By Mr. Eddie Dwyer, Copyright Credit September 2016
The Wildcats hold a 12-8-1 lead in what is a history-rich gridiron series that began in 1959, ended in 1979 and was renewed in 2015. Saint Ignatius and Parma Senior did not play in 1976.
Saint Ignatius and Parma Senior will keep that renewal alive when they meet in a significant matchup on Saturday night at Byers Field in Parma's Robert M. Boulton Stadium. The kickoff from Ridge Road and Day Drive is 7 PM.
If you can't make it out to the game, Saint Ignatius' Buck and Gruden, aka senior Brendan DeVenney and junior Matt MacKenzie, will bring you the game live over the Saint Ignatius Broadcast Network. The corner expresses its congratulations to Matt, who is as avid an Indians fan as you will find.
Cleveland, Ohio, on a pleasant fall afternoon in Ohio City - Saint Ignatius' Hall of Fame Coach Chuck Kyle '69, now in his 34th season as his alma mater's Head Football Coach, never coached against Parma until last season.
However, Coach Kyle recalls vividly that opening night in the fall of 1968 when his head coach, Saint Ignatius legend the late John J. Wirtz, pointed a finger in his direction while the Wildcats were on defense.
Better known for his prowess as an All-City running back for the Wildcats, Kyle was called on to go in and play one of the linebacker positions. Although Kyle had contributed in the defensive backfield, linebacker was a whole new position for him.
With Saint Ignatius clinging to a 2-0 lead over Parma in the late stages of the game, the kid nicknamed "Chico," on the advice of fellow linebacker Mike Noetzel, was told to keep an eye on the Redmen running back and if he flares or goes out to the flat, "you have to pick him up."
So what happened?
The back flared out to the flat and Kyle intercepted the ball and returned it for a 22-yard touchdown in front of a packed house at Byers Field. That effort, along with Larry Berridge's extra-point kick, pushed Saint Ignatius' lead to nine points and the Wildcats hung on for a 9-8 victory.
Yes, the Parma defense threw a shutout, but the Redmen still went down in a loss that was hard to swallow.
Coach Kyle moved to Parma and Holy Family Parish when he was in the sixth grade. As a young man, he would go and watch the outstanding Parma and Valley Forge teams from the early 1960s.
Among those Parma greats was Arnold "Arnie" Chonko, the great uncle of Saint Ignatius defensive back Jeff Chonko '17 Jeff, because of an injury, is helping out with the development of the 'Cats' Freshmen Football Team this fall. He is also a catcher in Coach Brad Ganor's highly successful baseball program.
Arnie Chonko, from the Parma Senior Class of 1961, was a standout in baseball, basketball and football for the Redmen. He was a two-time All-Lake Erie League and two-time All-District selection in baseball and a three-time All-LEL honoree in football.
Arnie was the LEL MVP and the Cleveland Touchdown Club Player of the Year in football in 1960. He earned All-State honors in both football and baseball. Arnie received three letters in baseball and three letters in football while attending The Ohio State University. In baseball, he was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and an NCAA All-American.
In football for the Buckeyes, Arnie was a three-year starting defensive back, earning both All-Big Ten and NCAA All-American honors in 1964. He played in the 1965 East-West Shrine Game. Arnie won numerous Scholar-Athlete awards during his career, including two-time All-Academic Big Ten and two-time Academic All-American honors. Arnie was named to the Ohio State All-Century team in both football and baseball and was elected to the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame. He was selected in both the professional baseball and football drafts, but decided to enter the OSU Medical School and went on to become an accomplished medical doctor.
In what were the first two meetings on the gridiron between the Wildcats and the Redmen, Arnie Chonko led Parma to victories in 1959 (14-6) and 1960 (34-0). Arnie is a charter member of the Parma Senior High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
"I was in the crowd watching Arnie Chonko play, that's amazing," said Coach Kyle, who also recalled his junior season of 1967, when Parma upset a talent-laden Saint Ignatius team, 16-14.
The '67 Cats would go on to finish 9-1 and bring home the annual Charity Game City Championship trophy by defeating Collinwood, 21-0, on Thanksgiving Morning in the Grand Lady on the Lake, old Municipal Stadium.
Ah, the late 1950s and the 1960s, a great era in area high school football.
Last year marked the renewal of a football series that used to traditionally merit Saturday morning front-page headlines in The Plain Dealer Sports Section.
Although the 2015 renewal was one Parma would just as soon forget, a 55-0 Saint Ignatius victory that saw All-Ohio quarterback Dennis Grosel '16 total 123 yards and four touchdowns rushing on six carries, and complete 13 of 19 passes for 176 yards and a 34-yard touchdown while playing just the first half, the Wildcats and the Redmen are gearing up for a game on Saturday night that will award the winner some significant points in next week's OHSAA Computer Playoff Ratings.
Under the OHSAA Harbin playoff system, teams are awarded points for each game they win and each game a defeated opponent wins. The top eight teams in each region at the end of the regular season advance to the annual OHSAA state playoffs. Parma is currently eighth in Division I, Region 2 with an average points of 7.2 and Saint Ignatius is ninth in Division I, Region 1 with 6.75 points.
As some old-timer and a not so old-timer told many of the 'Cats in preseason mini camps and two-a-days, "I could see Parma possibly winning at least 4 or 5 games this season." That young-timer was the pride of Parma, former Wildcat football and baseball great, Josiah "Juice" Kedzior '04, who is Saint Ignatius' receivers coach. Josiah used to be Brian Hoyer's go-to guy. Brian is currently the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears, whose quarterbacks coach is former Wildcat standout quarterback and basketball mainstay Dave Ragone '98.
Parma, which finished 3-7 last season, has already won as many games as it did in 2014 and 2013. Young Wildcats fans always seemed surprised when informed that Parma qualified for the OHSAA Division I playoffs as recently as 2009.
As for the 2016 version of Parma Senior football, the Redmen enter Saturday night's kickoff at 4-1, the same record the Wildcats bring to Byers Field.
After a loss at Olmsted Falls on opening night, Parma has run off victories at North Royalton, versus Normandy and John Marshall at Byers Field and a 14-13 victory over Elyria Catholic last weekend, also on Byers Field. The Redmen stand 2-0 in the Great Lakes Conference, which was formed last season.
Parma trailed Elyria Catholic, 13-6, with just over six minutes remaining to be played, but rallied to the one-point victory by successfully executing a two-point conversion after cutting the deficit to 13-12 in the final seconds.
The Redmen also displayed their resilience in Week 2 at North Royalton.
Trailing the Bears, 21-6, Parma ran off 30 unanswered points and proudly walked off the Serpentini Stadium field with a 36-21 triumph. A 90-yard interception return for a touchdown by Andrew Shields fueled the resounding comeback and a 14-yard touchdown run by Bryson Durham put the Redmen in command.
Among some of Parma's other offensive weapons are 6-foot-2 quarterback Kyle Lyon and running backs Mark Post and Vinny Livdur.
Saint Ignatius enters Saturday night's game having out-rushed its first five opponents by a combined 1,352 yards to 275 yards. The 'Cats have 20 rushing touchdowns and have yielded just 2 TDs on the ground.
Senior quarterback Patrick Ryan has thrown for 491 yards, senior tailback Jimmy Andrews has rushed for 395 yards and is averaging over 7 yards per carry, and junior tailback Mark Bobinski has rushed for 380 yards, averaging 6.2 yards a crack and scoring nine touchdowns.
Senior wide receiver Travis Pot has 11 receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown, and senior tight end James Leyden, who is also a mainstay on defense as a linebacker, has hauled in 8 passes for 93 yards and a TD.
Saint Ignatius is averaging 38.8 points a game and yielding just 7 points a game. Leading the 'Cats' defensive charge are senior lineman Mike Chime and senior linebacker/captain Adam Shibley.
Chime has rang the bell for 20 tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks for -minus 12 yards and 8 other tackles for a loss totaling -minus 31 yards. Mike has also returned a punt for a touchdown.
"Shibs," as his teammates refer to the gifted and gritty Shibley, has 19.5 tackles. That includes 2 sacks for -minus 15 yards and 6.5 other tackles that have resulted in a total of -minus 29 yards.
What you have to consider is that the above-mentioned numbers were accumulated with the first team sitting out most of two of the Wildcats' five games (Normandy and Valley Forge).
GETTING THEIR KICKS: In what is one of the top punting/kicking duos in the state, senior Colin Goodfellow has punted just four times for a 41.5-yard average and Colin has consistently booted his kickoffs deep into the end zone, making the opponent attempt to drive 80 yards.
Junior Matthew Trickett, also a standout on Coach Mike McLaughlin's Soccer Team, which is ranked No. 1 in both the state and national polls, is 4-for-5 on his field goals with a long of 41 yards.
FROM COACH KYLE ON SATURDAY NIGHT'S MATCHUP
"They're doing some very nice things," Coach Kyle said of the Redmen. "Their skilled kids are pretty veteran, they work really well together.
"We've had to preach all week to stay in coverage, because they keep the play alive," Coach Kyle continued. "Their quarterback keeps running around and their receivers do a good job in sort of a scramble thing of getting in position for him to see them. But then again, they'll go with the quick passing game. If you give them a little hitch or a little slant, they'll take it.
"So that demands a lot of the coverage. You can't just lay back, you have to play with intensity on the coverage. It would be nice if we could disrupt their rhythm a little bit with the pass rush.
"Defensively, they've done some nice things. They're not real big, but they're fast off the ball and aggressive, and their secondary is experienced. There's a good reason why they are 4-1.
"We're happy with the way we're playing right now. We're running the ball very well and that makes the other team have to adjust a little bit. Our key thing is, whatever their adjustment is, let's take advantage of it.
"This will be a nice game, a good game and it does have computer-point capability. I'm not one to go home and add things up. Joe Eitel is better at it than I am. Here you are playing a 4-1 team in Parma that is Division I. So I think our kids realize, let's go, this is like a playoff game.
"It's playoff caliber teams the rest of the season, right on through," Coach Kyle said in reference to next weeks' trip to GlenOak, versus Archbishop Moeller in Week 8 at Otterbein University, the battle for the Cannon Bell at St. Xavier in Week 9, and the highly anticipated regular-season finale versus longtime West Side rival and two-time defending Division I state champion St. Edward on Oct. 29 at 6 PM in the Browns' FirstEnergy Stadium.
A slate of games that champions are made of, my friends.