Saint Ignatius Hall of Fame Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69 is looking for four solid quarters from his Wildcats when they host Detroit Catholic Central under the Friday night lights on Byers Field in Parma's Robert M. Boulton Stadium
Ohio City - The Wildcats (3-0), ranked second to defending big-school state champion St. Xavier (3-0) in the first Associated Press Division I State Poll for the 2017 season, will be facing the Detroit Catholic Central Shamrocks (2-1) on the gridiron for just the second time.
Last season, Detroit Catholic Central handed Saint Ignatius its only regular season setback by defeating the 'Cats, 28-21, in overtime at the Shamrocks' Father Richard Elmer Stadium in Novi, Michigan. Detroit Catholic Central makes the trip to Ridge Road and Day Drive on Friday for a 7 PM kickoff after entering the week as Michigan's 10th-ranked team in the highly respected State Super 20 by David Goricki of The Detroit News. David Goricki not only ranks the premier teams in his state, but also the top programs in the four Metro Detroit regions.
Friday's game will feature two legendary programs that finished their 2016 seasons as big-school State Runners-Up.
Detroit Catholic Central, playing without its starting quarterback, was defeated in its state title game by nationally acclaimed Detroit Cass Tech, 49-20. The Wildcats experienced a tough, 27-20 double-overtime loss to their Jesuit Brothers from St. Xavier in the Division I State Championship Game at Ohio Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University.
Saint Ignatius, the top-ranked team in the seven-county area by cleveland.com, the seventh-ranked program in USA Today's Super 25 Midwest Region and the 11th-ranked team in USA Today's Super 25 National Computer Rankings, is coming off a 34-20 victory over previously unbeaten and athletic-rich Euclid. The Wildcats outscored the Panthers, 24-6, in the second half.
Detroit Catholic Central, which like Saint Ignatius has 11 state championships on its gridiron resume, defeated U-D Jesuit, 28-18, last Saturday night. It marked the Shamrocks' 13th consecutive victory over the Cubs.
Under the direction of new Head Varsity Coach Dan Anderson, who spent 18 seasons as the Shamrocks' Defensive Coordinator, Detroit Catholic Central's loss came at Toledo Whitmer, 14-7 in Week 2. Whitmer, which limited the run-first Shamrocks to 84 yards on the ground, is currently 3-0 and ranked sixth in the AP Division I State Poll.
Coach Anderson succeeded legendary Head Coach Tom Mach, who compiled a remarkable record of 370-97 in a 41-year career with the Shamrocks. That record included 10 state championships, 20 regional titles, 12 district championships and numerous league titles. Detroit Catholic Central was also a football state champion in 1938.
Coach Mach retired in February at the age of 69 with the third-best mark in MHSAA career coaching victories. Only Al Fracassa (Brother Rice, Shrine) with 430 and John Herrington at Farmington Hills Harrison (425) have more.
Anderson made it clear this summer that Detroit Catholic Central's tradition of being a "come-at-you type of football team" will remain the same. And nothing in the Shamrocks' first three games disputes that. Like the Wildcats, Detroit Catholic Central is, in Coach Anderson's words, "a bunch of hard-nosed guys who are going to battle."
A team that prefers to feature the running game, the Shamrocks have two talented and tough-as-nails running backs in Isaac Darkangelo and Cam Ryan. Darkangelo and Ryan are also mainstays at their linebacker positions, with Ryan being the man in the middle on defense. Darkangelo is a three-year starter and Ryan scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown in overtime against Saint Ignatius last season.
Nick Carey, a 6-foot-7, 295-pound offensive tackle, leads a line that was hit with some significant graduations and the Shamrocks' starting quarterback from the past two seasons, Aaron Brown, transferred out of the Detroit Catholic Central program to attend Madison Heights Madison, where his dad, Jimmy Brown, is the Athletic Director.
Veteran Saint Ignatius fans will recall the picture-perfect, 75-yard touchdown pass that Brown completed versus the Wildcats last season. A starter as a freshman and a sophomore for the Shamrocks, Brown completed well over 60 percent of his passes during those two seasons before suffering a broken leg in the state semifinals last year.
HOW WILDCATS OUTSTANDING HEAD COACH CHUCK KYLE LOOKS AT THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP WITH THE SHAMROCKS
"It's nice to have in house there," said Coach Kyle of Coaches Mach and Anderson. "A guy who has dedicated his life to the program (Coach Mach), he retires, and there is another guy (Coach Anderson), who is dedicating his life to the school. That's nice to see.
"That's pretty consistent from what we're seeing on film," Coach Kyle continued in reference to the Shamrocks' run-first approach. "They want to run the football, they want to control the football. But they'll hit you with some passes and take their shots. So we have to read our keys very effectively. They'll go run, run, run, and then they'll hit you with a pass and break your back if your careless.
As he did during the days leading up to last season's encounter with Detroit Catholic Central, Coach Kyle made reference to the Shamrocks' Cam Ryan.
"He's a solid football player," Coach Kyle said of Ryan. "Last year, he was breaking tackles and he broke one in overtime and put it in. Sure, you want to make a solid tackle on him, but sometimes you need help. How many times are you going to get a guy like that one on one. So we have to swarm and get to the ball.
"They are usually in a four front," said Coach Kyle in switching to the defenses the Shamrocks employ. "But they'll adjust depending on what tendencies they see. They are a team that is hard to run against. You really have to be patient with that.
"With their secondary, maybe you can hit a few short passes, but they don't want to give you the big one. They'll swarm and try not to give you any yards after the catch."
Coach Kyle emphasized how much he would love to see his Wildcats run the ball effectively on Friday night with senior tailback/Captain Mark Bobinski as the lead, and force the Shamrocks' secondary to help on the run. That would open up Coach Nick Restifo's vaunted passing game that features senior quarterback Kyle Hall, senior wide receivers Michael Drobnick, Sammy Snyder and Max Pike, and junior wide receivers Nigel Drummond II and Luke Cooper, to name a few.
ALL FOUR QUARTERS ARE A MUST
Although Coach Kyle said he is happy with his team's 3-0 start, he emphasized that his Wildcats can't play a half of football like they did in the first two quarters versus Euclid last week.
"Turnovers like that just can't happen," said the area's most successful high school football coach of the miscues that provided Euclid with all of the early momentum. "We haven't played a solid four quarters yet. That's not going to work. You have to come out of the gate ready to work."
THE AIR WAVES
If you can't make it out to the game on Friday night, savvy sophomore Jack O'Rourke and talented junior Zack Strom will bring you the game live over the Saint Ignatius Broadcasting Network. Jack can recite chapter and verse on every sport known to mankind.
Have a great rest of the week and weekend, and we will see you at the Freshmen Football Game at Kirtland on Thursday and of course at Parma's Robert M. Boulton Stadium on Friday night. Parma made this old-timer and my longtime colleague and dear friend, the late Dick "Zip" Zunt '50, very happy when it named the stadium after Bob, a great and kind man who will always have the undying respect of The Plain Dealer High School reporters of the past.