PARMA, Oh - Saint Ignatius entered the contest with a 2-2 record and came into the game looking for a signature win against the 3-1 Archbishop Hoban Knights. The last time that these two programs met on the gridiron was when the Wildcats rallied from being down 35-10 to defeat the Knights. The Cats went on a 32-0 run to retake the lead and then were able to stop a two-point conversion to seal the win. The game was instantly a Saint Ignatius football classic and Saturday’s game followed suit and gave the Wildcat faithful one of the best finishes to a game in program history.
On a day where several other Wildcat athletic teams had competed well, the Football Cats did not want to disappoint their massive home crowd. The first quarter got underway as the Cats received the opening kickoff. The offense was able to move the chains once before eventually being forced to punt.
The Knights would take over at their 25-yard line after the punt and they wasted no time putting points on the board. The Knights drove down the field, methodically picking up yards on short runs and passes. That would change when star-running back Lamar Sperling would catch a screen pass on third down and run it 43-yards for a touchdown. Sperling accounted for 66 of the 75 yards on that drive for the Knights.
After receiving the ensuing kickoff, the Cats were looking to answer with some points of their own. The drive was propelled forward by huge chunk plays from seniors Marty Lenehan and Collin Vollmer but eventually stalled out after a fumbled snap forced a field goal try. Senior Zeb Eldridge would nail a 39-yarder to open the second quarter; however, the Cats would still trail the Knights 7-3.
Hoban’s first drive of the second quarter lasted two plays. The first was a false start penalty. The second was a fumbled snap off the helmet of Hoban quarterback Jayvion Crable, which was picked up and returned for a touchdown by senior defensive end Peter Chalhoub. This made it 10-7 Wildcats and was the first defensive score of the season.
The rest of the second quarter did not play out how either team would have liked. Penalties on offense plagued Hoban and the Wildcats were unable to convert on scoring opportunities. Then, at the end of the first half, Hoban put together a drive to get them into field goal range as Charlie Durkin drilled a 39-yarder to tie the game up 10-10.
The Knights received the second-half kickoff and opened up on offense playing entirely out of sync. Hoban committed several penalties that led to a 3rd & 19 situation. On the ensuing play, the Cats were able to pressure Crable and force him to throw an interception right into the hands of junior linebacker Max Palinski. Palinski returned the interception 20-yards for the defense’s second touchdown of the game to give the Wildcats a 17-10 lead.
Even though the defense had to head right back onto the field, they showed no signs of exhaustion. The Wildcat defense forced a quick three and out to get the ball back into the offense’s hands. After taking over with good field position, the Cats picked up a first down before Lenehan would break loose for a 30-yard touchdown run. Lenehan’s ninth touchdown of the campaign put Saint Ignatius up 24-10.
The Knights responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive. The Cats had a chance to end the drive early, but some missed tackles allowed Crable to find Rickey Williams downfield for a 48-yard pickup. The huge completion set up a Sperling four-yard touchdown run later in the drive.
Then just two plays into the next drive for the Cats, Pfaff was picked off over the middle by Caleb Kepler. Kepler had no one in front of him and returned it for a touchdown, which tied the game up once again.
To begin the fourth quarter, Pfaff would spark the offense with a 24-yard run. Following the run, both Pfaff and Joey Georges were able to use their legs to set up an Eldridge 48-yard field goal. The field goal put the Cats back on top 27-24 with 8:42 to play.
Sperling fueled the next drive for the Knights. The senior back helped push Hoban to the Wildcat 35-yard line. Durkin, who was two of three on field goals, made a 45-yard field goal to tie the game at 27 apiece with 5:41 left in the game.
After the field goal, the Football Cats needed a score. The Wildcats began to string together a drive and just after getting past midfield, Pfaff was intercepted by De’Vonta Baskerville to give Hoban the ball with 2:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Hoban took over at their 42, trying to get down into field goal range to close the game out. The Knights were able to reach the 28-yard line thanks to a big 15-yard pickup by Sperling. Then, with just two seconds remaining in the game, Hoban trotted out Durkin for a 45-yard game-winning attempt.
Before the snap, Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle ’69 would use his final timeout of the half to attempt to ice Durkin. Coming out of the huddle, the Wildcats had one hope to win the game, block the kick. As the hold was down on the field goal, senior safety Griffin Taliak came flying around the edge and leaped in front of the kick to block it; his third special teams block of the season.
Taliak deflected the kick right into the hands of senior Franklin Pike, who caught the ball in stride and was off to the races. Pike took off down the sideline and, in his own words, “I knew when I got the ball nobody was going to catch me,” and he was right. Pike arrived in the endzone with ten other Wildcats trailing him the whole way. The “Kick-Six” put the Wildcats ahead for good with a 33-27 final score.
“Looking down the sideline, while looking at the ball when I was lined up I saw the crowd in the background and I just knew this was it,” explains Taliak. “I ran as hard as I could.”
Lenehan rushed 15 times for 78 yards and a touchdown. Pfaff also added 37 yards on the ground, coming off of four carries. Vollmer had two catches for 30 yards. Tommy Wasinski had one sack and five tackles. Braedan Lair and Will Robinson led the team in tackles with nine and seven, respectively. Chalhoub, Palinski, and Pike all had defensive touchdowns.
The Wildcats defense came into the game with no defensive touchdowns on the season; they walked away from week five vs. Hoban with three touchdowns to win the game.
Saint Ignatius beat Hoban in walk-off fashion, ending an incredible game that will surely be a Wildcat football classic. Saturday’s win put the Wildcats on a three-game winning streak as they head into week six. Up Next for the Football Cats is a second straight home game where River Rouge (MI) will be coming into Byers Field. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. next Saturday