CINCINNATI, Oh - The Football Cats traveled down to Cincinnati for Game eight of the 2021 season. The Wildcats entered the game with a 4-3 record to take on the 5-2 Archbishop Moeller Crusaders. The game featured an excellent performance from the Wildcat defense, who was tasked with slowing down a speedy and explosive Crusader offense. The game eventually went to overtime, where the Wildcats lost on a heartbreaking two-point conversion trick play that gave the Crusaders a 29-28 win.
The game began with the Wildcats on offense and the drive started strong with a first down pickup by Marty Lenehan. The offense would then fail to pick up the first and bring out the punt team.
Moeller wasted no time getting to work on offense. They picked up three first downs on three straight runs by Jordan Marshall. Marshall put the Crusaders in an excellent position to score as they marched right down into the red zone, where Noah Geselbracht threw a touchdown pass to Joshua Kattus.
The ensuing drive for the Wildcats was off to a good start when a forced fumble by the Crusaders resulted in a turnover and gave Moeller the ball back at the Wildcat 45-yard line. Operating with great field position, Moeller was able to work their way down the field. The Crusaders would eventually score on Marshall's 23-yard touchdown run, which increased the Moeller lead to 14 with 4:20 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcat offense, trying to get something going on their next drive, began to move the ball downfield. Facing a third and long, the Wildcats were helped out by a roughing the passer penalty on Moeller. A couple of plays later, quarterback Patrick Tompkins ran for what appeared to be a first down, but what ultimately marked short of the marker. Then, on the next play, a fourth and short, the offense got flagged for a delay of game. The flag forced the punt team to make their way onto the field. The punt was fumbled by Alec Weeder, the Moeller return man, but the Wildcats could not come up with the ball. The Crusaders ran one play before the first quarter came to a close.
The second quarter opened with a huge touchdown pass by Geselbracht, but it was called back by a holding penalty. A couple of plays later, Peter Chalhoub and Thomas Waskinski brought pressure and rushed Geselbracht's throw, causing an incompletion.
The Wildcat offense would again be forced to punt on their next drive as the offense continued to struggle. On the next drive for the Crusaders, the defense put together another three-and-out after Zeb Eldridge landed the punt inside the five-yard line and Chalhoub sacked Geselbracht on third down.
The Wildcat offense would be forced to punt once again, but the punt was fumbled again by Weeder and Joey Georges flew in for the recovery. The Cats took over at the Moeller four-yard line and on the first play, Lenehan pounded his way in for a touchdown. The score made it 14-7, with 5:46 left in the first half.
After the Lenehan touchdown, the Crusaders were led by Van George at quarterback in place of Geselbracht. Just a couple of plays into the drive, George threw a sky ball that A.J. Spellacy intercepted. The defensive takeaway did not amount to much on the offensive side of the ball, as Eldridge was brought on to punt once again.
Following the punt, the Crusaders were able to get out towards midfield before a series of penalties pushed them back to their 17-yard line. The Moeller punt and a penalty on the Cats pinned them deep inside their half of the field, where the offense couldn't move the chains. After another Eldridge punt, Geselbracht was picked off by Jack Mangan on a diving effort. Mangan's pick came with 41 seconds remaining in the first half, which effectively brought the second quarter to a close.
The second half began with a quick punt on a three-and-out by the Crusaders as the Wildcat defense continued their second-quarter dominance. The Wildcat offense then came onto the field with sophomore Josh Papesh under center. Papesh got right to work, with a screen pass to Sean Martin, one of his favorite JV weapons, and excellent completion downfield to Tompkins. A Lenehan touchdown run capped off the drive and the Eldridge PAT tied the game at 14-14.
As the third quarter began to wind down, the Wildcat defense made another stop, forcing the Crusaders to punt. The Wildcats took over on offense from their 32-yard line. The Cats failed to pick up the first down on a 3rd & 4, resulting in another punt by Eldridge.
The Wildcat defense bent but didn't break after surrendering a massive pickup from Geselbracht to Jared Merk on the next drive. Then on a 3rd & 14, Gavin Berger chased down Geselbracht and brought him down for the sack. Berger's sack pushed the Crusaders back out of field goal range and forced them to punt seconds into the fourth quarter. Following the punt, the Wildcats were pinned inside the five, giving the offense little room to operate as a big tackle for loss by Moeller forcing another punt.
The Wildcat defense saw a lot of time on the field on Saturday and made the most of it. After the punt, the defense forced a turnover-on-downs with tremendous pressure and downfield coverage. The Wildcats then took over on offense at their 38-yard line. The ensuing drive was extended by a great play as Papesh, under pressure, dumped it off to Lenehan, who was tripped up but was able to bear crawl his way past the first down marker.
Later in the drive, a late hit call on the Crusader defense gave the Cats a first down. Martin re-entered the game after the automatic first down and used his incredible speed to bring the Cats down inside the Moeller ten-yard line. Then, Lenehan charged past the goal line untouched as the offensive line paved the way on the next play. Lenehan's third touchdown gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 21-14.
The Crusaders were quick to answer with some points of their own. Moeller's high-powered offense finally gained an advantage over the Wildcat defense, as Geselbracht lobbed up a touchdown pass to Josiah Love to tie the game. The Wildcats got the ball back after the touchdown with 4:46 remaining in the game, but the offense could not move the chains and was forced to punt. Moeller's next drive was halted by Joe Norris, who picked off Geselbracht after winning the battle for the ball with Tennel Bryant.
On the next drive for the Wildcats, Papesh was intercepted after rolling out and throwing an ill-advised pass downfield. The Wildcat defense was right there to take a stand. They denied the Crusaders any positive yards forcing them to attempt a 46-yard field goal, which became a 51-yarder after a false start penalty. The extended field goal attempt by Moeller's kicker William Steele was no good as the kick fell well short of the uprights as time expired.
The Wildcats and the Crusaders then headed to overtime. The rules for overtime state that each team gets the ball from the opponent's 20-yard line with an opportunity to score. A two-point conversion must be attempted following the next touchdown if the score remains tied after two possessions each.
The Wildcats had the first opportunity to score in overtime. The first possession for the Wildcats was all Lenehan. The senior back rushed for all of the 20 yards and secured his fourth touchdown of the game from eight yards out. The Crusaders then had a chance to answer. Moeller opened their possession with a seven-yard rush by Bryant, followed by an 11-yard completion from Geselbracht to Kattus. Marshall then ran it in for a touchdown on a three-yard carry. However, instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game, the Crusaders elected to attempt a two-point conversion to try and win the game outright.
Moeller then ran a trick play, similar to the Philly Special run by Eagles in Super Bowl LII, and Geselbracht caught the ball and ran into the endzone to win the game, 29-28.
Papesh was 7-of-14 for 89 yards and one interception. Lenehan rushed for 90 yards on 21 attempts and four touchdowns. Tompkins had three receptions for 51 yards. Taliak led the team in tackles with eight. Mangan had seven tackles and one interception. Will Robinson also added six and a half tackles. Spellacy and Norris also had one interception each.
The Football Cats' loss to the Crusaders was the definition of heartbreak. The Wildcats battled back, scoring 21 unanswered points to take the lead, but were ultimately unable to come back to Ohio City with the win. The Wildcats fall back to the .500 mark at 4-4, heading into week nine of the season. Next up for the Cats is a matchup with Cincinnati St. Xavier. The #4 ranked Bombers beat La Salle this week to improve 7-1 on the year. These two Jesuit rivals square off at Pat Catan Stadium at Strongsville High School next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.