Whatever the records, whenever the game, whoever the players, Saint Ignatius vs. St. Edward is always a great rivalry on the gridiron.
With the switch to Week 7 to avoid back-to-back games, the Wildcats enter at 3-3 and St. Edward stands at 5-1. The schools decided to move the game early to avoid a back-to-back scenario like in 2018. An earlier showdown is not a new idea. From 1983-86, the two teams played in Week 7 and from 1987-2006, the schools faced off in Week 8.
As it stands, the Week 7 matchup between the Eagles and Wildcats could shape up to be the area game of the week. Saturday's 7 pm game is just about sold out, with a handful of tickets remaining at the St. Edward Athletic Department. Lakewood Stadium will full to the brim on Saturday.
Looking at the rivalry as a whole, the Wildcats have a 32-25-1 series advantage, winning four of the last five. At Lakewood Stadium, the Wildcats have a 74-12-1 record, including a 17-7 mark vs. St. Edward.
Based on records this season, the Wildcats enter as the underdog. But Saint Ignatius will be as motivated as ever to win and gain critical computer points.
SAINT IGNATIUS OFFENSE VS. ST. EDWARD DEFENSE
The Wildcats have experienced no difficulty in scoring points in the last two weeks, posting 40 and 42 points. Griffin Hanna has been the catalyst of an offense averaging 30.3 points per game.
The senior quarterback has 1,317 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air, along with 4 rushing touchdowns. An excellent decision-maker, Hanna can be reliable in the short-to-intermediate game, with the ability to loft it deep to Connor Cmiel.
The senior wideout will play a huge role on Saturday. The Ohio State lacrosse commit has 18 catches for 410 yards and 4 touchdowns on the year. Henry Cook has been great in the short passing game, hauling in 22 passes for 296 yards and 5 scores. Jake Lang and Jack Dunstan are also dangerous options.
The offensive line has been remarkably consistent. Whether paving lanes for running backs Jack Welcsh and James Crosby or allowing Hanna time in the pocket, the big boys up front have been great.
The Eagles run a 4-man front led by Jeff Pietrowski. The Michigan State commit leads St. Ed’s in tackles (55), sacks (6.5), (3) forced fumbles, fumble recoveries (2), and quarterback hurries (10). Alex Colangelo (53 tackles) and Terron Lee (52) are also solid.
The linebacking core is led by CJ Hankins. The talented senior has 51 tackles on the year. Hankins is almost always joined by a second ‘backer, and a third in running situations.
The defensive backfield is uber-talented. Brothers Logan and Lawson Nash are excellent playmakers. Richard Johnson is a smart free safety. Jaylen and Joel Castleberry also get plenty of time.
St. Edward uses mostly quarters coverage. In this Cover 4 scheme, four defensive backs (typically 2 safeties and 2 corners) split the field into four. To beat the Cover 4, offenses try to beat the linebackers short, or run post routes with the slot wideouts and fly routes with the outside receivers to get single coverage deep.
SAINT IGNATIUS DEFENSE VS. ST. EDWARD OFFENSE
It’s no mystery what the Eagles want to do on offense – pound you with Joe Formani and the run game and keep you on your toes with playaction.
St. Edward prides itself on the ground game this season, with Formani leading the way. The 5’11, 205-pound running back is strong and athletic. His vision is excellent, as he can sense a cutback lane. Formani is a bellcow. Entering Week 6, Formani had 145 of the Eagles’ 185 rushing attempts.
On the season, the Eagles have ran the ball on 246 plays and passed it on just 92 plays. On average, St. Edward passes just 14.7 times per game.
"They're running the ball very well. They've run on every team they've played, controlled the football, and made big plays in the running game," said Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "That's the challenge this week. We're spending a lot of time working on it, because we competed against a good running team last week, and passed that test, but we have to step up another step and a half for the Eagles."
Part of what makes the offense work is Conor O’Malley. A smart senior, O’Malley can run or pass equally well. O’Malley runs options and designed draws just as well as playaction passes. He has the arm to find his talented wideouts – Montorie Foster, Michael Lombardo, Nathan Simon, and others. His legs also make him a great weapon on designed runs and option plays.
"O'Malley is a good runner, and that opens space for the passing game. They'll run RPOs (run-pass options)," Kyle said. "Everybody runs RPOs, even in the pros, but they've hit some plays on that. And their playaction has been very profitable for them. On defense, you bring a variety of blitzes. We need to disguise our looks so the quarterback has to read zones for the power plays. The linebackers and defensive backs need to read their keys properly."
The offensive line also deserves plenty of kudos. The Eagles utilize two main blocking schemes – gap and zone. In a gap scheme, compared to a fastball in baseball, the idea is to throw blockers at a gap to open a running lane and overwhelm the defense. The Eagles do this well on QB runs and counters with pulling linemen and tight ends. In a zone scheme, the linemen block whatever defender enters their zone. Whatever the scheme, the Eagles have been able to establish the run all season.
And the moment you bring another defender into the box, the Eagles will make you pay with a playaction pass.
On Saturday, the Wildcats will look to limit the ground game and keep the lid on the offense. In other words, Coach Kyle and Co. don’t expect to completely stop Formani, but the Wildcats hope to contain him and prevent big runs. To do this, the Wildcats are working hard in practice on disguising blitzes and reading keys.
With Anthony Gerace and Michael McNamara back last week, the Cats looked great on defense. Linemen Bennett Adler, Max Watters, and Rico Levert will also be vital to stopping the run. The Wildcats will rotate in at linebacker to stay fresh.
In the secondary, Merick Hartley and Emmett Hanna have emerged as playmaking safeties. Both will be crucial to limiting St. Edward.
In this type of rivalry, the game often comes down to special teams. The Wildcats may have the edge here. For the Wildcats, Declan Mangan is reliable kicker with a long range and a great punter. Rory McConville also converted 6-of-6 extra points last week.
Grant Saringer handles field goals and kickoffs for St. Edward. He converted his first field goal of the year, a 23-yarder, vs. Buchtel. Justin Slattery takes care of punting, averaging 35.8 yards.
If you can't make it to Lakewood Stadium on Saturday, the Saint Ignatius Broadcast Network has you covered.
Jack O'Rourke, Nick Fletcher, and Max Marazzi will have you covered at ignatiuswildcats.com/SIBN-live
Tell us on Twitter (@SIHSSports) where you're listening from, and we'll try to give you a shoutout on the air!
Freshmen Cats win
The Wildcats rolled to a big win over the Massillon Tigers on Thursday evening on Wasmer Field.
The Wildcats thrived in all aspects of the game, especially on offense. Splitting the duties at quarterback, Pierce Spencer and Anthony Moissis led the Freshmen Cats to a season-high 42 points in a 42-14 rout of the Tigers.
Next up, the Wildcats have a bout at Kirtland next Thursday.
JV Cats take on Tigers next
The Saint Ignatius vs. Massillon slate continues on Saturday, as Paul Yappel's charges head south down I-77.
The JV Cats will look to improve on a 4-1 record against the Tigers at 10 am on Saturday.