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Offense Shines and Defense Makes Big Plays in 33-6 Opening Win

By Jack Slemenda '21, 09/13/20, 9:00AM EDT


The Wildcats shook off any opening jitters to secure a victory over Bishop Sycamore.

After a long awaited start to football season, the Saint Ignatius Wildcats headed to Byers Field on Saturday night to take on the newly formed non-OHSAA Centurions out of Bishop Sycamore. It was quite a different look and feel last night, as the bleachers weren’t filled, and everyone was wearing a mask. Obviously this was the right thing to do, and at the end of the day, we want to allow these athletes to play. All of us just want to see some football. 

In the end, it was a good start to the season for Saint Ignatius, as the Wildcats won, 33-6. 

The Wildcats won the coin toss to open the game and elected to defer. Bishop Sycamore’s first of three quarterbacks, Joshua Logan, managed to scramble outside the pocket and deliver a 50-yard strike downfield. However, the Wildcats stood strong, as Bishop Sycamore ran three straight run plays, all for a loss, and senior linebacker Aidan Hubbard had a huge tackle to force 4th down. In a rather aggressive call from the Sycamore coaching staff, they sent in their second of three quarterbacks and went for it on 4th and 21. Tay Lowe threw an incomplete pass to end the drive for Sycamore, with excellent coverage early on by the cornerback Chris Snyder. 

Starting quarterback Jaxon French marched down the field to begin his debut drive. His first play was a completion to wide receiver John Becker. Shortly after a few solid runs, French delivered a perfect pass for a 16-yard touchdown to Alec LaSpina, setting Saint Ignatius ahead, 7-0. 

Lowe came back on the field for Sycamore for their next possession. Throughout this entire drive, the defensive line for the Cats was very quick in crashing the pocket and causing pressure on Lowe. This drive was a fast one. Lowe thew two incomplete passes before junior Peter Chalhoub barged in and got the safety for the Cats, setting the lead at 9-0.

French came back out and put the Cats in field goal range for Declan Mangan. The senior sent a rocket of a kick through the uprights for a 51-yard field goal, making it 12-0 Cats to end the first quarter. 

After a rather lengthy first quarter, the Wildcats looked to speed up the tempo and they certainly did. A punt from Sycamore left the Cats stranded at the edge of their own end zone. But a huge run from junior Marty Lenehan boosted the Wildcats 33 yards to avoid any stress about a safety. The running back core, headed by senior Mike Simcak, continued to plow through the Centurion defense. Simcak tacked on 15 yards in two plays to set French up perfectly. French found Alec LaSpina again for a 26-yard touchdown on a scramble, setting Saint Ignatius ahead 19-0 with three minutes to go in the half. Sean Ward had a great block on LaSpina’s score.

Just after his brother’s big touchdown, Luca LaSpina came in and sacked the third quarterback of the night for Sycamore, DJ Dehoyos. The Cats managed to back up the Centurions to their own 15-yard line to force a punt. Yet again, Sycamore went for it on a long 4th down, this time with a fake punt that was blown up by the Wildcats at the Centurion 5-yard line.

Mike Simcak needed just one play to score, charging ahead for a 5-yard touchdown, adding to the Wildcats’ lead, 26-0. 

Sycamore’s half-ending drive was stopped at a screeching halt by Chris Snyder. The senior picked off the first quarterback Joshua Logan, on a deep throw. French elected to take a knee and end the first half with the score at 26-0 Wildcats. 

Saint Ignatius received the opening kick of the second half and right away Mike Simcak went to work. Simcak was handed the ball on back-to-back plays, each for a 4-yard gain to open the door for the Wildcat offense. French delivered a dime to Jack Dunstan for a 14-yard first down. Simcak came knocking on Sycamore’s IKEA door with a 34-yard run. After a slew of four straight penalties by Bishop Sycamore, the Wildcats were on the half-yard line with a first and goal opportunity. To cap off his great drive, Simcak slid in easily for the 1-yard touchdown. The Wildcats led, 33-0, and set a running clock into motion with 5:33 left in the third quarter. The Wildcats had generated quite the offense performance so far in the game.

Sycamore’s return man Ty Kelly took the ensuing kickoff for 75 yards, but a holding call backed them up a bit. Senior defensive lineman Bennett Adler made his mark, as he broke through the offensive line and made a tackle for a loss of six yards. To follow this great play Adler and senior captain Nick Velotta manufactured a sack for a loss of seven yards. Sycamore punted and Coach Chuck Kyle ‘69 sent in his other junior quarterback, Joe Pfaff. 

Pfaff would make a few completions before a Wildcat fumble led to a scoop and score for the Centurions. Sycamore attempted for a 2-point conversion but were stopped dead in their tracks by the Wildcats’ defense, keeping the score 33-6. 

To wrap up the game, senior running back Anthony Santagata and junior running back Ryan Waldron worked together to wind down the clock and put this one in the books. 

The Wildcats came out and did exactly what they needed to do. They tested the new offense under Jaxon French and proved how deep they are at running back. The defense certainly shined as the line and secondary played extremely well. 

According to preliminary stats by Mcrey Socha '21 and Brendan Barnett '24, Adler and LaSpina each notched two sacks on defense. Adler and Taliak topped the team with 4 tackles. The Wildcats held the Centurions to a total of 103 yards. 

On offense, French finished the day 11-of-13 passing for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns. Simcak rushed for 76 yards and 2 TDs on 13 carries. LaSpina led the way at receiver with 3 catches for 68 yards. The team tallied a total of 359 yards, including 203 yards on the ground. The Cats averaged 4.83 yards per carry.

"Our offense looked good," said Coach Kyle. "I can see a role for all four running backs all season long. As for Alec, he looked great tonight, he was very quick on his routes and will be a big part of this offense."

Next up is a rivalry matchup with St. Edward at FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday at 7 pm. 

“This will be a great opportunity for the kids,” said Coach Kyle. “It’ll be a shame that we won’t have the big crowd at First Energy, but it is what it is. This upcoming game really comes down to this: ‘Are we ready for a playoff-caliber team?’ They are ready. We just have to prove we are too.”