OHIO CITY, Oh - Saint Ignatius Football has released the schedule for the fall. The 112th Wildcat Football season will feature three new opponents and two games played on the campus of Saint Ignatius High School on Wasmer Field. The 2023 season will kick off on Friday, August 18, at 7 p.m., from Springfield Wildcat Stadium. This will be the second overall meeting between the two programs, as the 2022 match-up was canceled due to thunderstorms. Springfield is coming off back-to-back seasons as the OHSAA Division I Runner-Ups.
Week one of the high school football season will mark a new era of Wildcat Football as it will debut new Head Football Coach Ryan Franzinger ’02. Franzinger will enter his 17th season with the program as he joined the coaching staff in 2007 as the linebackers coach. Before taking the helm, Franzinger was named the Defensive Coordinator in 2016 and Associate Head Coach in 2022.
“I am very excited; there is no more talk or wondering at that point. You get to go out and coach,” explains Franzinger. “I think this is exciting for our guys, the season opener is your closest game throughout the offseason. For all the other games, you have a week to prepare; for this, you have months. This will be a quality first-week opponent.”
In Week Two, the Wildcats will travel to Jerome T. Osborne Stadium to take on the Mentor Cardinals in the 28th overall meeting between the two programs. Last season was an instant classic between Saint Ignatius and Mentor which went to triple overtime at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Wildcats would win 26-20 with a walk-off touchdown from Sean Martin. The Wildcats own a 15-12 overall series record against the Cardinals and will face them on Friday, August 25 at 7 p.m.
The home opener in 2023 will come in the heart of Ohio City when the Wildcats host Pittsburgh Central Catholic (PA) on Wasmer Field. This will be the first time these two storied programs have met on the gridiron. The Vikings are an admirable team out of Pittsburgh, where they play out of the WPIAL Class 6A Super Conference. They have won four Pennsylvania State Championships (1988, 2004, 2007 and 2015). This will be a Week Three match-up on Friday, September 1, at 7 p.m.
“This is a great and tradition-rich program. I am a bit surprised we have never played them. I think it’s a neat experience with a true home game on the day of the Mass of the Holy Spirit,” Franzinger says. “We can play the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry. They are a solid opponent to add to the schedule and we will be coming off two road games and it will be good for us.”
Saint Ignatius has played Austintown-Fitch three times in its program history, all coming in the state tournament (1990, 1992 and 2012). That 2012 meeting would mark a milestone for legendary football coach Chuck Kyle ’69, as that would be Kyle’s 300th career win. The Wildcats travel to Austintown Falcon Stadium for a Week Four contest on Friday, September 8 at 7 p.m. and this will mark the first regular season meeting between both programs, with the Wildcats holding a 2-1 record over the Falcons.
The Cats return home for Week Five when they host the OHSAA Division II Runner-ups in the Archbishop Hoban Knights. However, this will not be held at Byers Field in Parma. This contest will occur at Euclid Community Stadium at Euclid High School on Friday, September 15, at 7 p.m. This marks the seventh overall meeting between the two schools, both with three victories. Hoban won last year’s game 28-7.
Week Six features another first-time meeting between two programs as the Wildcats travel to Gallagher Stadium, where they will play the OHSAA Division II Champion Toledo Central Catholic Fighting Irish on Friday, September 22, at 7 p.m.
“Toledo Central Catholic is an athletic powerhouse and is coming off a super impressive State Championship over Hoban,” explains Franzinger. “We will hit the road for that game, but we are used to the travel. Our guys will be ready. There are a lot of good teams on the schedule this season.”
The first Saturday game of the 2023 season will come in Week Seven against the cross-town rivals in the OHSAA Division I State Champion St. Edward Eagles. The Eagles are coming off back-to-back State Titles and will host the Wildcats on Saturday, September 30, at 7 p.m. from First Federal Lakewood Stadium. This will be the 64th edition of the Wildcats and Eagles on the gridiron, with the Cats owning a 32-30-1 overall record. However, the Wildcats have yet to defeat St. Edward since 2018. The six-game streak from St. Edward is the second-largest winning streak between the two programs in the rivalry.
The Wildcats are back on the road for Week Eight when they travel to the Cincinnati area to play the Archbishop Moeller Crusaders on Saturday, October 7 at 4 p.m. Moeller is coming off back-to-back OHSAA Division I State Semifinal appearances; however, they will have a new head coach in Bert Bathiany as Mark Elder stepped down during the offseason. The venue is to be determined, but the Crusaders have hosted their home games at Norwood Shea Stadium at Norwood High School in recent years. This will be the 13th overall meeting between these two powerhouse programs, with the Wildcats owning an 8-4 record.
Byers Field has served as the home field for the Wildcats since 2001, but in the 2023 regular season will play host to just one Wildcat game that will come in Week Nine against the St. Xavier Bombers. The streak of playing at least one game inside Byers Field will extend to 32 years on Saturday, October 14, at 3 p.m. This will be the 31st overall meeting between the Jesuit Rivals, with both teams winning 15.
To round out the regular season, the Wildcats are back on the campus of Saint Ignatius High School when they host Canada North-Clarkson (ONT) in Week Ten on Friday, October 20, at 7 p.m. Last year’s contest was historic as it marked coach Kyle’s final regular season game with a 10-7 victory over North and was coined The Wasmer Game.
“It is extraordinary. The continuity of coach Kyle’s final regular season home game and my first regular season home game will come from Wasmer Field,” says Franzinger. “We asked the kids about playing on Wasmer and everyone loved it. I am thrilled that administration and security were open to allow us to play two home games to show off our campus in the heart of Ohio City.”
A takeaway from this season’s schedule that differs from years past is the number of Friday night games that will be played in 2023. Typically, the Wildcats would mainly play on Saturdays, with the only Friday night games coming on the road. There is a reason for this change for the Wildcats as coach Franzinger hopes to prepare the team for the playoff schedule as the tournament games happen on Friday nights.”
“I love playing on Friday nights. One of the big reasons is that it gets rid of the short week to prepare for the next game if we were to play on a Saturday,” explains Franzinger. “In the past, we used to have a home game and then the next week, we would travel to a team like Mentor; it would be a short week, which was difficult. That is why I like to have Friday games.”
The Saint Ignatius Broadcasting Network will broadcast each game of the football season with Eli Maistros ’24 and Patrick Laudolff ’24 on the call and will bring a free video stream of games unless Spectrum picks up a game. In that case, due to OHSAA regulations, the SIBN will be audio-only for those games.
The 2023 Football Media Guide will be released in early August. Weekly game notes previewing games will be published every Thursday during the high school football season and can be found on the Media Information page on ignatiuswildcats.com.