Over the last four seasons, Archbishop Hoban has dominated Northeast Ohio football. The Knights have won four state championships – two in Division II, two in Division III. Only three teams have defeated the Knights since 2015.
The last team to do so? The Saint Ignatius Wildcats.
Since the Wildcats bested the Knights on August 24, 2017, Hoban has won 31 straight games.
A strong all-around effort will be needed to topple the Knights and end the winning streak.
Hoban enters with a 2-0 record, outscoring its two foes by a combined score of 91-12. The Wildcats bring in a 1-1 mark, fresh off a tough 38-31 defeat at Mentor due to a 21-0 Cardinals run.
The Knights enter as the No. 12 team in the country, according to USA TODAY.
"Hoban has become the place to go for athletics, particularly football, in the Akron area. They have a boatload of talent," said Saint Ignatius Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "They put a lot of money and focus into the program. They have a ton of coaches and they want to be nationally ranked, and they are. Their goal was to become nationally ranked and they've done that. They're willing to put the resources in to get to that level. Credit to them for reaching their goals."
Without further ado, here's what to look for in Friday's battle of juggernauts.
SAINT IGNATIUS OFFENSE VS. HOBAN DEFENSE
The #1 key for the Wildcats vs. the Knights? Get Connor Cmiel the ball.
Both Loyola Academy and Mentor blanketed Cmiel in double coverage, but he still found a way to haul in lenghty passes of 80 and 47 yards. Cmiel also made a huge impact on special teams with two touchdown returns, showcasing his speed and elusiveness.
Quarterback Griffin Hanna will be looking for Cmiel early and often. Hanna enjoyed success on the ground with a rushing score and some scrambles, but was limited to 105 passing yards. Hanna showcased grit by fighting through big hits.
Tight ends Sam Daugstrup and Jake Lang will also be important in the passing game, as will wideout Henry Cook. All three are good blockers, too.
Running back Jack Welcsh reached the century mark with 100 rushing yards last week, and he’ll look to repeat the feat. James Crosby also played well, displaying his will in fighting through tackles.
"Hopefully we're more balanced this week than we were last week, I think that's needed," Coach Kyle said. "People were bracketing Connor in the first two games, but he still finds a way to get into the end zone. We have look at what they're doing to stop him, and we'll adjust and plan accordingly. Some of our other guys are ready to make plays, too. Henry Cook is doing a good job. Jake Lang and Sam Daugstrup are talented. We just need to set them up to make plays."
Hoban will likely combat the Wildcats with a 3-4 philosophy. The Knights typically have three linemen in the 3-point stance with two linebackers at the line of scrimmage. Two other players typically stand 5 yards back as ‘backers. Hoban’s front 6-7 will adjust based on the strong side. However, the Wildcats are also preparing for a 4-man front. Hoban unveiled a 4-linemen scheme against Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, a run-centric offense.
Whatever the scheme, Michigan State commit Devin Hightower will be the top playmaker on D. Last week, Hightower picked off a pass and took it 32 yards to the house.
As far as coverages, Hoban usually employs a base of Cover 2 (corners in the flats, linebackers in the middle, two deep safeties). To switch things up, Hoban will play Cover 6 (a variation of Cover 2 with a corner and safety covering one half of the field and a safety responsible for the other half) and the occasional man coverage scheme.
Hoban does like to blitz, so the Wildcats’ offensive line will have to be smart in pass protection.
SAINT IGNATIUS DEFENSE VS. HOBAN OFFENSE
Few offenses in Ohio have the combination of star power and brilliant schemes that Hoban boasts.
Shane Hamm returns for his third season as the starting quarterback, winning every start since the first of his career in 2017 against the Wildcats. The 5’11, 190-pound signalcaller did not play Saint Ignatius last season. Equally adept at throwing and running, Hamm is a great dual-threat QB.
Deamonte Trayanum may just be one of the best backs in the state, if not the nation. The 6’3, 230-pound Arizona commit found the end zone on rushes of 25, 35, 64, and 73 yards vs. Mooney. The senior is a strong runner who rarely goes down on first contact. His speed is deadly, too.
Caden Clark may be the team’s best utility player. The Alabama commit can line up in the slot, line of scrimmage, or as an H-back. Hoban uses him on screens, short passes, deep balls, and as a blocker.
Brayden Fox is a deadly deep threat. The 6’3, 205-pound junior burned both Harrisburg and Mooney on long balls, using his size to leap over opposing defensive backs.
Other wideouts to watch include Jared Mealy and Kharion Davis, as Hoban does not lack for speed or catching ability at wide receiver.
Hoban’s offensive line is young, but quite effective. The guards often pull on run plays, punishing opponents with bruising blocking. The unit has gelled well so far.
Hoban’s playbook mixes old and new. The base offense is a spread, running out of the shotgun with 4-5 wideouts. But Hoban will use a wishbone (2 H-backs, 1 halfback) or the Maryland I formation (2 fullbacks, 1 deep back).
"They have these philosophies in their playbook – they'll plug in to see if one works, and if not, they'll line up in something different and play in a short-yardage offense," said Coach Kyle. "They did that last year. They spread out in the first part of the game, and they weren't happy with it. So in the last part of the game, they pounded away in their short-yardage formations to eat the clock. They achieved their goal – we were down by one touchdown and couldn't get the ball back. They're quite happy getting 4 yards a play."
Whatever the offensive approach, the Wildcats need to have a better fourth quarter.
"Defensively, it'll be a challenge. They scored a bunch of points the first two weeks," said Coach Kyle. "Hopefully we can play a little better in the fourth quarter. We did not have a good fourth quarter, which is a shame, because we were playing well until that point."
The Wildcats will counter with the 3-3-5 defense, but will not be afraid to counter with new and creative looks. Observant fans might notice new schemes the Wildcats do not often use.
Bennett Adler, Anthony Gerace, and Rico Levert have done well on the defensive line this year. Adler, in particular, is enjoying a breakout start to the season. A new member will join the defensive line this week for many snaps, too.
The big news for the defense is the return of Michael McNamara. The captain is a critical cog of the defense at linebacker. His return is big news.
Aidan Conway, Aidan Hubbard and Nick Velotta have held the line in his absence. All three will remain heavily involved in the game plan. Aidan Crummie will also be involved in the gameplan, too.
The secondary did well last week, with Charlie Kinzel leading the way with an interception and a key pass breakup. Free safety Merick Hartley is also off to a great start. Emmet Hanna, Erik Daugenti, and Andrew Chime will play significant roles on Friday, too.
Declan Mangan will lead the Wildcats’ kicking game this week, with Rory McConville also helping. All eyes will be on Cmiel after his big week in the return game, but Hoban will likely avoid kicking to him if possible.
Charlie Durkin will handle the kicking game for the Knights.
"In a game like this, you hope the kicking game keeps progressing. We came up with good plays and great field position [against Mentor]," said Coach Kyle. "Looking at the schedule, we need that. We need to have those types of great special teams plays. Those aren't cheap touchdowns, it takes a lot of work to score special teams touchdowns."
JV and Freshmen Coverage
Both the freshmen and JV games will be covered on the SIBN.
The Freshmen Cats will battle the Knights on Thursday on Wasmer Field at 5 pm. Ryan Wellman '23 and Noah Virant '20 will have coverage with a video broadcast.
The JV Cats will face off with Hoban on Saturday on Wasmer Field at 10 am. Bobby Gerome '21, Deividas Ilgauskas '22, and Nathan Free '23 will have the call with a video broadcast.
Meanwhile, the varsity game will be audio-only on Friday evening, as per OHSAA rules (the OHSAA prohibits the road team from broadcasting in video on Friday nights).
Seniors Jack O'Rourke, Nick Fletcher, and Max Marazzi will be on the call for the marquee matchup.