CINCINNATI, Oh - The Wildcats took a trip to Cincinnati to face off with their southern foes, the St. Xavier Bombers. With both teams needing a victory, this game came down to the final seconds, but in the end, it would be a wire-to-wire victory for the Wildcats.
The Wildcat offense took the field first with an attempt to have quarterback Joshua Papesh find his early rhythm. He did just that, driving the offense down the field but was faced with a fourth and one at the St. Xavier 17-yard line. He gave a handoff to Sean Martin, who bounced outside and got the Cats on the board early in the contest with 7:59 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Bombers tried to get their ground game, led by junior running back Steven Napier. Still, the combination of a Patrick Cooney sack and an illegal procedure penalty forced a punt. However, St. Xavier got the ball right back, as a hard hit caused Papesh to fumble and Bless Sparks took the ball back to Saint Ignatius' eight-yard line with 3:36 to go in the first.
The defense tried their hardest to prevent a score, making multiple good plays and forcing third down, but ultimately Napier punched in a touchdown from two yards out to knot it back up at seven with 2:25 to play in the first quarter.
The offense was unphased as Papesh came out firing, connecting on a 17-yard pass to Johnathan Merimee and then making an incredible throw for a 34-yard gain to Ryan Kennedy. On the second play of the second quarter from the 11-yard line, Papesh connected with Merimee, who made a man miss and walked into the end zone. The Cats regained the lead at 14-7 with 11:40 remaining in the first half.
"They were playing man-to-man and cover three defense, so the crossing routes confused them," explains Merimee. "Those routes opened up the game for our offense."
Again, Napier got most of the carries, but quarterback Chase Herbstreit made plays when he needed to. On third and seven in their territory, Herbstreit threw a screen to Napier, whom Max Palinski quickly met and another punt ensued.
Papesh got the ball back and continued to show out, hitting Kennedy on a third down and Merimee for a 32-yard gain. Martin and Sophomore Grant Washington traded carries in the Bomber territory, and Martin got his second score of the day from four yards out. The junior back increased the Wildcat advantage to 21-7 with 3:10 to go in the second quarter.
Down two scores, senior Robert Houston put his squad in a great spot, returning the kickoff to the Wildcat 30-yard line. Napier and Gage Patrick carried the ball to the Saint Ignatius eight. Patrick took the handoff and was barreling for the goal line, but Martin forced and recovered a fumble to give the ball back to the Cats.
With the ball at their own two, the Cats were willing to run the clock out and head to halftime. St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht used his timeouts, however, and with 10 seconds, the Wildcats faced a punt from their four-yard line and it was shanked, giving the Bombers the ball at the Wildcat nine-yard line.
The Bomber took immediate advantage of the mistake, as Herbstreit fooled the defense with a play fake and threw to an open Joey Wassler in the corner of the end zone to make it a one-score lead at the break.
The Bombers started the second half with the ball and a chance to tie the game up. They were tasked with a third and seven and Herbstreit's pass was broken up by a diving Brandon Webster. The Bombers once again punted.
Papesh continued his incredible day, picking up key first downs to Merimee and Martin. On third down deep in Bomber territory, Papesh threw to Webster, but great defense by Houston forced the field goal team on. Kilbane was perfect from 34 yards out and gave the Cats the 24-14 lead with 4:25 left to play in the third quarter.
St. Xavier finally found some offensive rhythm on their next drive, with Herbstreit making good plays, including a 31-yard hookup to Tyler Nicholson on fourth down. The offense got to the three-yard line, but a diving Martin tackle prevented a touchdown and the field goal team was out. Only a 20-yard kick, the attempt was missed wide and the Wildcats preserved their lead.
Again, the offense started in the shadow of their goalposts, but Papesh connected with Jordon Rodman to start the fourth quarter and gave them some breathing room. The offense stalled from there, as Collins was on to punt.
Patrick took over at running back, using his strength to get the Bombers down the field, and finished the important drive with a four-yard touchdown scamper, making the score 24-21 with 6:34 left.
St. Xavier had used all three timeouts in the third quarter and with time winding, the Wildcats ran eight straight run plays. This included a fourth and one quarterback sneak with Papesh to get a fresh set of downs to keep the clock moving. Coach Kyle used his timeouts effectively, leaving only three seconds for a miracle.
Herbstreit connected with Wassler, but his lateral attempt fell right into the hands of Palinski, ending the game and giving the Wildcats a critical road win heading into the final week as they improved to 5-3 on the year.
Papesh was in a rhythm all game as the junior signal caller would throw for 191 yards and a touchdown. "We wanted to get the throwing rhythm going and we did today," says Papesh. "Our running backs did what we needed them to do on the ground and we started clicking through the air."
The final week of the regular season is here and the highly anticipated Wasmer Field Game is upon us. For the first and only time, a varsity football game will be played on the campus of Saint Ignatius High School in Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle's '69 final regular season game. The Wildcats host Clarkson Football-North (ONT) and kick-off is at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 21.