For the first time in a very long while, the Wildcats have two junior quarterbacks ready for primetime.
Jaxon French and Joe Pfaff form a dynamic 1-2 punch for Saint Ignatius Football at quarterback, a sign of good things to come for the men of Ohio City.
French and Pfaff enjoyed a friendly quarterback competition this summer, with both showcasing lively arms and excellent skills for the position. Either man would start at most programs.
As it stands today, Jaxon French has narrowly won the battle and will enter as the Week 1 starter, says veteran Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator Nick Restifo Hon. '19.
"Jaxon has a bit of the edge and he'll start this weekend. The experience that Jaxon had as a freshman at Pauda helps him out," Restifo explains. "He's a very good athlete, elusive runner, and stronger than you might think because he's worked very hard at getting his strength up."
The tradition of Saint Ignatius Football is a lengthy one filled with legends. Five NFL quarterbacks have strutted through the halls of Wildcat High – Brian Dowling '65, Oliver Luck '78, Dave Ragone '98, Tom Arth '00 Brian Hoyer ’04. But rarely do juniors start at quarterback for the Wildcats. Dennis Grosel '16, now a QB for Boston College, was the last to do so.
"If there's a junior who can start at Saint Ignatius, he's pretty special," says Restifo. "Although to be honest, we didn't have a choice because we don't have any senior quarterbacks. JP Tijanich moved to California and Colin Wiehn moved to wideout. John Becker was also a freshman QB but he moved to WR. So, it was left to the two juniors to battle it out."
Both French and Pfaff excelled. It was a tight battle of two great quarterbacks, and more importantly, two fine young men.
They showed their talent last season, French with the JV squad and a bit with the varsity, and Pfaff on the JV team.
"Since Jaxon was in the program last year and got some reps, he's learned what it takes to be a quarterback at Saint Ignatius," Restifo says. "Joey Pfaff got a lot of great reps as a JV quarterback last year, along with Jaxon. That's when Jaxon came into his own, when both of those guys were playing quarterback and got some quality reps, it was good for them experience-wise. They've both done a great job. They've worked hard in the offseason. They work well together. It's a great quarterback room. They all play off each other and know what they're doing. When the bullets start flying, we'll see how it goes."
French and Pfaff both enjoyed good offseasons, which is important.
French performed particularly well in the offseason, participating in a ton of lifts and improving his strength significantly. The St. Bernadette alum could often be seen slinging the pigskin to Colin Wiehn on Kyle or McLaughlin Fields outside of practice, too. French knows the idea of Magis. Just look at French's 6'2, 200-pound frame and you know that he did his due diligence in the offseason.
Pfaff also looks like a prototypical quarterback, a bit taller at 6'4, 180 pounds. He also comes from good stock, the son of Eric '81, a 2021 Athletic Hall of Fame inductee.
"Joey is a bit taller, so he can see and make some good reads," Restifo says.
The quality that Pfaff and French share is good decision-making. In the Saint Ignatius offense, the quarterbacks needs to make quick decisions for run-pass options and smart reads downfield on pass plays.
"It all comes down to decision-making. To me, that's the most important thing," says the Wildcats' 40-year veteran. "I don't care how strong your arm is, it's all about making the right decisions and being accurate. I would take decision-making and accuracy over arm strength any day of the week. They're getting better at it each week."
Beyond French and Pfaff, the Wildcats have two more exciting youngsters. Pierce Spencer and Anthony Moissis rise to the JV level after strong freshmen campaigns. They'll be names to watch moving forward. And several signalcallers on the freshmen squad have promising futures ahead, including Colin Lange.
"I'm looking forward to an exciting season," says Restifo. "It all comes down to the offensive line and if they can do what they need to do to take care of business. From there on, we have some good skill. I'm excited."