By Mr. Eddie Dwyer, Copyright Credit October, 2016
Rory McConville's 24-yard field goal with 57.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter and two second-half fumble recoveries by defensive lineman Max Watters help Coach Rodney Gallaway's resilient Freshmen win their biggest game of the season in front of a standing-room crowd at Wasmer Field, and close out a rich-in-promise summer and fall at 8-2.
Cleveland,Ohio - After the Wildcats' Freshmen were addressed by Coach Gallaway and his savvy staff in a jubilant Lorain Avenue end zone of Wasmer Field, a celebration that was followed by a prayer of thanks, Saint Ignatius' good-natured defensive lineman Max Watters shared with the corner his impressions of the two key fumbles he pounced on in the second half of Thursday night's heart-pounding, 3-0 victory over West Side rival St. Edward.
"The first one, I don't know how much skill it was, really more so luck in being in the right place at the right time," said Max of a third-quarter recovery that turned away a potential Eagles drive. "I'm just thankful for Coach Ramella for giving me the opportunity and putting me out there." Max was referring to former Wildcats and Boston College football standout Jim Ramella '05, who helps direct the Freshmen defensive line.
"The second one, I don't know, I should have picked it up and ran it in, but you know, I'll take it anyways," Max continued.
And so will the Wildcats' faithful, who watched the right place and the right time Max do it again with a fumble recovery at the St. Edward 7-yard line after the Eagles fair-caught a punt at their 9-yard line. Max's second recovery of the night led to the game's only points, the 24-yard field goal in the Lorain Avenue end zone by Rory McConville as the final minute of the third quarter began ticking away. St. Edward was called for roughing the kicker on Rory's first attempt, but the always smiling McConville kept his cool and sent home what turned out to be the game winner.
Following two penalties on Saint Ignatius for a late hit and a face mask, the Eagles were business deep in Cats territory.
The Wildcats' defense had the answer again, however, as on fourth-and 5 from the Saint Ignatius 23-yard line, the Cats turned the Eagles away behind the pressure and pursuit that was fueled by lineman Anthony Gerace.
Coach Greg Urbas' Eagles were knocking on the end zone door again with a first-and-10 at the Saint Ignatius 13-yard line after they converted a fourth-and-2 from the 17.
It was a night St. Edward would just as soon forget, as on first-and-10 from the Cats' 13, a bad snap or some miscommunication saw the ball sail pass the quarterback, who ran after it and recovered it at the Saint Ignatius 35-yard line.
Now faced with a second-and-32 from the 35 with 1:02 left to be played and counting, the Eagles threw an incomplete pass. On third-and-32, St. Edward fired a pass that the Eagles' coaches argued strongly was a good catch, but the officials got together and ruled otherwise.
On what was fourth-and-32, St. Edward completed a pass to the Saint Ignatius 24, which of course was short of a first down and then some, and the Wildcats ran out the clock from there.
"It was cool to have a shutout on the last game of the season, especially against a team like St. Edward," Max said. "You have to give them a bunch of props, they're a great team. It was just a great thing to do. We went through our goals before the game and one was a shutout. We executed that well."
FROM COACH GALLAWAY: "It was a bend, but definitely don't break down mentality" said Coach Gallaway of another ninth-grade showdown between two of Ohio's storied football programs. "They (the Eagles) had their opportunities down there and we thwarted it.
"They kind of shot themselves in the foot, but we'll take it," Coach Gallaway continued. "We answered the call. They had the athletes and it was a lot of preparation for this defense, which started to play as we expected them to play all year. That's good to see, a lot more sure tackling and more focus. I think the focus in general was huge for everybody.
"We always tell the guys it doesn't matter who is out there, we play as a unit, no matter what," Coach Gallaway said. "We're rotating all of these defensive linemen and you never know who is going to make a play. That was the situation with Max, he got his turn and made big plays. He might not have had the most snaps, but while he was in there he made an impact."
Coach Gallaway and his staff were also treated to another impact fumble recovery, which came in the first half from linebacker Connor Francz near the Wildcats' 10-yard line.
A TIP OF THE CORNER'S CAP GOES OUT TO COACH GALLAWAY, COACH RAMELLA, OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MARK RUDDY, DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR PAT HOPKINS, DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD COACH RORY HENNESSEY, OFFENSIVE LINE COACH MATT MOONEY, SPECIAL ASSISTANT COACH JEFF CHONKO AND THE SAVVIEST OF THE SAVVY, DEFENSIVE LINE COACH TOM FLANDERA AND THE MAN WHO HELPED PUT TOGETHER SOME OF THE FINEST DEFENSES IN THE WILDCATS' RICH FOOTBALL HISTORY, TONY ANTONELLI.
HAVING THE PRIVILEGE TO COVER A GOOD NUMBER OF THE FRESHMEN GAMES, THIS SEASONED REPORTER CAN'T SAY ENOUGH ABOUT HOW MUCH THE MEN REFERRED TO ABOVE DO IN DEVELOPING AND LAYING DOWN THE FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE OF SAINT IGNATIUS FOOTBALL.
We will see you at Wasmer Field again on Friday night, as Round 2 of Saint Ignatius versus St. Edward football features the Junior Varsity season finale at 6 bells. The JV Cats, the Eagles' Jayvees, the Fighting Franconas, the Cavaliers and the Monsters all competing on the same night. Ah yes, only in America.