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Week 9 Football Preview: St. Xavier Awaits in a Must-Win Game for Wildcats

By Joe Ginley '12, 10/25/19, 11:30AM EDT


The Wildcats need a win to keep their playoffs hopes alive.

It all comes down to this game for the Saint Ignatius football team. 

Win, and the Wildcats’ hopes of a playoff berth stay alive.

Lose, and the season ends on November 2 after the regular season finale vs. West Toronto Prep. 

St. Xavier will not take it easy on the Wildcats. Steve Specht's Bombers enter with a 6-2 record, with wins over prominent foes. LaSalle handed St. Xavier a loss last week, but the Bombers still clinched a playoff spot.

"They're a well-coached, organized team," said Wildcats' head coach Chuck Kyle '69. " They have good athletes. Their defense is not as big as a typical St. Xavier defense, but they're quick. They're athletic. Same thing offensively. They've played a tough schedule and beaten some very good football teams. It will be a good challenge.

"We need to win this game to get into the playoffs. The kids know it. We just need to get it done. It will be a typical Saint Ignatius vs. St. Xavier game. In the fourth quarter, someone will make a play to win."

Saint Ignatius and St. Xavier have played 26 games all-time, with the series tied at 13-13. The two schools have played in the regular season for 20 straight seasons. The Wildcats have won the last four regular-season games dating back to 2015. 

This season’s game should be thrilling, as always.

The game will also feature plenty of festivities. All SEP and summer sports campers will receive free admission to the game, along with a giveaway. At halftime, five SEP campers will have the chance to win a Brian Hoyer autographed football in an on-field contest. 

Also, before the game, we'll be honoring our 1989, 1994, and 1999 championship teams. Members of those teams and their families will be recognized on the field. (If you were on one of those teams, and haven't claimed your free tickets, you can do so online at:


Under quarterback Griffin Hanna, the Wildcats’ offense is humming. Through the air, Hanna has 1,813 yards and 15 touchdowns, along with 5 rushing TD’s. Hanna tallied 4 TD’s vs. Moeller in a big win. Hanna is just 187 yards from becoming the 17th QB under Offensive Coordinator Nick Restifo Hon. 19 to reach 2,000 yards passing in a season.

One of his best weapons, Connor Cmiel, missed last week. The Wildcats are hoping to have him back on Saturday. The senior wideout has 22 catches for 484 yards and 4 TD’s. 

Jake Lang and Henry Cook are also dangerous options in the passing game. Each receiver has 27 catches and over 400 yards. Cook leads the team with 7 receiving TD’s on the year.

Jack Welcsh has emerged as the lead option at running back. The senior’s bruising style can wear down defenses, as Welcsh has 500 yards and 5 TD’s on the season. James Crosby is another solid option in the backfield as a quick, fast back.

The offensive line has been exceptional this year, and they’ll need another big day vs. St. Xavier.

The Bombers play a 3-3-5 defense, not unlike the Wildcats’ scheme. St. Xavier’s defense has its own twists, with disguised blitzes and unique plays. 

"A lot of our defense is similar to what they do," said Coach Kyle. "They do it well. They like to come after you when it's time to blitz. A lot of work this week on how to pick up those blitzes to give the quarterback time or the running back a seam."

In the secondary, St. Xavier likes to play man coverage, but they’ll mix in some zone. With lots of experience in the secondary, the Bombers aren’t afraid to blitz and leave the cornerbacks on an island. 

The Bombers have no lack of playmakers on defense. Linebackers Matthew Devine and Noah Taylor are tied for the lead in tackles with 38 apiece. Devine also has a team-best 10.5 TFL and 4 sacks. Both are very stout against the run and in attacking the QB. The secondary may be the defense’s strength, with three senior starters, including Tucker Hundley. 


To state the obvious, the St. Xavier offense is quite good. The Bombers average 31.4 points per game, with a wide range of playmakers and ways to attack opposing defenses.

In a departure from recent seasons, the Bombers will not line up almost exclusively in shotgun. St. Xavier uses many different formations, from Ace (singleback) to pistol to I-formation to shotgun. The Bombers line up in a wide range of ways to confuse opposing defenses. 

"They changed their offensive philosophy," said Coach Kyle. "We're seeing more throwing, some no-back looks, quick passing game, and keep moving the sticks. They'll take their shots downfield, but it's a lot of RPOs (run pass options). They'll have unbalanced lines, and lots of formations. You have to change your coverages, move around, and shift things."

Matthew Rueve helms the offense as the quarterback. The 6’4, 190-pound senior has great stats, with 2,103 yards, 21 TD, and just 3 interceptions. Rueve is exceptional in the short-to-intermediate passing game, with a knack for throwing into small windows. Rueve gets the ball out of his hand quickly, negating big blitzes. Rueve also has the arm to send long passes deep. 

"He's had a good year. He's very steady," Kyle said. "He has a good grasp of the short passing game. You have to hit the windows at the right time. He does a nice job of that. He has a good sense of what to read quickly and when to get rid of the ball." 

Tight end Marshall Lang and wideout Liam Clifford are his primary targets. Lang has 60 receptions for 654 yards and 7 TD’s and Clifford has 59 catches for 866 yards and 9 TD’s. This week, Clifford followed in his brother Sean’s footsteps, committing to Penn State University. Other wideouts to watch are Owen Smith (18 receptions, 233 yards, 2 TD’s) and Andrew Britt (17 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD). 

Kellen Newman is the bellcow of the offense. The senior has 110 rushes for 526 yards and 6 TD’s on the season. The 5’8, 184-pound senior is a speedy back with elusive moves.

Size-wise, the Bombers’ line is not the biggest the Wildcats have seen this season. But the Bombers’ linemen are quick and work well in this offense, with frequent misdirections, counters, and reverses. 

The Wildcats’ 3-3-5 defense has been on fire lately, allowing 21 points over the last three games. Aidan Hubbard and Michael McNamara have been exceptional at linebacker. Anthony Gerace, Bennett Adler, and Max Watters are all in a groove at defensive line. And the secondary is thriving, with players mixing in and out. 

As a unit, the Wildcats need be smart against this tricky Bombers’ offense. 


Special teams often play a factor in Saint Ignatius vs. St. Xavier games. Each team is very good in this area. Declan Mangan and Rory McConville have done well kicking for the Cats. Mason Rohmiller and Joe Sullivan split kicking duties for the Bombers. Noah Taylor is the punter.


The JV Cats will start off an action-packed day with a game vs. St. Xavier at 10 am on Wasmer Field.

If you can't make it to Wasmer Field, the SIBN will be broadcasting it live.


The men of Rodney Gallaway earned a win last night. The Freshmen Cats advanced to 6-2 on the year with a 30-12 victory over Cleveland Heights.

On tap is the season finale next Saturday, November 2, a 1 pm tilt at St. Edward.