PARMA, Oh - The Saint Ignatius Football Wildcats finally got the chance to defend their home turf at Byers Field in Parma on Saturday afternoon. From start to finish, the Wildcats dominated, coming out victors by a large margin. Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle '69 ends his career with a 17-1 record against the Panthers.
Saint Ignatius started on defense and quickly forced a Euclid three and out. The punt team came out. However, the snap sailed over the Euclid punter's head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 lead. The first forced safety by the Cats since last season, when it came against these Panthers.
Senior linebacker Max Palinski fielded a short kick on the ensuing kickoff and took it to the Panther 21-yard line for excellent field position. Palinski was lined up as the up-man and returned the kick for 34 yards. Unfortunately, a Wildcat interception followed and Euclid got the ball right back around midfield. Once again, the defense held up strong, forcing a fourth and 22 and a punt.
Saint Ignatius got the ball back at the 45-yard line and a Steven Favazzo 26-yard run on second down put the Cats in the red zone. Two plays later, Sean Martin scored his fourth touchdown of the year from 13 yards out, increasing the Wildcat lead to 9-0.
Euclid gained their first two positive yards on their next drive but still punted on fourth down. Favazzo went for 19 yards on the drive's first play, and Sophomore Grant Washington scampered for 26 on the next. Favazzo finished the drive off in the end zone on a four-yard run, putting his squad up 16-0.
Will Robinson got after the scrambling Daemari Robinson on first down before he completed his first pass on third and 16. Senior linebacker Ryan O'Donnell stopped the Euclid receiver before the first down marker and forced another Euclid punt.
The Wildcats first snap deflected off of the motioning tight end Patrick Mattimore and the Panthers recovered. The Wildcats, however, got the ball right back when a tipped pass fell into the waiting arms of junior defensive tackle Greg Hanson Jr.
On the first play of the drive and the last offensive play of the quarter, Washington got the handoff on a sweep and was not stopped as he pranced into the end zone on an 85-yard touchdown. "It was great; all my work paid off," Washington explains. "My offensive line helped me." The Wildcats were up 23 after the first quarter.
On their next drive, Washington and Martin would each pick up first downs and Martin had a 27-yard screen play to move into Panther territory. Ultimately, the Wildcats turned it over on downs when Josh Papesh was sacked on fourth down. Neither team scored in the second quarter and the teams headed to the locker rooms with Saint Ignatius up 23-0.
The Wildcats received the second-half kick-off and immediately returned to work via a Favazzo 27-yard run, breaking three tackles in the process. A holding penalty wiped out a touchdown and kicker James Collins came out to attempt a 34-yard field goal. He knocked it straight through, marking his first career varsity-made field goal.
The Cats' defense once again came up big and Euclid punted. At the Panther 41-yard line, Papesh connected with senior wide receiver Ryan Kennedy at the 34, who broke a tackle and won the foot race to the end zone to push the lead to 32.
Senior running back Michael Norman capped the game off with a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and the defense would stay strong to secure the first shutout since 2019.
The Wildcat defense would stifle the Panthers running attack all afternoon, as Euclid would finish the game with negative 19 yards on 16 attempts. The last time the defense dominated that significantly in the run game came in 2020 against Columbus Bishop Sycamore when the Cats' defense held the offense to negative four yards.
The running attack for Saint Ignatius was the standout on offense. As a team, the Wildcats rushed for 280 yards. Washington finished with 121 yards on five carried, scoring his first varsity touchdown. Favazzo came close to the century mark, rushing for 97 yards on nine carries, finding paydirt once, his third of the season.
Saint Ignatius will travel to Akron next weekend for a heavyweight scrap with Archbishop Hoban Knights at Dowed Field. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, September 16. Due to OHSAA regulations, the SIBN will have audio-only coverage.