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By Eddie Dwyer, 08/29/10, 12:00AM EDT



By Eddie Dwyer
Copyright, August 2010

Standing just a few yards away from one of the tunnel entrances to Cleveland Browns Stadium, Saint Ignatius' veteran football coach Chuck Kyle '69 didn't hesitate for a second when asked to evaluate the performance by Lake Catholic's strong and gifted senior tailback/linebacker Richie Sanders.

“He's good, there is no doubt about it,” Coach Kyle said. “He's very good. We saw that in the videos. He has great feet, great vision and speed. He's a great weapon.”

And great is no exaggeration, as Sanders had a night most high school players can only dream about in leading the Cougars to a 28-21 victory over Saint Ignatius in the second game of Saturday's Home Team Marketing/Browns Charity Game doubleheader.

St. Edward defeated Mentor, 35-28, in the opener and the total two-game attendance in Browns Stadium was more than 20,000.

Lake Catholic, with the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Sanders rushing for 239 yards on 32 carries and scoring three touchdowns, including a pivotal interception return of 56 yards, won for the seventh time in its 16 encounters with the Wildcats. It was the first meeting between the perennial powers since 1997, when Saint Ignatius prevailed in Lakewood Stadium, 52-14.

“Their running game? Well, we didn't really stop it, put it that way,” Coach Kyle said after his young defense couldn't contain the power bursts by Sanders, who operates behind a veteran line. “That is something we have to look at and grow. We're an inexperienced, younger defense. So we can learn from it.”

Although Sanders, the game's MVP, was definitely the story of the night, Saint Ignatius displayed another of its trademark passing attacks from the get-go.

Taking the opening kickoff, the Wildcats started at their 17-yard line and, behind the second of two clutch receptions by junior tight end Blake Thomas, moved to a first down at their 41. On the next play, junior quarterback Matt Hoyer, who was making his varsity debut, found senior wide receiver David Joseph open in the seam down the right sideline. The multitalented Joseph looked the ball into his hands and never broke stride as he completed the 59-yard touchdown. Junior Tim Shenk kicked the extra point and Saint Ignatius led, 7-0, with 8 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

With Sanders doing most of the damage with his Barry Sanders-like frame, the Cougars answered with an impressive drive of their own. It was a march that featured an exceptional one-handed diving catch in the end zone by senior running back/defensive back Tommy Michals for an 8-yard touchdown.

Two huge turning points took place on the next series.

First it was Wildcats All-Ohio senior tailback Bobby Grebenc (1,205 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns in 2009) being helped from the field after tweaking an ankle with 10:32 left in the first half.

Then Sanders struck again with his Pick 6 and, after senior Kresimir Ivkovic kicked his second extra point, Lake Catholic led, 14-7, with 8:39 to go in the second quarter. The scored stayed that way entering halftime.

Saint Ignatius' defense, which graduated all 11 starters from last season, came up with two big plays in the first 24 minutes - a fumble recovery by senior safety Kevin Ryan and an interception by junior safety Mike Svetina. The 6-2, 210-pound Svetina was outstanding all night, as he was involved in more than 20 tackles.

The Hoyer-to-Joseph combination clicked again in the second half, this time a 38-yard touchdown strike down the right sideline that topped an 80-yard drive and again highlighted the strong arm of Hoyer and the soft hands and concentration of Joseph. Shenk was high and true on his second extra point and the score was tied with 7:24 remaining in the third quarter.

Just when the 'Cats appeared to have captured the momentum, Sanders and his offensive line took over again.

Sanders fought his way through the left side for a 4-yard touchdown with just over two minutes left in the third quarter and he rambled 62 yards down the right sideline for his third score with 9:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Behind the passing of Hoyer and the receiving of Joseph, Thomas, senior Nick D'Amico and junior Tim McCoy, Saint Ignatius covered 80 yards again and cut the deficit to 28-21 on a nifty 13-yard catch and cut-back run for a touchdown by sophomore running back/safety Tim McVey and Shenk's third extra point.

Just 1:43 remained on the clock, however, and after Lake Catholic recovered an onside kick, the Cougars went on to seal the victory behind another second-effort run for a first down by Sanders.

“We weren't intending for Matt to have to do all of that (passing),” said Coach Kyle, who also got a solid punting game from senior Peter Russo. “We certainly wanted to blend in the running game and at times it was pretty good. But without Bobby, that makes it a little rough.”

The Wildcats will travel to Bedford on Friday night for a game against a Bearcats team that has plenty of skill. It will be only the second meeting between the schools in football and the first since 1920, when the Golden Tornado, as Saint Ignatius was known then, came away with a 17-0 victory at Bedford.

In closing Week 1, the corner would like to congratulate senior defensive back/special teams standout Glenn Patterson, who was selected as the Wildcats' fourth and final captain. He joins senior guard Mike Ramos, senior tight end Zach Strippy and Bobby Grebenc.