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Wildcats Primed to Open 2020 Against Bishop Sycamore

By Joe Ginley '12 , 09/12/20, 9:15AM EDT


Months of planning and preparation are about to come to fruition.

At long last, football season has arrived for Saint Ignatius Football.

The waiting and anticipation is over at long last, as the Wildcats will open the 107th season in their lengthy and legendary history on Saturday vs. Bishop Sycamore. 

The Centurions opened the season last week vs. Massillon Washington. The Tigers handed the non-OHSAA school a 35-0 defeat, the 900th in Massillon history. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have not had a chance to play a game or scrimmage yet.

The Wildcats will look to shake off any season-opening jitters to grab a win to start 2020.

“It will be important for these kids and coaches to get into a game situation," says Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "We didn’t have any scrimmages, so there will be some stumbling a bit because we didn’t have a chance to scrimmage, and it helps, especially with the tempo of the game. The kids need to get a chance to get into the game and play football."


After a hearty competition between juniors Jaxon French and Joe Pfaff, French emerged as the Week 1 starter. Both signalcallers are talented, as well as great young men.

At 6’2, 200 pounds, French is a dual threat quarterback. French possesses a strong arm with good accuracy, as well as quick feet and the agility to run well inside and outside of the pocket.

More importantly, French displayed smart decision-making during his time with the JV and varsity teams as a sophomore. His good instincts come in part from his experience as a starter as a freshman for Padua. He wowed many with his abilities in a strong year with the Bruins.

French will have many weapons to choose from. At wideout, Jack Dunstan, Alec LaSpina, and Steve Bodamer earn the starting nods, with John Becker sure to mix in. It’s a group without a ton of experience, but smart players.

Nick Lamirand returns as a starting tight end, named as a captain. He’ll be joined by talented youngsters Sean Ward and Patrick Tomkins.

The running backs are deep and talented. Mike Simcak is the leader of the group as a savvy senior. Ryan Waldron and Marty Lenehan are juniors with outstanding potential who may break out this season. Anthony Santagata will figure into the mix as a change-of-pace back. 

The offensive line will be absolutely crucial to the Wildcats’ success this season. Gus Salopek and Ashton Montgomery return as starters to anchor the line at left and right tackles. Salopek was named the fourth captain, a wise choice indeed.

The two veterans will be joined by Carter Zimmerman and Joe Ryland at guard, with Brian Keane at center. If the five men gel well, the offensive line could power the way for a thriving Saint Ignatius offense this season.

Bishop Sycamore has a solid defense. A total of 22 players made tackles last week, with Rico Weathington leading the Centurions with 8.5 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. Quincy Talmadge and Xavier Cannaday each notched a takeaway.


A host of experienced players return for what could be a very good Saint Ignatius defense.

The strength of the team may be at linebacker with three players who earned starting minutes last season – Aidan Hubbard, Aidan Conway, and Nick Velotta. Hubbard led the team in tackles last season and will star at outside linebacker. Velotta will also be an outside ‘backer, a captain alongside Conway, who will start at middle linebacker. All three are quite good. 

The defensive line also features a veteran anchor point in Bennett Adler. The St. Chris alumnus was a constant presence in the backfield and in the minds of opponents. A talented edge rusher and run stuffer, Adler is a fun player to watch.

Luca LaSpina joins him on the opposite end. LaSpina added 25 pounds in the offseason and looks muscular and ready to take on anyone.

Inside will be Tommy Wasinski to start. The junior did not play on varsity last year but has impressed at camp all year. John Lenhard will also mix in there.

Peter Chalhoub is someone to keep an eye on. He can play any of the three spots and will see significant time on Saturday after fully rehabbing from a season-ending injury last season.

The defensive backfield will be centered by free safety Emmett Hanna. The senior played plenty as a junior and will again serve as the quarterback of the secondary. A basketball player in the offseason, Hanna is quite the talent at safety.

Griffin Taliak and Braeden Lair will also start at safety, with Andrew Chime featuring into the rotation plenty. Taliak and Lair, both juniors, have drawn rave reviews this fall. Chime is a solid leader who can be trusted to make the smart reads.

At cornerback, Cole Smith and Chris Snyder will get the starting nods. The two seniors are fast and smart, with the ability to shut down wideouts.  

For Bishop Sycamore, Joshua Logan got the majority of the snaps at QB for an offense that loves the deep ball. Daivon Lowman is a fast, strong running back. 

"They have speed. Their tailback can turn the corner, he’s impressive," says Coach Kyle. "Their QB has a strong arm. They’re more than willing to stretch you deep, they’ll try to run by us and hit a big one or two. They have athletic speed." 


Declan Mangan will take care of the kicking duties this season, and will do so well. Bennett Adler will snap and Steven Bodamer will hold. 

Anthony Santagata, Marty Lenehan, and Alec LaSpina will handle kickoff and punt returns. 

As for the Centurions, they'll look to clean up mistakes after two safeties last week due to high snaps on punts, along with 18 total penalties. 

Rules & Reminders

• All ticket sales will be online.

• Each Saint Ignatius player, manager, coach, and band member will receive four (4) tickets.

• There will be no public sale of tickets.

• Visiting fans should enter from the Ridge Road entrance on the East side of the stadium.

• Home fans should enter via the gate located at the Southeast corner of the home stands.

• Spectators may begin entering the facility 45 minutes before kickoff.

• Seating will be general admission in 4-person pods. If you buy 4 tickets, those 4 people must sit together.

• Masks are mandatory at all times in the stadium.

• No concessions will be sold. You are free to bring in bottled water or small snacks. 

• Fans are expected to practice physical distancing of 6 feet at Byers Field.