SPRINGFIELD, Oh - The Wildcats of Saint Ignatius packed up for a three-hour ride south to Springfield, Ohio, to kick off their 2023 campaign. Waiting was the two-time Division I State Runner-up, the Wildcats of Springfield. It was a game of firsts for the Blue and Gold, as it was Head Football Coach Ryan Franzinger’s ’02 first game at the helm and the first varsity appearance for most of the Wildcat team. Despite a valiant fight, the Cats return to Cleveland searching for answers.
Saint Ignatius deferred for the second half and senior kicker Tommy Kilbane got the season underway. Springfield got their offense moving with running back Jayvin “Bay Bay” Norman moving the chains multiple times. A combined sack from seniors Ryan Ardire and Greg Hanson Jr. set up a third and 17 for Springfield, but a blown coverage allowed Duncan Bradley III to get 51 yards to convert. A couple of plays later, junior quarterback Brent Upshaw found Jamil Miller to open the scoring.
The visitor offense quickly went three and out and Kilbane punted the ball right back. After two short gains, Upshaw tried to roll out on third down, but sophomore defensive end Ryan Taylor dropped him for a loss. The offense stayed on the field and converted after a spectacular catch from Da’Shawn Martin moved the chains.
A neutral zone infraction followed and on the next play, Bradley caught a slant pass and took it to the house untouched to increase the Springfield lead to 14-0.
Again, the Saint Ignatius offense went three and out and Kilbane punted it back. Springfield also couldn’t pick up a new set of downs and gave it right back.
Saint Ignatius finally moved the sticks when junior tailback Grant Washington muscled his way through the defense for a double-digit gain. Max Ritt got the Cats near the first down marker, but the field goal unit came out and Kilbane hooked his kick to the left, keeping the visitors off the scoreboard.
The teams traded three-and-outs and punts before Saint Ignatius could score before the half. A couple of good runs set up Kilbane from 32 yards out, where he connected, making the score 14-3 heading into the break.
Saint Ignatius got the ball to start the second half and picked a few first downs through the run game. Penalties and negative plays set up a third and 22 and senior quarterback Josh Papesh tried to force a ball to sophomore Luke Simms, but linebacker Kyron Dolby picked it off.
After a short bubble screen and 5-yard completion, the Wildcats of Springfield were set up with a third and medium, where Bradley wiggled free again, picking up more than 30 yards and making it first and goal.
Saint Ignatius held firm and forced a fourth down from the four-yard line, but Upshaw evaded the pressure and flipped the ball to a wide-open Bradley in the end zone, making it a three-score contest with 7:49 left to play in the third quarter. Springfield’s PAT was no good and the score remained 20-3.
Ritt took over as the primary back on the next drive, making nifty runs to pick up chunk gains and spark some momentum into the game. On a second and eleven, the air attack finally came alive when Papesh chucked a pass that senior captain Jonathan Merimee hauled inside the 20-yard line.
After a false start penalty, on third and long, Papesh tried to roll out and got battered, losing the ball out of bounds and getting banged up. Junior Quinn Woidke came into the game on the ensuing fourth down and couldn’t make anything out of a fourth and fifteen giving the ball back to Springfield.
On the third play of their drive, Springfield caught a bit of luck as Upshaw’s pass into the flat sailed over the head of his intended target Norman and directly into the hands of Martin, who went untouched 71 yards into the endzone, making the score 27-3 with 3:06 left to play in the third.
The offense finally found some steam with a balanced attack from Woidke and Washington that got the offense to the Springfield two. Woidke punched it in on a quarterback sneak, marking the first touchdown of the year for the Cats with four seconds left in the third. The offense stayed out for the two-point conversion, which they would pick up via some Woidke magic running around in the pocket and finding Simms in the back corner to make the score 27-11.
The fourth quarter was a defensive stalemate, as most saw the home side running the clock out with Norman and Deontre Long. A highlight was senior cornerback Max Woidke intercepting an errant Upshaw throw and returning it to Springfield territory. Springfield also recorded a fourth-quarter interception from Quinn Woidke and forced and recovered a fumble.
Papesh would finish 6-of-15, throwing for 64 yards and an interception. Woidke, primarily used as a runner, would attempt five passes, completing one for 12 yards and recording a rushing touchdown with four attempts and 13 yards. Washington was the workhorse for the offense, totaling 22 carriers for 84 yards.
Linebacker Nick Rivera had a solid varsity debut, totaling six tackles. Senior Ryan Roche had a busy night in the secondary and led the Wildcat defense with eight tackles. Jayshon Thomas, Aridre, Hanson and Taylor were the Wildcats to record a sack.
The Wildcats look to use week one as a learning process as they will have another tough match-up next Friday night when they travel to Mentor to take on the Cardinals from Jerome T. Osborne Sr. Stadium.