Home, sweet home.
At long last, the Saint Ignatius varsity football team will have a home game. After four weeks on the road, the Wildcats will host Football North on Saturday at Byers Field at 5 pm.
The Wildcats emerged from the with a 2-2 record from the gauntlet against Loyola, Hoban, Mentor, and DeMatha, one of the toughest stretches in program history. Two of the four teams won state championships, and three of the four have been ranked in the MaxPreps Top 25 this season.
Football North will also present a challenge. Located in Mississauga (a suburb of Toronto in Ontario), the program draws students from Clarkson Secondary School. Under coach Larry Jusdanis, former quarterback in the Canadian Football League, Football North has a 2-2 mark. The men of the North have proved they can play with the big boys, beating Lorain and giving Mentor a good game.
Football North’s last game against Lorain was ended early after an on-field altercation between the two teams. Since Football North is not an OHSAA school, they will not be forced to hold any players out because of their roles in the brouhaha.
Regardless, the Wildcats are expecting a good game from Football North. The visitors can score points and have a solid defense.
SAINT IGNATIUS OFFENSE VS. FOOTBALL NORTH DEFENSE
Last week, the Wildcats’ offense failed to gain traction against DeMatha. This week, Coach Chuck Kyle ’69 wants his defense to score and possess the ball as much as possible.
The Wildcats plan to utilize a balanced approach, establishing the run with backs Jack Welcsh and James Crosby, whie giving Griffin Hanna the freedom to fire the ball downfield.
"Jack Welcsh will do a good job. He’s been consistently getting us yardage. We would like to run the ball effectively, and he’s been consistent in his game," said Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "He plays defense, too, so James Crosby has been coming in and getting a number of carries and he’s had some nice carries. The run game will be key, and the guys up front know that.”
At all costs, the Wildcats will be looking to avoid 3-and-outs. Giving the defense time to rest will be important, as Football North has a solid offense that can move the ball.
Connor Cmiel and Henry Cook will be a key part of that plan. Cmiel has been a key downfield threat, averaging 22.4 yards per catch, while Cook has become a great short option. Tight end Jake Lang will also play an important role in the passing game. Look for junior Nick Lamirand to play a role as both a pass-catching and run-blocking tight end, too.
Griffin Hanna will be looking to have an efficient, clean game on Saturday. The offensive line will look to keep him safe in the pocket.
“Griff has shown everybody that he has the capability of having big games," Coach Kyle said. "You have to give him time and there has to be patience against man coverage."
Football North will counter with a flexible defense. The Canadians will mostly utilize a 4-man front, a scheme they used in each of the last two matchups against the Wildcats. But Saint Ignatius is also preparing to face 3-man fronts, which Football North has unveiled with some success this season.
However many linemen Football North uses, watch for the blitz on Saturday. Coach Jusdanis likes to call for blitzes on defense. Football North has plenty of looks to confuse opposing offenses, so the Saint Ignatius offensive line will need to be watchful before the snap.
On most passes, Football North will employ a man coverage scheme. Playing man-to-man forces the quarterback to have smart pre-snap reads to help him predict which receiver to look for first, second, and third.
The Wildcats struggled with man coverage last week against DeMatha. This week, look for the Wildcats to find creative ways to get receivers open. If Griffin Hanna has time in the pocket, the Wildcats’ passing game could thrive.
"You have to be able to react quickly to see who’s covered and find your second and third choice," Kyle explained. "Man coverage forces you to pre-think that."
SAINT IGNATIUS DEFENSE VS. FOOTBALL NORTH OFFENSE
The strength of this Football North team is its offense.
Quincy Vaughn leads a strong offense with quickstrike ability. The Old Dominian commit is a strong quarterback at 6’4, 225. The pro-style signalcaller has a live arm to get the ball to his wideouts. Football North likes to play a spread offense and get the ball to its playmakers, especially wideouts Chey Charles, Nathan Demontagnac, and Brayden Misseri.
Omarion Martin is the bellcow at running back. He’s been compared to Brian Trobel of Mentor, particularly after Martin scored the opening touchdown a few weeks ago vs. the Cardinals. Martin knows how to hide behind his offensive linemen while waiting for an opening, and he has the speed to hit the crease quickly. Justin Stevens, a 6’6, 285-pound Eastern Michigan commit, leads a large offensive line.
“They’ve been moving the ball on people pretty consistently," said Coach Kyle. "Their running game is good with a quick running back, we witnessed that last year. The line has good size. He gets behind them and finds a crease, and here we go. They spread you out and try to get it to their receivers. A couple of them have good height. Offensively, they are pretty balanced in what they do. They can put points on the board.”
For the Wildcats, look for a few changes on defense. Nick Velotta will move back to safety and Aidan Hubbard will shift back to linebacker. Max Watters will play defensive end, while Rico Levert will anchor things at nose tackle.
Overall, the Wildcats’ front six need to penetrate into the backfield to limit Martin, and the secondary has to prevent any deep plays from Vaughn to one of his many wideouts.
Declan Mangan and Rory McConville will handle the kicking duties for the Wildcats, as per usual.
The Cats have been working hard on kickoff return coverage in practice to stop Football North’s speedy return men.
Zachery Frustaglio will take care of kicking and punting for Football North.