CLEVELAND, Oh - The 2022 Saint Ignatius Football Wildcats finally got to take the field for legendary Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle's '69 final season at the helm. They would be taking on bitter rivals, the Mentor Cardinals, at First Energy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns, to add extra stakes. It turned out to be a wild ride in downtown Cleveland as it took three overtime periods to settle this contest.
The Wildcats received the opening kickoff, and junior quarterback Josh Papesh promptly marched 70 yards down the field, highlighted by a 24-yard Brandon Webster reception. Junior Sean Martin punched it in on a screen pass that took 19-yards to give the Wildcats the early advantage.
The Cats forced a punt and immediately struck again when Papesh hit junior Jonathan Merimee down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown. Safety Ben Taliak capped off the dominating quarter with an interception.
To start the second quarter, Mentor was driving and eventually took a shot down the field, which was caught by Jordan Stapleton and looked like an easy walk-in touchdown. Then, out of nowhere came sophomore Cody Haddad who punched the ball out on the goal line and Webster recovered it. After a three and out from the Wildcats, Mentor would go on a 6:08 drive, capped off by a Mitchell Waite 1-yard touchdown run. Saint Ignatius could not score before the half, bringing a 14-7 lead into the half.
The Cats drove into Mentor territory on their first drive of the third quarter, but a red zone turnover killed the momentum as Papesh was picked off on a pass in the endzone targeted to Webster.
Senior defensive lineman Patrick Martin had a huge sack to force a Mentor punt that Charlie Dunstan would take to the house, but his big return would be brought back because of holding penalties.
On the Wildcats' following possession, a Papesh screen pass would get intercepted by Mentor's defensive lineman Andrew Fedor and he would return it to inside the five, where they would score soon after, tying the game at 14 when Scotty Fox found Henry Schenk for a four-yard touchdown.
Both teams would trade punts as the game seemed to slow down. Mentor would rip off multiple significant plays on their next drive and finished on a 20-yard strike to Stapleton from Fox, but would miss the extra point.
The Wildcats would once again punt and the Cardinals would run the clock down to 3:28 but Martin was able to intercept a Fox pass and gave the Wildcats good field position and a chance to score.
"I knew I had to make a play," says Martin. "We needed a big stop and we got it."
Charlie Dunstan unloaded a long reception on a screen pass and Martin again scored, this time from 10 yards. Mentor would block the extra point, however, meaning that the game was tied heading into overtime.
Mentor would march down the field and get to the Wildcat 35-yard line. The Saint Ignatius defense would tighten up, forcing the Cardinals to go for it on fourth down. Fox's pass would be deflected by Eugene Gibbons, giving the ball back to the Wildcats with 22 seconds. As time expired, Papesh through a Hail Mary that would deflect into the hands of Ryan Kennedy. Kennedy was just three yards short of the endzone on the 54-yard connection and both teams would head into overtime.
In the first overtime, the Wildcats were on defense, completely shutting down the Cardinals and forcing a turnover on downs. The Cats needed a field goal to win, but James Collins' 49-yard attempt was blocked at the line, which meant more football was in store.
Saint Ignatius started with the ball in the second overtime and, on the first play, would turn the ball over on a fumble, meaning all Mentor needed to do was score. After gaining eight yards on their first three plays, Mentor would trot out the kicking team to try to win the game. However, Will Robinson was able to block the kick, and we were heading to the third overtime.
Mentor's third overtime drive did not go as planned as they faced a third and 23 after a Garret Butchko sack. Fox threw a desperation heave and Webster was able to intercept it, giving the Wildcats the ball.
On the drive's first play, Martin would receive the handoff and scamper untouched to the end zone for his third touchdown to give the Wildcats the win and finally end this thriller.
"At the end of the day, it is believing in our coaching staff's play calling," Martin says. "We had to win, no matter what."
Papesh would finish the game throwing 12-of-18 for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Martin would tote the rock five times for 35 yards and two touchdowns; he would also add a receiving touchdown.
The defense was phenomenal, forcing four turnovers in the three overtime victory. Interceptions come from Taliak, Webster and Martin and a fumble recovery from Webster.
The Wildcats win their first game of the season after week one was cancelled due to weather and the Cardinals fall to 1-1 on the season. Next up for Saint Ignatius is a road trip to Baltimore, Maryland, as they'll take on Mount St. Joseph (MD) at 1 p.m. from John M. Plevyak Field.