Mentor, OH - The Wildcats continued their 2021 campaign by paying an east-side visit to the Mentor Cardinals. It seems as though these two Northeast Ohio powerhouses never disappoint when they meet on the gridiron, and this occasion was no exception. The Wildcats fell short of their comeback and ultimately lost to the Cardinals, who capitalized on numerous Wildcat mistakes throughout the game.
Mentor kicked off the rivalry game with a score after the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs. Quarterback Jacob Snow then took over on offense and led the Cardinals deep into Saint Ignatius territory through a series of quick passes. Snow then rolled out and found his #1 target Evan Harper for a 13-yard score in the left corner of the end zone to make it 7-0 Cardinals with 4:28 remaining in the 1st quarter. Both teams had multiple first-quarter possessions but failed to come away with points, causing the Cats to enter the second quarter down by seven.
The Wildcats got to work quickly in the 2nd quarter; when Wildcats senior quarterback Joey Pfaff took the field. Pfaff helped fuel a touchdown drive to answer the Cardinals. Pfaff made several completions on the possession to set up a Marty Lenehan four-yard TD run with 10:39 left in the second quarter to knot the game at seven.
Later in the second quarter, with the score still tied 7-7, the Wildcat defense had set up a third and five for the Mentor offense. What the Cats hoped to turn into a critical stop midway through the second quarter turned into a 63-yard touchdown pass out of the hands of Snow. Harper was on the receiving end, who caught his second touchdown with 7:49 to go in the first half.
As the first half was nearing a close, the Wildcats were driving inside the red zone when Mentor linebacker Henry Schenk intercepted Pfaff after his pass deflected off his intended receiver's foot. Immediately following the interception, Snow continued to put on a show and wasted no time getting his offense back on the board.
Snow unloaded an 80-yard TD pass to speedy slot receiver Michael Norwood to make it 21-7 Cardinals. 21-7 remained the score as both teams headed to the locker room at halftime. Mentor dominated the stat sheet with Snow throwing for 187 yards and three touchdowns on 7/8 passing. Harper and Norwood caught three receptions and 94 and 93 receiving yards, respectively. As for the Wildcats, Pfaff was 7/14 on 98 yards passing and Lenehan rushed 12 times for 27 yards and one touchdown.
As the second half got underway, the Wildcats would force three and out on the Mentor offense. Back on offense, the Wildcats began to chip away at Mentor's lead and got within striking distance of the endzone before having to settle for a 37-yard FG with 8:34 left in the third by senior Zeb Eldridge to cut the Mentor lead to 21-10. On the next offensive possession for the Cardinals, Wildcat senior safety Joe Norris picked off Snow to give the Cats offense excellent field position. This would set up another Eldridge field goal, this time from 33-yards out. The Cats made it a one-possession game, 21-13, with 5:57 left in the third quarter.
As the clock continued to wind down into the crunch time of the fourth quarter, the Cardinals had marched down inside the Wildcat 10-yard line. Then, the Cardinals exhibited the "Mentor Special" as wide-out Nick Jares attempted to throw a pass to Snow. Senior corner Jack Mangan intercepted the pass at the goal line, his second in as many games.
Following the forced turnover, Lenehan took over. Lenehan had the play of the season so far when he broke tackles and followed a key block downfield by senior Steven Bodamer before eventually bursting into the endzone for a 52-yard touchdown run. The touchdown from Lenehan, his fourth on the season, made it 21-19 with 5:04 left in the game. The Cats attempted a two-point conversion, but the pass was batted away from the Cardinal defense.
Just as the Wildcats' defense was ready to get a monumental stop, Harper took the ensuing kick-off 98-yards to the house to give his team a 28-19 lead with 4:45 to go. Even with the return, the Cats refused to go away. Finding themselves back on offense, thanks to some help from the defense, the Wildcats scored again to make it a two-point deficit, 28-26, with 1:25. This time, the sophomore, Sean Martin, caught a 27-yard TD pass from Pfaff, using his speed to break for the pylon. Martin's first touchdown of his varsity career.
Even with the touchdown, Coach Kyle's Wildcats still needed a miracle. Unfortunately, the onside did not bounce the Cats way. Mentor went into victory formation and officially closed the book on a highly wild game with a chaotic fourth quarter.
The Wildcats would outgain the Cardinals in total offense, 365-yards to 315-yards. Pfaff was 16-of-34, passing for 208-yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Lenehan continued his touchdown spree by adding on two more on Friday night. Lenehan finished with 125-yards on 20 carries, including the 52-yard breakaway run.
The Wildcats put up a respectable 26 points but unfortunately fell behind in Cardinal's rearview mirror. At 2-0, the Mentor Cardinals will take on the St. Edward Eagles on the west side at Lakewood Stadium. While the Saint Ignatius Wildcats will head to the friendly confines of Byers Field in Parma to welcome in Mount St. Joseph from Baltimore, MD. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. on September 4.