passing last week.
Brian Trobel makes the offense even more dangerous. A bowling ball of a back at 5’8, 175, Trobel runs downhill with a passion. Tacklers must be firm in attacking him, because Trobel often shrugs off the first tackler. Trobel can also run alongside Kipp on option plays or be a deadly weapon on RPO plays (Run Pass Option).
The Cards have plenty of receivers, but Luke Floriea may be the best. At 5’10, 175, Floriea possesses special speed and catching ability. It’s tough to double cover him, because Mentor lines up 3-4 other talented wideouts in the spread.
“On film, you immediately notice their skill kids. The running backs, quarterback, receivers all have big play potential on film. They graduated some very good offensive linemen going to various colleges, but looking at the exchange of film with the scrimmage and vs. St. Ed’s, you can see their offensive line has developed nicely," Coach Kyle said. "They’ve stepped up. They threw the ball last week, but they also ran the ball quite well. Trobel and Kipp both had a lot of yardage. You worry about coverages, but then you give up 200-250 yards on the ground. That doesn’t lead to a victory. That attracts your attention, especially with how their line has stepped up and done a great job.”
The Wildcats counter with the 3-3-5 defense, designed with spread offenses in mind.
Anthony Gerace leads the way at defensive line. The senior tallied 3 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks last week. Aidan Conway anchors things at middle linebacker, notching 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack last week. Connor Francz and Aidan Hubbard are ferocious outside linebackers who will be key to the gameplan.
Erik Daugenti and Connor Cmiel start at corners, with Chris Snyder or Charlie Kinzel likely to factor in. Safeties Jack Welcsh, Emmett Hanna, Merick Hartley, and Andrew Chime will have important work to do against Mentor’s passing attack.
The Wildcats missed a 52-yard field goal and the punts averaged 31.4 yards last week, but there’s no reason to worry about special teams, since strong winds were a big factor last week. And don’t forget the blocked punt by Emmett Hanna that changed the game. Declan Mangan will again handle long field goals, punting, and kickoffs, while Rory McConville will take care of extra points and short field goals.
Andrew Smith will be the kicker and senior Jakob Sterio will punt for Mentor.
“Their kicking game is solid," Kyle said. "They punt well. They pooch kick sometimes or kick long on kickoffs. Overall, they keep you guessing."