EUCLID, Oh - Back on the road, the Wildcats traveled to Euclid High School on Friday night to take on the Panthers. These two programs have an extensive history dating back to the 1980s, including the first-ever nationally televised high school football game in 1989. After winning their first game against Mount Saint Joseph (MD), the Wildcats came into the match-up looking to win back-to-back games and get to the .500 mark for the first time this season.
In the first quarter, both defenses forced punts on the first two drives. Then, starting at their four-yard line, Euclid got on the board first. Panthers quarterback Deonte Rucker threw a short pass to wide receiver Jakobi Laster for a 96-yard touchdown with 7:15 left in the first.
Later in the quarter, the Panthers would fall victim to a defensive takeaway by the Cats. Forcing a fumble, Joe Norris, the senior safety/cornerback, gave the Cats’ offense excellent field position to start their drive. The Wildcats would drive down the field and eventually capitalized on the Panthers’ mistake as senior Marty Lenehan rushed into the endzone from five yards out to even the score at 7-7.
Early in the second quarter, Braeden Lair came up with a huge defensive stop, chasing Rucker out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage. Following the punt, the Wildcats took over at their 13-yard line. Then, senior quarterback Joey Pfaff found wide receivers Collin Vollmer and Ryan Kennedy for several catches downfield to move the Cats past the 50-yard line. Later on in that drive, facing a 4th & 1 at the 35-yard line, Lenehan exploded out of the backfield and ran it for a touchdown, his eighth of the season.
On Euclid’s next drive, senior Peter Chalboub came up with a huge third-down tackle for loss to force a Euclid punt, which was blocked then recovered by Norris. Following the blocked punt, the Wildcats again took over with good field position and they took advantage.
Pfaff wasted no time airing it out and finding senior Patrick Tompkins in the endzone to put the Cats up 21-7. Euclid would fumble at their 20-yard line and junior linebacker Patrick Martin recovered the ball on the ensuing kickoff. Martin’s fumble recovery set up another Pfaff touchdown pass, dropping it right in over the defender. Tompkins caught his second touchdown of the night, which gave the Wildcats a 28-7 lead heading into halftime.
In the first five minutes of the second half, the Wildcats and the Panthers punted several times before the Cats could break through. With 7:53 remaining in the third, Wildcat senior safety Griffin Taliak used his speed to block and recover the punt. Then, on the second play of the next drive, Pfaff was able to roll out to his left and launch the ball downfield, right into the hands of Tompkins for his third touchdown catch of the night.
After the Tompkins touchdown, Euclid would start on offense at the 20-yard line. The Panthers’ drive would go for negative six yards as the defense was right there to force another Euclid punt. This time, a bad snap caused punter Aidan Turos to, in an attempt to stop the Wildcats from scoring a touchdown with the excellent field position, kicked the ball out of the back of his endzone for a safety, making the score 37-7 Saint Ignatius.
After the Euclid safety, the kickoff was returned to the 40-yard line, giving the Wildcats excellent field position. Then, Joey Georges would rush to the outside and race up the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown on second and seven. Georges’ second touchdown of the season and the following extra point by senior Zeb Eldridge, who was a perfect six for six on extra points, gave the Cats a 44-7.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Panthers were already facing a third and long and the Wildcat defense made sure that they did not get the first down forcing a turnover on downs as Euclid elected to go for it on fourth down.
The offense was able to get down inside the 15-yard line on the Wildcats’ next drive before failing to execute a fourth-down conversion. After taking over on downs, the Panthers would drive up the field for nearly the remainder of the fourth quarter. The running clock was on because the Wildcats had opened up a 30 point or more lead and the time ticked away quickly.
The final drive was highlighted by second and third-string Wildcats entering the game and driving Billups back behind the line of scrimmage for a considerable loss of yardage. Euclid would eventually get down inside the red zone and Billups would rush in for a three-yard touchdown.
Then, with only a handful of seconds left on the clock, sophomore quarterback Josh Papesh and the Wildcats lined up in victory formation as Papesh would take a knee, officially securing the win.
Pfaff was 11-of-20 for 148 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Once again, the running game was strong as Lenehan rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Georges would add 38 yards on two carries and one touchdown. Tompkins, the SIBN player of the Game, was the leading receiver for the Cats; the senior caught five passes for 91 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, Tommy Wasinski, Griffin Taliak and Blase Mastrianni each had a sack. Peter Chalhoub and Chris Aerni led the way in tackles with three.
Saint Ignatius defeated Euclid by a final score of 44-14 after getting contributions from all over the stat sheet. The 44 point mark was the highest point total of the season. With the win, the Football Cats improved their record to 2-2 on the season after winning back-to-back games. Coach Chuck Kyle ’69 and Wildcats now set their sights on the 3-1 Archbishop Hoban Knights, the 2020 Division II State Champions. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. next Saturday at Byers Field in Parma.