BALTIMORE, Md - On Saturday, the Saint Ignatius Football Wildcats took to the road for an out-of-state matchup with the Mount St. Joseph Gaels (MD). With Baltimore, Maryland setting the stage, the Wildcats and the Gaels battled it out in a crazy back-and-forth affair at John M. Plevyak Field.
The Wildcats received the ball first and before the first play from scrimmage; Mount St. Joseph called a timeout. Ultimately, Saint Ignatius went three and out, having to punt to the Gaels. James Collins' punt was tipped and the ball scuttled out of bounds at the Wildcat 35.
The defense stepped up and the Gaels were forced to punt; however, the Gaels recovered a muffed punt by the Wildcats, putting the ball on the six-yard line.
Zion Williams punched it in and gave his side the early touchdown advantage. They quickly regained possession when a handoff by the Cats was botched and the ball was recovered around the 35-yard line. They marched down the field and Winston Watkins connected with Trey Goodridge in the end zone to put the Gaels up 14.
Penalties hurt the Gaels on the next drive, as pass interference and two unsportsmanlike conducts set Steven Favazzo up for a four-yard scamper and his first varsity touchdown for the Wildcats.
On the first play of the second quarter, Williams broke a tackle and sped away to gain 73 yards before Sean Martin could hawk him down. The Wildcat defense stood tall after the touchdown-saving tackle by Martin and forced a turnover on downs after a third-down Ed Soeder sack and a Martin pass breakup.
The teams traded punts, leaving the Cats with 50 yards and 34 seconds to put points on the board. Quarterback Joshua Papesh made some crafty throws, but a potential touchdown to Charlie Dunstan was called back due to an illegal forward pass. With seconds remaining in the first half, the Cats sent out the field goal unit for a 45-yard kick. Collins had the leg but missed the kick just to the left and the score would remain 14-7 in favor of the Gaels.
Mount St. Joseph received the second-half kick but quickly punted. On the drive's first play, Favazzo broke free down the sideline and tied the game up at 14. The 50-yard run was Favazzo’s second score of the contest.
"Out of the locker room, our goal was to come out and punch the ball down their throats," Favazzo says. "We knew this was our game; we took the win last year. This year we drove six hours out here and we weren't going out with a loss."
When the Gaels got the ball back, they were moving quickly. Will Robinson, the Holy Cross commit, put an end to that when he sacked Watkins on third down.
After being stopped on third down, the Wildcats brought Collins on to punt, and Mount St. Joseph got too aggressive and committed a roughing the kicker, meaning a new set of downs. Saint Ignatius methodically worked the ball down the field to the 23-yard line and on fourth down, Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle '69 pulled a trick out of his sleeve.
Papesh handed off to Martin, who flipped the ball to Senior receiver Brady Haddad, who threw to a wide-open Jonathan Merimee in the end zone to give the Cats the lead.
"I don't even know what was going on through my head; I knew that I was getting the ball and had to throw it," explains Haddad. "I knew Mermiee was down there somewhere and he caught it for the game-winning touchdown."
Through most of the fourth quarter, both teams struggled to move the ball and the punt teams made regular appearances. With time winding down, Collins unleashed a booming punt that Max Ritt saved from going out of the end zone via a Superman-esque dive.
The ball was placed at the one-yard line and the Gaels had to go 99 yards to tie the game.
On the drive's first play, Watkins connected on a 49-yard bomb to Avery Jones, who made an incredible catch near the sideline. Once again, the defense stepped up and forced a turnover on downs.
The Gaels would get one more shot to win, but Brandon Webster’s fourth-down pass breakup would give the ball back to the Cats and Papesh and company lined up in victory formation.
Favazzo toted the rock 13 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Cats in rushing. Papesh went 12-of-18 for 97 yards. Robinson was a force on the defense, collecting three sacks, the most by a Wildcat defender in a single game since the 2016 season.
The Wildcats improve to a record of 2-0, the best start for the Cats since the 2017 season. The Wildcats head home to take on the 0-3 Euclid Panthers on Saturday at 2 p.m. from Byers Field in Parma.