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By Eddie Dwyer, 08/25/10, 12:00AM EDT




By Eddie Dwyer
Copyright, August 2010

As he was walking off Wasmer Field following Tuesday's practice, Saint Ignatius senior linebacker Tyler Kette displayed a determined, fire-in-his-eyes grin.

“It's awesome, I mean my juices are already flowing,” Kette said. “I'm really pumped up for this game. I know in the past there has been a big rivalry between Lake Catholic and Saint Ignatius, and I know both teams are going to come out hitting hard.

“We just have to go out there and show them what we're made of.”

“There” will be Cleveland Browns Stadium, where the Wildcats and the Cougars, who have not matched up on the gridiron since 1997, will meet for the 16th time in Saturday's second game of the Home Team Marketing/Browns Charity Game doubleheader.

Mentor and St. Edward will square off in the opener at 3 p.m., and Saint Ignatius and Lake Catholic are scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. The Saint Ignatius Broadcasting Club will bring you the 'Cats-Cougars game live, with Jeff McCormick '83 and Mike Watts '11 describing the action. The link is

The Wildcats' game will also be broadcast live by WHKW (1220 AM).

In a series that has Saint Ignatius on top, 9-6, the last three meetings between the Wildcats and the Cougars were among the most memorable of those previous 15 encounters.

Behind the tough inside running of Mike Sako (two touchdowns) and a 52-yard catch and run for a TD by Bill Peters, Saint Ignatius defeated the Joe Jurevicius-led Cougars, 20-17, in 1991 at Lakewood Stadium. Lake Catholic would go on to win the first of its back-to-back Division III state championships and the Wildcats captured their third Division I crown.

In 1996, the Cougars snapped Saint Ignatius' 25-game winning streak with a 21-12 victory on a Mentor field that was drenched with rain and mud, and in 1997 the Wildcats, behind the powerful left arm of quarterback Dave Ragone, defeated Lake Catholic, 52-14, in Lakewood Stadium.

After going 12 years without Saint Ignatius on their schedule, the three-time state champion Cougars are eager to face the 10-time state champion Wildcats.

Lake Catholic coach Mike Bell will feature 14 mainstays from a team that advanced to the Division II state semifinals last season and finished 12-2 after losing to eventual state runner-up Maple Heights. Ten of those veteran players garnered All-District honors in 2009 and three of them – two-way senior lineman Chase Hounshell (6-foot-6, 245 pounds), senior linebacker Joe Ribeiro and senior defensive back Connor Briggs – were All-Ohio picks in '09.

Ribeiro was the state's co- Defensive Player of the Year in Division II last season, Briggs is competing for time at quarterback this year and Hounshell recently committed to the Florida Gators.

Among the other names to remember are senior wide receiver/defensive back Adam Urbania (4 interceptions in '09), senior running back/safety Matt Fee (830 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns in '09), senior linebacker Marty Gibbons, senior running back/defensive back Tommy Michals (34 receptions and 3 picks in '09) and a healthy senior tailback/linebacker Richie Sanders.

Sanders rushed for 11 touchdowns and nearly 700 yards before breaking his collarbone in Week 6 of last season. He also was the team's leading tackler when he went down with the injury.

“I know Lake Catholic is going to be excited to play us,” said Kette, who will be counted on to help lead a Saint Ignatius defense that graduated all 11 starters. “They're Division II and are going to want to prove that they can hang with the big dogs.

“No one really knows any of our names,” Kette continued, referring to the 'Cats' 2010 defense. “Last year, there was Scott and Jake (All-Ohio linebackers Scott McVey and Jake Ryan, now at Ohio State and Michigan, respectively). I know as a linebacker that we're just trying to show what we are made of inside. You can really tell that there is a big difference from the first day we stepped on the field (in mini camp) to where we are now.”

Along with Kette (15 tackles in '09), junior linebacker James Sheehan (25 tackles, 2 sacks and 8 for losses), junior safety Mike Svetina (35 tackles), senior linebacker Ryan Gibbons (10 trackles), senior safety Kevin Ryan (14 tackles), junior linebacker Zack Ryan (6 tackles) and junior safety Chad Aerni (9 tackles) will bring some big-game experience into Cleveland Browns Stadium. And keep an eye on junior linebacker /defensive lineman Ed Cleveland (6-0, 240) and junior linebacker Rustom Khouri.

St. Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle, who is taking a record of 273-59-1 into his 28th season, describes Lake Catholic as being a very challenging and experienced opponent, a hungry group of kids who want to take their team to the next level – the state championship game.

Coach Kyle emphasized that no longer can his team use the excuse of graduation on defense, that his Wildcats have faced three extremely talented programs in preseason scrimmages – Solon, Twinsburg and Canton McKinley – have played this defense since they were freshmen and have to be ready physically and mentally for game day.

“It is a big game, not just because it is in Browns Stadium and not just because it's an opener,” Kyle said. “We've been trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, trying to find out who is going to respond. It is a game where we really need to come out and play well, consistently.

“If we come out, play a good football game and win, now we're getting some momentum to take on the schedule we have. In a perfect world, you play a schedule like this when you have an experienced team. But that's not the perfect world for us this year. We have to develop a lot of things and some kids have to step up. So that's what we'll do.”

Facing a schedule that is rated by some football websites and polls as being among the 10 most demanding in the nation, and with a new young man under center in 6-4 junior Matt Hoyer, Coach Kyle and his staff say it is imperative to be able to run the ball with success.

And that has to start on Saturday night against an active, aggressive and tested Lake Catholic defense.

Leading the 'Cats' ground game will be All-Ohio senior tailback and co-captain Bobby Grebenc, whose strength, balance, vision and speed helped lead the way to more than 1,200 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns in '09. Junior Dan Grace, who has had a solid preseason, and speedy sophomore Tim McVey, Scott's brother, will be counted on to give Bobby a breather.

It all starts up front, however, and the responsibility to provide the space for the backs and the time needed for Hoyer to develop falls on the broad shoulders of senior guard and co-captain Mike Ramos (6-4, 280), senior guard Tom Gorbett (6-3, 260), senior tackle Jim Katusha (6-5, 270), senior center Jack Corrigan (6-2, 245), senior tackle Mason Halter (6-7, 260) and junior center Zach Lozar (6-1, 230).

Hoyer, the brother of New England Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer '04, is not only benefiting from the outstanding coaching of Wildcats veteran offensive coordinator Nick Restifo (30 years of experience) and new assistant coach Elvis Grbac, a former standout quarterback at St. Joseph High School and the University of Michigan who went on to an All-Pro career in the NFL, but also the depth and skill of Saint Ignatius' receiving corps.

Looking to keep the Cougars' defense honest will be senior wideouts David Joseph (21 yards per reception in '09), Nick D'Amico and Fred Davis, and one of the best tight end tandems in the area in senior co-captain Zach Strippy and junior Blake Thomas (6-4, 220).

“In scrimmages, it was like the kids were thinking through things,” said Coach Kyle. “And the speed of the game gets a little quicker and you can't do that. So we're going to have to attack more (on defense). If we make a mistake, that's okay. Make it an aggressive mistake, that's all.”

LANDINO'S LIGHTNING STRIKES THE COUGARS TWICE: On August 30, 1985, in a game this corner reported on for The Plain Dealer, Saint Ignatius tailback Pete Landino rushed for 91 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Wildcats to a 21-0 victory over Lake Catholic at John Marshall Field.

Landino's efforts not only spoiled the debut of John Gibbons as the Cougars' head coach, they left Lake Catholic's faithful saying that if they ever saw the Saint Ignatius tailback again, it would be too soon.


Well, the performance by Landino that night in John Marshall Field was almost an exact duplication of Pete's game against Lake Catholic in 1984, when he rushed for 93 yards and three touchdowns in the 'Cats' 31-7 upset of the then unbeaten Cougars.

A WELL-DESERVED HONOR: Congratulations go out to Wildcats senior guard and co-captain Mike Ramos, who will be receiving one of the four scholarships to be presented during Saturday's Charity Game doubleheader.

The scholarships are being named in honor of former Plain Dealer high school sports reporter Dick “Zip” Zunt '50, who passed away on Jan. 2 (see the story posted on Monday, Aug. 23).

Mike, who carries a 4.25 grade-point average, emphasized how honored he is to be receiving an award that is attached to the name of such a great man.

JUST A NOTE OF APPRECIATION: Some of the articles the corner refers to, especially when making an historical reference, come from the scrapbooks that were so thoroughly and devoutly assembled by Mr. Brian Zawicki of The Plain Dealer.

Brian, a 1969 graduate of Saint Ignatius, spent nine years in The Plain Dealer Sports Department and is currently in his 26th year in The PD Library's News Research Department.

The PD Sports Department no longer had the space to store the scrapbooks, so last fall High School Sports Editor Kristen Davis called me to ask if I would like to have them. I headed for East 18th and Superior, my former home away from home, and put them in my small, but tough Ford Focus. They now have a special place in my apartment, where I can go back and fondly re-read the efforts of the late Dick Zunt '50, the late Don Friedman, some guy named Dwyer and others.