The home stretch has arrived. Three games remain on the schedule, and all are must-win.
The Wildcats need a 6-4 record to have a shot at the postseason. Archbishop Moeller is the first foe in the way.
The Crusaders have seen tough times this season, too. Moeller enters with a 1-6 record under first-year coach Todd Naumann. A young team with potential, Moeller has experienced lopsided losses in a tough schedule. But this is not a Moeller team to be overlooked. The Crusaders will be prepared for battle. The Wildcats need to be perfect from here on out.
"Their record is down a bit, but they play a tough schedule," said Wildcats' head coach Chuck Kyle. "They're a good football team, they'll come prepared. Two years ago, we played them at Otterbein, and we shouldn't have gotten off the bus, we weren't ready to play mentally. They did a great job against us. Last year, they only had one loss coming into our game and we won handily. So, it's one of those games where there's talent on both sides. It's all about who's going to be focused."
SAINT IGNATIUS OFFENSE VS. MOELLER DEFENSE
The offense had no trouble driving down the field last week, but couldn’t finish. Converting on opportunities will be a focus this week.
Jack Welcsh will be a key part of the gameplan. The senior earned 100 yards on 20 carries last week. The Wildcats will lean on the talented back on Saturday, as the senior is averaging 4.6 yards per carry this season. James Crosby will also be entrusted with earning key yards against Moeller.
The offensive line will be critical to the effort to remain balanced. Nick Schwitzgebel and Tony Georges have anchored the line at left and right tackle all season, as the Wildcats have surrendered just 8 sacks in 7 games. Praise also goes to guards Owen Keane and Gus Salopek, as well as to center Ashton Montgomery, for keeping quarterback Griffin Hanna clean and the run game humming.
The passing game has been aided by Connor Cmiel and Henry Cook this season, but pleny of unheralded performers have stepped up, too. Jake Lang has quietly compiled 20 catches for 313 yards, many of those on critical third downs. Jack Dunstan and Dominic Fabe have also delivered in the clutch when needed.
Moeller will counter the Saint Ignatius attack with a 4-man front. The Crusaders have experience on defense, particularly at linebacker. Captains Joe Toepfer and Will Braley are the primary playmakers. Toepfer leads the squad in tackles (31), tackles for loss (7), sacks (4.5), and quarterback hurries (3). Braley has 14.5 tackles on the year.
Moeller’s trademark on defense is twisting linemen. The Crusaders like to send linemen in different directions to open space for blitzing linebackers. To stop the run, Moeller will also not be afraid to break out the 4-6 defense, aka the “Bear,” made popular by Buddy Ryan and the Chicago Bears.
"They're very good at twisting linemen and blitzing off of that. That's part of their philosophy," said Coach Kyle. "It takes time in practice to get a feel for that. Don't go chasing a guy through a gap, because if that happens in a game, a defender goes right through, and that's minus 4 yards.
In the secondary, watch out for Andrew Deyhle. The captain is third on the team in tackles with 22. Junior TJ Rotello is another good playmaker.
Moeller mixes coverages, but mostly plays the Cover 3, a scheme with 2 cornerbacks and 1 safety dividing the field into three areas. Combination routes can beat the Cover 3.
SAINT IGNATIUS DEFENSE VS. MOELLER OFFENSE
The Wildcats’ defense has strengthened considerably in the last two weeks, with Rockledge and St. Edward only scoring 7 points apiece.
Moving Anthony Gerace to nose tackle has been the secret formula for the Wildcats. The senior has done quite well inside against the run, while Max Watters and Bennett Adler have wreaked havoc outside at defensive end. Adler tops the team in tackles for loss (7) and sacks (4).
The linebackers have played quite well, too. Aidan Hubbard leads the team in tackles with 31 through 7 games. Michael McNamara, Aidan Conway, Connor Francz, Nick Velotta, and Aidan Crummie have all been great, too.
In the secondary, Merick Hartley and Emmett Hanna have both done quite well at safety. Erik Daugenti also made great plays at corner last week.
Moeller will use several different offensive packages. Primarily, Moeller uses a 2-back system with a tailback and an H-back or fullback. The Crusaders will hand the ball off to Gabe Goins (256 yards, 3 TDs) on power runs or zone reads.
On passing downs, Moeller will roll out a shotgun formation and spread the field.
The most intriguing look is the Wildcat formation. Malik Verdon ran the formation, though the 6’4, 210-pound athlete transferred to Hamilton this week. Moeller may use the formation with a different player.
Drew Altemuehle is Moeller’s primary signalcaller. The senior has 646 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Evan Springer is the future, a talented sophomore transfer. The 5’10, 175-pound QB played the opening series vs. Elder but does not have any stats.
"Each quarterback has his strengths. When you scout, you try to find out, 'Why is this guy in, why is that guy in?' Both have talent. They like to run with a certain guy and pass with the other guy. We have to make sure we know their tendencies," said Coach Kyle. "Moeller will always have a good-sized offensive line. You're seeing more 2-back this year than in the past. They want to be a strong running team. By lining up in the 2-back, they have an extra back for it. They run the playaction off of that. They will use the spread to spread you out and take shots, too. They would love to go yards 4 yards a crack and keep the opposing offense on the sideline."
Declan Mangan boomed yet another field goal last week, blasting a 49-yarder for the Wildcats’ lone points. His work on punts also aided the Wildcats.
Moeller has one of the most talented kickers the Wildcats have seen this season. Kevin Thibodeaux is a talented player who hit a long field goal of 48 yards, one of four for the senior. Thibodeaux is a captain for the Crusaders, too.
"He can boom them," said Coach Kyle. "It's supposed to be a nice afternoon, so who knows, there might be field goals boomed from 40-50 yards out."
Noah Hughes handles the punting duties, averaging 36 yards per punt this year, with a long of 72 yards.