The Wildcats will never shy away from a challenge. If you have any doubts, you just need to look at the Saint Ignatius varsity football schedule.
The schedule is set for the 2020 season, and it's filled with challenges with the Wildcats.
The Football Cats will play 10 games this season, a who's who of top football programs from across Ohio and the United States.
"We're playing a very tough schedule," said Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "It's tough to compare, but it's certainly one of the tougher ones in the state. Not to use a cliche, but it will be one game at a time."
One huge positive about the 2020 schedule – more home games.
The Wildcats played just four games at Byers Field last season, with six road games, including four straight to start the year. This season, the Wildcats have seven home games. The Cats will open with four consecutive contests at Byers Field.
The 2020 campaign will start vs. Mount St. Joseph High School from Baltimore, Maryland on Saturday, August 29 at Byers. The Gaels are a new addition to the schedule, as well as a first-time opponent.
The Gaels are a strong program. Mount St. Joseph rolled to a 10-2 record last year, winning the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) A Conference Championship. The Gaels bested McDonogh, spoiling the Eagles' perfect season. Mount St. Joseph will play the Cats again in 2021.
The classic public-private rivalry between the Mentor Cardinals and the Wildcats will be renewed on September 5. The teams have met every season dating back to 2005. Dating back to the first meeting in 1989, the Wildcats have a 13-11 series advantage, though the Cardinals won last year.
Archbishop Hoban returns to the schedule again, making the trek to Byers Field on September 12. On the road in 2019, the Wildcats enjoyed one of the most incredible comebacks in program history, coming back from a 25-point deficit to best the Knights. The series is tied at two apiece.
The Wildcats will welcome DeMatha Catholic on the back-end of the home-and-home series. Last season, the Stags handed the Wildcats a loss in Maryland. The contest is set for September 19 at Byers Field.
The first road game of the year has the potential to be an instant classic. The Massillon Tigers return to the schedule in 2020 on September 25.
The Wildcats and Tigers have played some great games over the years. The teams played frequently in the 2000's during the regular season. Saint Ignatius and Massillon last faced off on the gridiron in 2009, with the Wildcats emerging with a 26-21 victory. Saint Ignatius leads the all-time series, 12-1. The two teams signed a one-year contract, with no game in 2021.
River Rouge is another new addition to the schedule this season. The Wildcats will play the defending Michigan Division 3 champs on the road, heading north to face the Panthers. Rive Rouge is located south of Detroit, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Cleveland. The Wildcats and Panthers have never faced off on the gridiron before.
The Wildcats' Week 7 foe is a familiar one. The St. Edward Eagles will face the Wildcats on October 10. Last season, the Eagles snuck by the Cats, 10-7, but Saint Ignatius owns the overall advantage, 32-26-1. The Wildcats have won the last two home regular-season contests between the rivals.
The Wildcats will host another prominent opponent in Week 8 – Archbishop Moeller. The Cats have an 8-2 series advantage all-time, including wins in 2018 and 2019. The Crusaders will have a new look in 2020, with Mark Elder taking over the helm after a 2-8 season in 2019. Moeller comes to Byers Field on October 17.
The annual battle of Jesuit brothers will take place on October 24. Saint Ignatius and St. Xavier will meet for the 28th time, this year in Cincinnati. The Bombers squeaked by the Wildcats at Byers Field in 2019, so Saint Ignatius will look to get them back this season. The Bombers finished 9-3 last year. St. Xavier owns the series advantage, 14-13.
The final game of the 2020 season will take place on October 31. The Wildcats will host Football North at Byers Field for the regular-season finale. Saint Ignatius will be looking for revenge after losing on a last-second Hail Mary at Byers Field last season.
Looking at the schedule as a whole, the Wildcats' opponents had a combined record of 92-31 (.748 win percentage). Eight opponents made the playoffs, and two won state titles in 2019. According to win percentage of opponents, this is the team's fourth-toughest schedule since 2000.
The opponents are tough, but scheduling is very difficult for the Wildcats. Many teams do not want to schedule the men of Ohio City. And when given the choice, the Wildcats would rather play a tough game than take a bye.
"We don't want to take a bye. Some people will tell you that at times, it can be beneficial," Kyle said. "But the kids work very hard to play 10 football games. Let's not worry about the playoffs and the computer points. They work very hard to play 10 football games. It's our responsibility to schedule 10 games. If we have to play the Green Bay Packers, we will. It's quite a group of teams, but it will be okay."