AUSTINTOWN, Oh - The Saint Ignatius Football Wildcats once again hit the road, this time making the trip to Youngstown, Ohio, for a game with Mahoning County powerhouse Austintown Fitch. In a back-and-forth, defensive affair, it took two overtimes to separate the teams and send the Wildcats back home searching for answers.
Saint Ignatius won the toss but deferred to begin the game. Fitch would pick up a few first downs early, including a 12-yard pass on third and 12. With the ball on the Wildcat 47, they tried to go for it on fourth down, but Patrick Cooney and Ryan Ardire combined to stop them short.
The Wildcat offense did essentially the same thing, with Junior Grant Washington moving the sticks a few times and then a bad snap on fourth and inches gave the ball back to the Falcons.
Fitch senior signal caller and starting safety Deshawn Vaughn got going on the second drive, completing his first two passes for 43 yards and getting the ball to the Saint Ignatius 19. A holding penalty and a Cooney sack made it third and 24 and Vaughn tried to force a pass down the sideline, which senior Max Woidke picked off for his second of the year.
In another deja vu situation, the Wildcats picked up a first down with Washington to end the quarter, but on the third play of the new frame, quarterback Josh Papesh threw an interception down the sideline to Dan Evans III.
After Evans moved the chains on a jet sweep, the Cat defense stepped up, forcing a fourth and six, where the Falcon punter Anthony Ruggles attempted a pass on a fake punt, but it was over the fingertips of Dominic Perry and the Cats took over.
Washington gained 20 yards on the drive’s first play, but it stalled after that, as two passes fell out of the reach of sophomore receiver Luke Simms, and the Cats punted.
Fitch finally got some offense going, as they were sparked by a 28-yard scramble by Vaughn, which flipped the field. Cooney got his second sack of the game on third and eight, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Greg Hanson Jr. gave the Falcons new life.
Vaughn connected with Perry for a gain of 18 and on the next play, Fitch sophomore Brady Evans wiggled open in the endzone and Vaughn spotted him and connected with him for the game’s first score.
The Wildcat offense could not get anything going on the two-minute drive and punted the ball to end the relatively uneventful first half.
The Fitch defense remained on their game to start the second half, forcing a quick three-and-out. Freshman Deon’Dray Richard picked up a falcon first down, but the home side ultimately punted it right back.
The offense picked up two first downs via penalties, a late hit on a Merimee catch and a neutral zone infraction on a fourth down hard count. Unfortunately, Papesh was sacked for 11 yards and the Cats couldn’t make up the yardage and punted.
After two quick plays for 15 yards total, Vaughn looked to take a shot down the seam, but Cooney got a hand to the ball and it landed right in the hands of Woidke at the Fitch 44 yard-line. Woidke took off up the numbers, cruising past tacklers and outracing Vaughn to the endzone for a pick-six, completely flipping the game on its head.
Fitch had lost some steam on offense after the pick and punted the ball to end the third frame. The Wildcat offense needed to make something happen; with the pressure of a team shutout gone, all they needed to do was score.
So Papesh looked toward his favorite targets in Merimee and Simms and they picked up three first downs, getting the ball to Fitch territory. Papesh moved the sticks with his legs and the next play, took a shot to his big 6’4 target, and Merimee hauled a pass in at the three yard-line, setting up a short Washington score and capping a 13 play 88 yard seven and a half minute drive.
That left just over four minutes for the Falcons to respond, and they did. Vaughn threw a laser to Perry, who hauled in for a 28-yard gain early in the drive and then a Sean Martin pass interference coupled with a Richard 15-yard screenplay moved them to the Wildcat seven. They used all four downs and all the time left on the clock to score the game-tying touchdown with Richard, meaning free football was on the way.
The Falcons got the ball first and on third down, Vaughn uncorked a laser that Pittsburgh commit, Pritchard, who made a toe-tap grab on and moved the chains. Vaughn worked his magic from there and scrambled inside the pylon for a score.
On the ensuing Wildcat possession, Simms made another clutch grab, getting the stick moved and the ball to the seven, where just one play later, Washington punched it in, meaning another overtime period.
The Cats started with possession in this frame and struggled to move the ball, as Papesh was sacked and kicker Tommy Kilbane had to come out to try a tough 39-yarder, which the wind got a hold of and pushed wide right.
Needing just a field goal, Fitch worked their way inside the ten, bringing Ruggles out for a 25-yard attempt, which he nailed, sealing the deal and dropping Saint Ignatius to 1-3.
Papesh finished the game going 9-of-19 and throwing for 116 yards. Merimee and Simms were the lone receivers for the Wildcats to haul in a pass as Merimee led the way with six catches for 78 yards and Simms had three for 38 yards.
Washington had the best game of his short varsity career, toting the rock 25 times for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
The Wildcat defense was phenomenal throughout despite the loss. Cooney collected a pair of sacks for his first on the season. The defense now has three interceptions on the season, all belonging to Woidke, after a two-interception and pick-six performance.
The Cats will host Archbishop Hoban (4-0) on Friday, September 15, at 7 p.m. from Euclid Community Stadium.