STOW, Oh - The Football Cats traveled down to Stow on Friday night to take on the Stow-Munroe Falls Bulldogs. These two programs had only met on one previous occasion back in the 1988 Regional Final; the Wildcats won 35-8. The Wildcats then went on to win their first-ever state championship against Cincinnati Princeton.
The Wildcats came in with a 7-4 record, and the Bulldogs entered with a 9-2 record after a successful regular season. Friday’s game was a group effort by the Wildcats in a game where five different players scored touchdowns that led to a 42-12 win over the Bulldogs.
The Wildcats got the ball to start the game after the Bulldogs won the toss and deferred. On the opening drive, Joey Pfaff wasted no time taking shots downfield. Pfaff tried two deep balls to Colin Vollmer and Max Muresan, neither was successful and the Wildcats were forced to punt.
The Bulldogs began their drive at their 28 after the punt by Zeb Eldridge. The Wildcat defense returned the favor; they forced a three and out to give the ball back their offense. The following two drives, one by the Wildcats and one by the Bulldogs, also resulted in a punt after each team could not pick up the first down.
The Wildcats finally began to come to life offensively just as the first quarter was winding down and as the second quarter began, the Cats were at the Stow five-yard line. Then, to cap off the 47-yard drive, Pfaff found Marty Lenehan on a wheel route for a touchdown. Eldridge then tacked on the extra point to secure a 7-0 lead for the Cats.
The next drive for Stow was halted once again by the Wildcats defense. On a fourth and two for Stow, they tried to run for the first down and the defensive line for the Cats held firm and forced a turnover on downs. The Saint Ignatius offense got the ball back at their 24-yard line.
The drive looked promising for the Cats. Pfaff connected on a deep ball, finding Patrick Tompkins downfield for a 44-yard gain to the Stow 20-yard line. Penalties and good defensive play by Stow forced the Wildcats to try a 47-yard field goal. Eldridge’s attempt was no good and the score remained 7-0 in favor of the Wildcats with 4:04 left in the first half.
The first half ended in an anticlimactic fashion as neither offense could move the ball at all. The Wildcat defense forced two more three and outs, with Stow forcing the Cats to punt with 1:25 left in the second quarter. The Wildcats had an opportunity to score on their final drive of the first half after Pfaff connected with Vollmer for a huge gain down the sideline. However, Vollmer never got out of bounds and the Cats did not have enough time to run another play and both teams headed to the locker room as the Wildcats led the game 7-0.
Stow received the kickoff to open the second half of action. The Wildcat defense was once again quick to force a three and out. After the ensuing punt, the Cats took over on offense at their 40-yard line. Coach Kyle’s offense had been struggling since early in the second quarter and needed a score. The offense did not disappoint; the Cats went down the field on a 60-yard drive. It culminated in a 35-yard Joey Georges touchdown run which gave the Wildcats a 14-0 lead with 8:50 left in the third quarter.
Coach Ryan Franzinger’s ’02 defense continued to dominate as they forced another Stow punt on the next drive. The punt by Stow placed the Wildcats at their 43-yard line to begin their drive. The offense continued to gain momentum on a 53-yard pass from Pfaff to Muresan. Muresan fought hard after the catch and was eventually tackled at the Stow four-yard line. Georges finished off the drive once again, this time on a four-yard touchdown run to give the Cats a 21-0 lead with 6:40 left to play in the third quarter.
Another punt by Stow on their next drive gave the Wildcat offense another chance to put points on the board. The Cats started their possession at the Stow 47-yard line. The drive lasted four plays as Pfaff delivered a perfect ball down the middle of the field into the hands of Vollmer for a touchdown. Pfaff’s second touchdown pass of the game gave Saint Ignatius a 28-0 lead with 4:21 left in the third quarter.
The Stow Bulldogs finally got on the scoreboard on their next drive. The Bulldog offense went 80 yards on seven plays for the score. On a fourth and seven, Stow quarterback Nate Boozer escaped pressure and found Brayden Gabele down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown. Sean Martin blocked the extra point attempt; the score was 28-6 in favor of the Wildcats.
The Bulldogs attempted an onside kick on the kickoff after the touchdown. Tompkins recovered the kick and the Cats got the ball on the Stow 48-yard line. The Wildcat offense then made their first mistake of the night as Pfaff threw an interception with 1:00 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs once again drove down the field to score on six plays for 53 yards. The drive ended on a Xavier Preston one-yard touchdown run up the middle. After the rushing touchdown, Stow tried a two-point conversion but failed to convert. The Wildcats’ lead was now 28-12.
Heading into the fourth quarter with a big lead was reminiscent of what happened to the Wildcats the week prior against Mentor. The Cats knew that they had to play a solid fourth quarter of football to secure the win. The fourth quarter began in a less-than-dramatic fashion after each team punted twice. Lenehan finally sparked the offense with a great punt return that placed Cats at the Stow 42-yard line. Georges continued his stellar performance with a 31-yard pickup that brought the offense down inside the red zone to the 11-yard line. A facemask penalty on the next play by Stow moved the Cats up to the five-yard line. Then, Martin got the Wildcats on the board once again with a five-yard touchdown run. The extra point after increased the lead to 35-12 with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter.
Even with a significant lead, the Wildcat defense continued its aggressiveness by forcing another punt by the Bulldogs. On the next offensive series for the Cats, sophomore Josh Papesh went in at quarterback. Running backs Steven Favazzo and Michael Norman propelled the Wildcats 55-yards down the field. Norman eventually ended the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run. Norman’s first touchdown as a Varsity Wildcat put Saint Ignatius up 42-12 with just over a minute left in the game.
Stow got the ball back and Boozer launched a deep ball that fell short of the intended receiver and was intercepted by Braeden Lair. The first takeaway of the game for the Cats officially clinched the win.
Pfaff was 13-of-26 for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Georges rushed eight times for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Muresan led all receivers with 90 yards on four catches. Vollmer had six receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. Tompkins also had one catch for 44 yards. Lenehan added two catches for five yards and a touchdown.
On defense, A.J. Spellacy led the Wildcat cats with nine total tackles for a loss of nine yards. Peter Chalhoub had six tackles and half a sack for a loss of six yards. Blase Mastrianni, Will Robinson and Chris Aerni each had five tackles. Tommy Wasinski added four tackles and a sack for a loss of eight and a half yards.
In one of the most dominating games the Football Cats have played all season long, they defeated the Stow Bulldogs 42-12. It was a true team win with numerous different Wildcats contributing. The offense scored 40+ points for the third time this season and it was the fifth time the defense has held an opponent to under 20 points.
The Men of Ohio City will don the blue and gold once more next Friday night as they take on the Medina Bees. A rematch of the 2020 Regional Semifinal. Kickoff set for 7 p.m. at a “to be determined” location. Follow @SIHSSports on Twitter for the official announcement when announced by the OHSAA.