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The Battle Tested Wildcats Host a Familiar Foe

By Joe Mertens '15, 10/29/21, 12:45PM EDT


The Football Cats host the Mentor Cardinals in the opening round of the OHSAA Playoffs.

OHIO CITY, Oh - “We’re trying to get to Monday’s practice.” That is what Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle ‘69 told his team in this week of practice preparing for the Mentor Cardinals in the opening round of the OHSAA Playoffs. The Wildcats finished sixth in the region with a 6-4 record in the regular season, with some of their highlight wins coming against Archbishop Hoban and St. Xavier. The Wildcats will host Mentor at Byers Field as this will be the fifth time that both programs will meet twice in a season. The team to win in the regular season has gone on to lose in the playoff meeting in the previous four meetings in the playoffs. The Wildcats will seek to continue that trend after losing to Mentor in week 2, 28-26.

The Wildcats are battle-tested, having gone through their toughest strength of schedule in program history and hoping they can take what they have learned from this season and apply it on the field. “When playing a schedule like this, you get used to playing with a high level of intensity and we are playing very intense football right now,” says Kyle. “Our kids go out there and play extremely hard and we hope that translates as a positive heading into the playoffs.”


This is a familiar foe for the Wildcats as they take on the Mentor Cardinals, which they saw on August 27 of this year at Jerome T. Osborne Stadium in Mentor. The Cats fell close to the Cardinals but are looking to right their wrongs in the playoffs. “It’s been several games since we have played them and teams evolve throughout the season,” explains Kyle. “You get to know a team very well after so many years in a row of playing them; we know their philosophy and they know ours.” Saint Ignatius will be led by Joey Pfaff, who was rested in the final regular-season game vs. Football North-Clarkson (ONT).

Joshua Papesh took the starting snaps, going 6-of-13 and passing for 131 yards and three touchdowns. Edward Musbach hauled in two touchdown throws and Colin Vollmer caught the other on a 34-yard touchdown pass. Coach Kyle has been looking for that quick-strike play from his offense all season long and it appears they have found a rhythm with the passing game just in time for the playoffs. With Pfaff back under center, look for the targets to fellow seniors Vollmer, Patrick Tompkins and Max Muresan. Heading into Friday’s night match-up, it appears that rain will play a factor in Parma, which may play to the advantage for the Wildcats.

Marty Lenehan rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Lenehan is a bruising running back who does not go down on the first hit and may benefit from the poor weather expected on Friday night.

The Wildcats must account for Brenan Vernon on the defensive line. The Notre Dame commit can wreak havoc on an offense and the offensive line for the Cats must be prepared for the challenge. On pass plays, Pfaff must account for Caleb Pohto and Dean Dudas in the secondary as both came away with interceptions in the week two match-up.


“They went through an injury situation similar to us this season at key positions,” Kyle says. “They tried and handled it the best they could and they are getting guys back so they are healthy and we are healthy, so it comes down to how both teams will evolve getting players back.” Mentor quarterback Jacob Snow broke his thumb on his throwing hand during their match-up vs. St. Edward. There was concern that Snow may miss nearly the rest of the regular season but worked to get back and returned against Medina. With back-to-back wins vs. Strongsville and Euclid, Mentor’s junior quarterback and the Cardinal offense appear to be hitting their stride.

Mic'd Up With the Wildcats

In the first go-round, Snow played a terrific game against the Wildcats as he was 14-of-21 throwing for 245 yards and three touchdowns in Mentor’s win. His favorite target is Michael Norwood and that was evident in week two. Norwood had six receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. It will be interesting to see how the Mentor pass game will be affected with rain in the forecast.

For the Wildcats, it appears they will gain back Franklin Pike in the secondary after missing the last three weeks due to injury. For the first time this season, the secondary will be at full strength with Pike, Brandon Webster, Joe Norris, Jack Mangan, AJ Spellacy and Griffin Taliak. The vast amount of talent in the secondary will be key heading into the playoffs for the Wildcats.

“These are two outstanding teams going at it right away; this first game of the playoffs is going to be similar to a Regional Semifinal,” explains Kyle. “On Monday, I asked the kids what our record was, and it’s 0-0, this is a new season and we’re hoping all of our experiences shift into a great effort.”


Mentor won the special teams game in the first match-up of 2021 and it was a game to remember for Evan Harper. In the fourth quarter, Harper had a 98-yard kick-off return touchdown to give Mentor a 28-19 lead with under five minutes to play. Harper not only totaled 111 return yards, but

he also put up 102 receiving yards on four catches. Harper had 213 all-purpose yards with three touchdowns in the win. With an injury in the backfield to Brenden Panhorst, Harper shares the carries with Mitchell Waite. Harper will look to be a force again with the offense and special teams game.

Edwin Abiakl and Charlie Dunstan had success in the return game last week against Football North-Clarkson. Combined, the two returners had 102 yards on three kick-off returns. Dunstan had four punt returns for 69 yards, putting the Wildcats offense deep into Football North territory.

Zeb Eldridge has had a tremendous season for the special teams unit and ensuring the Wildcats win the field position game. In the first match-up vs. Mentor, Eldridge had three punts that averaged 39.7 yards, with one punt pinning the Cardinals inside the 20. Eldridge was 2-of-2 on field goal kicks, with the longest coming from 37-yards out.

The Wildcats will look for a round one victory over the Mentor Cardinals at Byers Field on Friday night, with the kick-off coming at 7:07 p.m. Due to OHSAA regulations, the SIBN will have audio-only coverage. Spectrum 1 will have live TV coverage. The winner will take on the winner of Stow/Glen Oak in the Regional Quarterfinal next Friday night.