The Saint Ignatius Wildcats secured their second playoff victory of the year, defeating the Euclid Panthers in the Regional Quarterfinal, 30-20. The offense and defense both played well through the many injuries and will look for another win against the Medina Bees in their next playoff bout at home next Friday in the Regional Semifinal.
The Wildcats are now even at 3-3 after Friday’s road win at Euclid Community Stadium.
“Beating Solon and beating Euclid, those are two good football teams. Euclid is very talented,” said Head Coach Chuck Kyle ’69. “A number of the guys in their secondary are Division I players. We were looking at the passing game, and we’re covered, so it impeded our passing. We gotta run the ball and keep their offense on the sideline. We were getting 4 or 5 yards a crack, so that’s fine. Be patient.”
The beginning of the game was tough for the Wildcats, due in part to an offensive fumble on the Euclid 45-yard line. The defense got rolling early with Bennett Adler’s first sack of many on the night. But Euclid came alive, too, as wide receiver Armond Scott proceeded to have three first downs in a row for the Panthers. Euclid followed the first downs with a solid screen pass to the running back Jayvon Colvin for a touchdown, taking a 7-0 lead with 5:09 to go in the first quarter.
Marty Lenehan bounced back well on the next drive with a pair of third-down conversions to move the chains, moving the ball well into Panther territory. Joe Pfaff then elected to go for a quarterback keeper that got the first down and set up Lenehan perfectly on the next play. Lenehan went full steam ahead past the goal line for a 6-yard touchdown, tying the game at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
“It was good to get in after the fumble,” Lenehan said. “Everyone was picking me up. It was good to get into the end zone.”
The opening drive of the 2nd quarter for the Panthers resulted in a quick punt back to the Cats.
After a few short runs and an incomplete pass, Pfaff found himself staring at a long 3rd and 13. Becker was the intended receiver, but the ball fell incomplete. Mangan came out and got all of his 52-yard field goal to make it 10-7 Wildcats with 9:42 to go in the first half.
Euclid then experienced another tough drive, as they missed Ivory on the deep ball to make it 3rd and 10. The pass fell incomplete and the Panther punt allowed the Cats to begin at their own 45-yard line. After a solid pass from Pfaff to Nick Lamirand, Marty Lenehan again found nothing but open field, as he moved down to the Panther 11-yard line on a 15-yard run. On the very next play, Lenehan strolled right into the endzone for an 11-yard touchdown. Saint Ignatius led 17-7 with 5:04 to go in the 2nd quarter.
The next Euclid possession resulted in the Wildcat defense looking even more dominant. Tommy Wasinksi roared in past the offensive line extremely fast for a sack on the Panther 5-yard line.
After another Panther punt, Lenehan picked up right where he left off with a big run to the Panther 29-yard line. Unfortunately on the next few plays, the Cats got shut down on 4th and inches for a turnover on downs.
On what may have been the catch of the year, Scott caught a dart downfield after the ball was bobbled around three different times. Scott raced into the end zone for a big Euclid touchdown, narrowing the score to 17-14 Wildcats at the end of the first half.
To open the second half, Chris Snyder smartly stepped in front of a Euclid pass, picking the ball off and returning it for 6 on the very first play from scrimmage of the half. Mangan booted the PAT to make it 24-14 Wildcats.
“Braeden Lair and I were communicating on a 2-1, we read the receivers on the side. I get the shorter route, so I jumped in front of it and took it to the house,” says Snyder. “We decided to disguise a lot, so they have to read what we’re doing. We made them guess what coverage we were in, and it helped to limit them when passing.”
“The defense did a nice job,” Kyle said. “The pick at the beginning of the second half was a huge play. Chris read it beautifully, he has a good sense.”
Back-to-back sacks by Cole Smith first and Adler forced the Panthers to punt on 4th and 21. A solid offensive drive for the Wildcats ended with no points, in rare fashion, as Mangan’s field goal attempt didn’t squeeze through the uprights. However, Eucld’s drive was a fast one, as Chime had tight coverage, forcing a Panther 4th and 2 punt.
“I utilized my 4-point stance a lot more to give me more power and explosiveness to get off the ball faster and get around those blockers,” said Adler.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats then threw a pick to allow the Panthers’ offense back on the field. The Wildcats came back on defense in full force, with two Wildcats coming together on the sack. Euclid then swapped quarterbacks to Malachi Davis, but nothing ended up coming off the swap as the Panthers booted away yet another punt.
Pfaff trotted out after the punt and delivered a perfect pass to Dunstan on an important third down play to keep the drive alive. Lenehan then had a solid pair of runs into Panther territory ending at the Euclid 11-yard line. He helped to kill the clock late in the game, finishing with an incredible 40 carries for 174 yards.
Lenehan and Pfaff both got stopped behind the line on two straight plays to follow the chunk runs. Mangan came in for a 41-field goal and this time split the uprights perfectly, setting the Cats ahead 27-14 with 6:33 to go in the fourth quarter.
Right after the field goal, the red-hot Ignatius defense got another takeaway, this time in the form of a Cole Smith pick taken to the Euclid 33-yard line. Dunstan hauled in a solid completion to the 14-yard line that was then followed by a mean pair of stiff arms by Lenehan. On 4th and 5, Mangan extended the Ignatius lead to 30-14 with 4:09 to go in the game.
The Panther offense couldn’t get anything rolling early on in the drive, as Adler came up with another sack on a crucial 3rd and 5. But on a desperation call for points, the Panthers fired it deep on 4th and 12. The Hail Mary was complete in the endzone as a completion for a big score, 30-20 Cats after a failed Euclid 2-point conversion thanks to a great play by Griffin Taliak.
An onside kick was then recovered by the Panthers, but an Adler strip-sack and fumble recovery by Aidan Hubbard gave the ball back to the Cats with 1:32 to go in the playoff game. Pfaff then trotted on into victory formation for three plays giving the Wildcats the win over the Euclid Panthers, 30-20.
As per stats kept by Cleveland.com’s Matt Goul, Lenehan accounted for 233 of the Wildcats’ 291 total yards. The Wildcats rushed for 171 yards and passed for 120. Euclid passed for 192 yards but managed just 16 yards on the ground against a ravenous Saint Ignatius defense.
“It feels good, I can’t do it without my guys,” Lenehan said of his effort that propelled the Cats to the win. “They had another great night. This is a family and a brotherhood.”
Indeed, the Wildcats relied heavily on Lenehan. The junior back said he’d never carried the ball that many times in a game before, though he had played quarterback at Our Lady of Angels back in fourth grade.
“As far as running, Ryan [Waldron] came in a little bit, but sometimes Marty just had a really good sense of where there were some seams,” Kyle said. “He made some cuts, at times we didn’t have anything, and he made 4-5 yards out of nothing. He carried the ball a heck of a lot, but that’s what we had.”
Medina will await Saint Ignatius in the Regional Semifinal. The Wildcats will be the hosts, as the No. 8 seeded Bees toppled No. 1 St. Edward, 35-31, in a game that included lots of back-and-forth action and late drama.
“I’m a little disappointed because I wanted to play our rivals in the playoffs,” Adler said. “But you go team-by-team, and we’ll play our hearts out. I’m just trying to play as long as I can.
The Wildcats will host Medina at Byers Field next Friday at 7 pm. The Bees and the Wildcats have never met on the gridiron, though the schools have become rivals on the soccer pitch during the last half-decade.
“I’m thrilled to be going to the next round,” Kyle said. “This is the playoffs and things happen. Needless to say, Medina is a very good football team. They present some issues because they’re no-back, tonight they had a stacked-I and got the running game going.”