OHIO CITY, Oh - For the first time in the series between the Saint Ignatius Wildcats (3-8) and the Mentor Cardinals (7-4), the regular season winner went on to win the postseason game as the Wildcats came away with a gritty 10-7 victory in the First Round of the OHSAA Tournament at Jerome T. Osborne Sr. Stadium. This would be the lowest-scoring contest in the 29 overall meetings between the Cats and Cardinals.
“Beating a team twice in a season is tough,” says Head Football Coach Ryan Franzinger ’02. “We went out on the road, played them in the comfort of their place and to hold that team to 21 total points in two games makes me proud of this team.”
For a fourth consecutive season, the Wildcats will appear in the OHSAA Regional Quarterfinal when they take on the Canton McKinley Bulldogs (8-3) and this will be the first time since 2013 that Saint Ignatius will play McKinley in a seasonal game, as this match-up is a renewed rivalry, bringing back memories of the battles these two programs had in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“I love playing in Canton and I love this match-up. This is a great classic rivalry,” explains Franzinger. “I told the guys, you don’t know this, but they are a rival. We saw them multiple times in the playoffs in the 90s and they are a tremendous program and I am excited to play them again.”
From 1996 to 1998, the Wildcats and Bulldogs met in the State Semifinal and the winner hoisted the State Championship. Saint Ignatius won in 1996, but McKinley won back-to-back in 1997 and 1998.
The 1998 match-up was one of the anticipated rematches after the Wildcats won the week seven game 31-21. The Wildcats and Bulldogs came into the game as the top-10-ranked teams in the country. Over 22,000 fans filled the Akron Rubber Bowl for the 1998 State Semifinal contest.
There were 12 Division I players on the Bulldogs; four went on to play in the NFL: Antonio Hall (Indianapolis Colts), Michael Doss (Colts), Kenny Peterson (Green Bay Packers) and Jamar Martin (Dallas Cowboys).
Future NFL quarterback Dave Ragone ’98 and All-Pro lineman LeCharles Bentley ’98 led the Wildcats. The Bulldogs won 31-24 and claimed their second consecutive State Championship under legendary Stark County coach Thom McDaniels.
These two teams have met in the annual Jamboree game over the last decade to begin the season as the Wildcats and Bulldogs play a preseason game before the kick-off to the regular season. This season, the Wildcats won 20-19 as Peyton Frontino hit Gus Magner on a game-winning touchdown.
SAINT IGNATIUS OFFENSE VS. MCKINLEY DEFENSE
It took patience, but the ground game has come to life for a dormant Wildcat offense. Credit goes to offensive line coach LeCharles Bentley, who continuously worked with a young core of offensive linemen.
A showcase on the offensive front is sophomore right tackle Will Conroy, who seems to receive a new Power-Five offer each week as he’s earned offers from Oregon, Michigan State, Kentucky, Virginia Tech and UCF.
The line has opened the door for the tailbacks and Grant Washington has profited. The junior has gone over the century mark in back-to-back games and last week rushed for 107 yards in the 10-7 win.
“We have to be able to run the ball successfully,” Franzinger says. “I don’t know if [Max] Ritt will be ready; he will be a game-time decision. But the run game is our bread and butter and the offensive line is gelling.”
Washington will look to become the first Wildcat rusher to go over 100 yards for a third consecutive week since Marty Lenehan ’22 did it in the 2020 season. If Ritt cannot go on Friday night, expect another heavy workload for Washington.
McKinley knows how to limit the ground game. This season, they have limited their opponents to 107.2 yards per game on the ground. Shaukeer Hatcher is the leader of the Bulldogs defense out of his linebacker position.
Hatcher has 104 tackles on the season, 17 for a loss and has three sacks. The linebacker also has three interceptions on the season.
K’Vuone McNeal and Braylon Minor lead the Pups’ defensive line. McNeal has 31 tackles this season and 8.5 sacks, which is first on the Bulldogs defense. Minor is second on the team with 5.5 sacks.
Keith Quincy is an impact player on both sides of the football. In the secondary, Quincy has five interceptions on the season, including a 62-yard pick-six against Strongsville a week ago.
SAINT IGNATIUS DEFENSE VS. MCKINLEY OFFENSE
The Wildcat defense kept the Mentor offense off the board for 43 minutes of gameplay. Mentor’s lone score came with 4:53 remaining in the contest when Scotty Fox found Van Huss for 46 yards for a touchdown.
Mentor would rack up 298 yards of offense in last week’s game, but the Wildcat defense would strengthen when needed to keep Mentor from scoring.
Max Woidke had himself a night to remember. Not only did he have four pass breakups, but he would block Mentor’s Dylan Tackett twice. In the third quarter, Woidke would block Tackett’s 26-yard attempt and on the following drive, the Wildcats would connect on a 17-yard score from Josh Papesh to Cody Haddad to increase the lead 10-0.
With seven seconds on the clock, Mentor trotted out their field goal unit to attempt a 33-yard game-tying kick. Woidke sped across the line of scrimmage and got a piece of the football to secure a 10-7 victory.
“Max has been unbelievable; I think he would be our Defensive MVP if we had that award,” says Franzinger. “McKinley has several weapons, but they have a dual-threat quarterback that can take off. We have to be ready for the challenge.”
The Bulldogs quarterback is senior signal caller Keaton Rode. Rode has been the solidified start all season long for the Pups and has thrown for 1,934 yards and 15 touchdowns. Strongsville was able to limit Rode to just 135 yards through the air, but Rode struck for two touchdowns in the win. He can hurt defenses with his legs, as he has rushed for 474 yards and three touchdowns.
McKinley features a terrific ground game with junior Nino Hill. It’s been a breakout season for Hill, who has a total of 832 yards on 146 carries and has 11 touchdowns. In the 37-13 opening-round win against Strongsville, Hill rushed for 156 yards on 24 carries and scored twice. Hill’s early Division I offers include Massachusetts, Miami of Ohio and Toledo.
Noted on the defensive side was Keith Quincy, who is also a standout on the offensive side of the ball as a receiver. Quincy has hauled in 35 passes for 715 yards this season and has five touchdowns. Quincy had a 68-yard touchdown reception last week against the Mustangs.
Dante McClellan and Xavier Harris are also versatile targets for the Bulldogs. McClellan has caught 28 passes for 446 yards and two touchdowns. Harris has added 293 yards and three scores on 19 receptions.
McClellan is the 11th-ranked player in Ohio in the Class of 2025 and has earned offers from Kentucky, Akron, Boston College and Minnesota.
The return game will be a storyline against McKinley, as Max Ritt will be a game-time decision. If he can’t go, Cody Haddad, Owen Colwell and Marcus Tekancic will be the lead returners for the Wildcats.
Doing the kicking duties for the Bulldogs is also their quarterback in Rode. Rode is 5-of-6 on his field goals this season, with the longest coming from 31 yards. Rode is also the PAT kicker for the Pups.
The 18th overall meeting is set between Saint Ignatius and McKinley in the Regional Quarterfinal. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, November 3, from Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The winner will advance to the Regional Semifinal to take on the winner of St. Edward/GlenOak next Friday night from a neutral site.
The SIBN will be audio-only from Canton due to OHSAA Regulations as Spectrum has the broadcasting rights for Friday night’s game. Eli Maistros ’24, Patrick Laudolff ’24, Connor Pick ’24 and Dave Takacs ’26 will have the call for the SIBN.