Of the 10 teams the Wildcats will play this season, the least-known opponent is Christians of Faith Academy.
In its first year of existence, COF Academy is a non-OHSAA school with big dreams. The school is a private, boys-only institution founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and classified as a noncharter school by the Ohio Department of Education, receiving no tax funds. The Ironmen are in the midst of an ambitious 11-game schedule that includes Huber Heights Wayne, Saint Ignatius, Detroit Catholic Central, and IMG Academy.
The strong slate has proven to be a challenge for COF Academy, based in Columbus. The Ironmen, guided by head coach Paul Williams, enter with an 0-4 record, outscored 148-40 by their first four opponents. The Ironmen have a 36-man roster that includes 13 players from Columbus and 12 from the Bronx, New York.
In terms of computer points, OHSAA assistant commissioner Beau Rugg told the Columbus Dispatch on September 6 that COF is considered a Canadian or out-of-state school, though its enrollment has "yet to be determined."
On the flipside, the 11-time champion Wildcats enter with a 1-2 record after a critical 21-6 win over Euclid. The men of Chuck Kyle ’69 showed much more confidence against the Panthers, and look to build on that against the Ironmen. The Wildcats will use this game as an opportunity to continue growing as a team and a chance to build depth.
The Wildcats and Ironmen will meet at Fortress Obetz in Columbus on Friday at 7 pm. The Football Cats have a 7-3 all-time record in Columbus, but have not played at Fortress Obetz.
COF OFFENSE vs. SAINT IGNATIUS DEFENSE
Two quarterbacks lead the COF offense – Rodney Atkins and Daeann Hooper. Both can run and pass the ball, helping to keep the Ironmen balanced on offense.
In the last few games, Hooper has received the majority of the snaps. Against Lima Senior, Hooper played every snap, completing 8-of-23 passes for 66 yards and two interceptions, according to the Lima News. Atkins began the season as the starter, scoring a 1-yard touchdown against North Allegheny, the team’s second score of the game.
The Ironmen utilize a 2-running back system. Mario Agyen heads the rushing attack, earning most of the carries. Agyen tallied the first touchdown in COF Academy's young history against North Allegheny on August 24. He also notched a 16-yard touchdown against Lima. Agyen often is a blocking back in the passing game.
“They’ve been able to bring in athletes from various places,” Kyle said. “Their skill is solid. They have some speedy, skilled athletes who are a challenge. The linemen have some good size, so we have to deal with that.”
On defense, the Wildcats will counter with the typical Saint Ignatius 3-3-5 defense. Look for the Wildcats to mix up looks at safety to stymie the COF offense.
“The six in the box will be the six in the box. It’s all about how the strong safeties will work,” Kyle said.” “Corners are corners. You can do things with your safeties against the 2-back.”
On the defensive side, Kyle was pleased with how his men played on Friday vs. Euclid. The defense followed the game plan well and adjusted on the fly when needed.
“We made good adjustments to Euclid. They’re an excellent running team and can hit you with playaction,” Kyle said. “They only scored with 50 seconds left in the game. The gameplan worked like we hoped. Individuals like Zach McMahan, [Tommy] Eichenberg, [Caden] Campolieti, and [Chris] Velotta executed the game plan and made nice plays. At this point, we’re hoping to show we’re more experienced. Some of their guys came out of their shells nicely who didn’t play as much last year. There’s no more inexperience now. It’s about the middle of the season, everyone is a veteran now.”
SAINT IGNATIUS OFFENSE vs. COF DEFENSE
The Wildcats’ offense is just beginning to gel the way the coaching staff had hoped it would.
Thanks to the improved play of the offensive line, the rushing attack thrived vs. Euclid, notching 123 yards.
“Last week, we saw some good things,” Kyle said. “The running game went well, the pass protection was good. Clearly, there were some seams that popped open. We want to continue that. [Nick] Schwitgebel and Tony Georges played well, and Owen Murphy with his first start. Hopefully they’re becoming more veteran there and working as a unit.”
Jahadge “Bo” Floyd and Jack Welcsh will head the Wildcats rushing attack, as they did last week with 92 and 54 yards, respectively. Later in Friday’s game, look for James Crosby and Michael Mangan to eat yardage and clock time. Mangan performed well in the preseason and is a high-energy back who fires up his teammates on the sidelines. Crosby is a fast runner just returning from an injury.
“It’s been pretty consistent over the years that we try to have at least two running backs get work to try to stay healthy,” Kyle said. “It doesn’t always work due to injuries later in the season. Last game, both of them did a nice job and found some seams and found big plays. It would be nice to continue that.”
The Ironmen will employ a 3-man front to stop the Wildcats. COF Academy will vary between a 3-3 stack and a 3-2 front, depending on the situation. Occasionally, COF will bring a man down to the line of scrimmage as a standup lineman to stop the run or pursue the quarterback.
COF Academy will use a variety of coverages, including a two-high safety zone, man coverage, or sometimes a three-deep Cover 3.
“They’ll keep it [the same] until something different happens. If they feel like they have a problem, they’ll change it,” Kyle said. “They will adjust as the game goes on.”
At quarterback, the Wildcats played only Patrick Delahunty last week. Expect that to change this week, as the coaching staff will place Griffin Hanna into the game to acquire experience and gain confidence.
“The way the game was going vs. Euclid, we decided to keep Pat in for the flow of the game,” Kyle said. “Hopefully this game, we can gather more experience for Griff and get both quarterbacks a lot of work.”
Also look for the Wildcats’ wideouts to play a large role on Friday. The coaching staff wants to establish more playmakers, especially with Jack Kennedy and Connor Cmiel playing both ways. Nate Conry is one Wildcat to watch at wideout.
SAINT IGNATIUS SPECIAL TEAMS vs. COF SPECIAL TEAMS
The Wildcats have played well as a whole on special teams to start the year, particularly on the defensive side. The unit has blocked four kicks, including two last week vs. Euclid. That trend may continue vs. COF Academy.
Rory McConville has done well on kickoffs and extra points, while Pat Otter has performed aptly on punts. COF Academy features a kicker who can boot it inside the 5-yard line on kickoffs.
In the return game, watch out for COF’s return men. The Ironmen returned a kickoff for 66 yards vs. Wayne, setting up COF’s lone score in a 42-6 game, which was stopped after one half due to lightning.
BROADCAST DETAILS: While the Wildcats are the road team on Friday, the SIBN will be able to host a video broadcast, since COF Academy is not an OHSAA school.
Jack O'Rourke '20 and Bobby Gerome '21 will have the call from Fortress Obetz.