PARMA, Oh - The Saint Ignatius Wildcats earned their first victory on Saturday, defeating the Mount St. Joseph Gaels (MD) by a final score of 20-6. Impressive defensive play on both sides was the game’s story line, but ultimately the Wildcats came away with the win. Even before the opening kick-off from Byers Field, the Wildcats already had some adversity to overcome; starting quarterback, Joey Pfaff was ruled out for the game due to injury. However, thanks to some impressive rushing performances from Marty Lenehan and Joey Georges, the Wildcat offense tallied 20 and complemented a powerful defensive front.
The Week three-afternoon match-up at Byers Field got underway slowly. Great defensive stands highlighted the first quarter by both teams. The Wildcats and the Gaels had numerous punts and turnovers on downs in the opening quarter. Both teams started young quarterbacks, junior Pierce Spencer for the Wildcats and sophomore Winston Watkins for the Gaels. They struggled in the first quarter after facing a lot of pressure from the opposing defensive line.
On a third & three for the Gaels, the Wildcats were able to get heavy pressure on Watkins and forced an incomplete pass which forced a punt. The Wildcats came to life on the ensuing drive with 2:09 to go in the first, when Lenehan dashed out of the backfield for a 46-yard gain. The run set up a rushing touchdown, Lenehan’s fifth of the season, seconds into the second quarter. Senior defensive lineman Thomas Wasinski led the way as a full back and opened-up a hole for Lenehan.
"It was a lot of fun on offense, helping Marty punch it in," Wasinski says. "That was a great feeling and hoping we can continue that effort next week."
The second quarter of play was a lot of the same for both sides. The quarter was highlighted by two huge plays by the Wildcats defensive line. With 10:04 left in the first half, the Gaels attempted a fourth-down conversion but were thwarted by senior Joey Kause when he tackled Watkins after trying to run for the first down.
Later in the second, with 6:25 left, captain defensive lineman Peter Chalhoub came up with a massive sack on a second & nine with the Gaels driving into Wildcat territory. Both teams had a couple more drives in the first half, but both defenses continued to hold firm and Spencer would eventually take a knee to end the half.
Coming out of the half, the Wildcats received the kick-off and started to put a drive together before failing to convert on a fourth & four at the Gaels’ 32-yard line. The Gaels and Wildcats would continue to struggle on offense in the third quarter and there was little action on the gridiron until 7:32 left in the third. The Gaels had their punt blocked at their 23-yard line; the ball flew down to the Gaels 48-yard line before being downed. The man on the scene for the Wildcats was senior Jack Managan. Mangan has played exceptionally well this season and had another strong game on Saturday.
The next drive for the Wildcats was all Lenehan. The senior back ran for 31 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown run to cap off the drive. The extra-point was no good and it was 13-0 in favor of the Wildcats with 4:56 remaining in the ball game.
"It's all on the offensive line," says Lenehan. "They are opening up the holes for me and it is physicality too, staying tougher than the man in front of you."
After the kick-off by Zeb Eldrige, the Gaels took over on offense on their 20-yard line. The Gaels then put together an 80-yard touchdown drive as Watkins would begin to hit his stride and find his favorite target, Ronald Goodridge, downfield for several completions. The drive ended when Zion Williams snuck outside and got into the endzone for a touchdown. Senior Griffin Taliak blocked the following extra point to keep it a seven-point game.
The Wildcats would then receive the ball with 11:56 left to go in the fourth; they could not get the offense moving and were forced to punt the ball away to the Gaels. After starting their drive from the 15-yard line, Mount St. Joseph began to threaten as they put together a couple of first downs. However, as they did all game long, the Wildcat defense dug in and made a crucial third-down stop. Chalhoub flew into the pocket and hit Watkins as he threw, forcing an incomplete pass.
Taking over after the punt, the Wildcats were able to gain a couple of first downs thanks to Lenehan. As the Wildcats marched past midfield, a run up the middle caused Lenehan’s helmet to come off, which by rule means he had to exit the game for one play. Senior Joey Georges would sub in and line up off the left hip of Spencer. After taking the handoff, Georges dashed downfield for a 41-yard run to the Gael three-yard line. Then on the very next play, Georges would power into the endzone for a touchdown, his first touchdown as a Varsity Wildcat. Eldridge would then split the uprights on the extra point to make it 20-6.
On the next drive, the Wildcat defense would again make a stand, forcing a turnover-on-downs at the Gael 20-yard line. Then, the Cats took over with excellent field position and drove down inside the ten-yard line before a fumble after a miscommunication on a handoff cost the Wildcats the possession.
The Gaels would get the ball back at the ten-yard line with 1:42 left in the game. The Gaels were unable to move the ball upfield as the defensive line refused to give up positive yards, with Chalhoub and Wasinki both picked up a sack on the Gaels final possession before the clock hit zero at the end of the fourth quarter.
"The win was huge," Lenehan says. "We have a lot more in us and we'll carry that into next week."
The Wildcats won this game in the trenches. Both the offensive and defensive lines exhibited great performances on either side of the ball. On Saturday, the offensive line was terrific, paving the way for Lenehan and Georges to fuel the offense and put up impressive stat lines.
Lenehan rushed 28 times for 170-yards and continued to shine in the red zone with two touchdowns. Georges made the most of his opportunities as he had five carries and ran for 55 yards with a TD.
This match up was by no means an offensive explosion, but the Wildcats made several huge plays on both sides of the line and came away with their first win of the season. The Mount St. Joseph Gaels are now 1-1, and the Saint Ignatius Wildcats are now 1-2 on the season with the win. Next up for the Wildcats is a trip to the East Side to visit the Euclid Panthers. The kick-off is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, September 10.