A Friday night game with a two-and-a-half hour bus ride can be a trap game for a high school football team. Not so for the Wildcats on Friday at Fortress Obetz.
The Saint Ignatius Wildcats took care of business in impressive fashion on Friday evening in Columbus, easily handling the Christians of Faith (COF) Academy Ironmen, 35-0.
Four Patrick Delahunty passing touchdowns to four different wideouts keyed the victory. The Wildcats scored five first-half touchdowns before easing off the gas pedal in the second half under a running clock.
“I told the team our goals before the game. Number one, we want to be a better football team than last week. Number two, I want everyone on this team to play. We accomplished both things,” said Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle ’69.
The Wildcats fired out of the gate, pounding the ball during the first offensive drive. Led by a grinding offensive line, the Wildcats marched down the field on an 8-play, 57-yard drive. Jahadge “Bo” Floyd completed the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run up the middle. Seven of the eight plays were Floyd runs, which the senior converted into 43 yards.
On the first play of the next drive, the Wildcats went deep. Delahunty fired a picture-perfect pass to Connor Cmiel on a jet route down the hash marks nearest Wildcats’ sideline. Cmiel hauled in the ball around midfield and raced the final 50 yards for an 86-yard score, his third of the year.
Following another great defensive stop, Delahunty and Co. kept attacking. On the third play of the Wildcats’ third drive, Nate Conry ran a flag route towards the Saint Ignatius sideline. Delahunty lofted a perfect ball to Conry, who caught the ball around the 35-yard line. Conry then worked some magic, juking to the right to avoid one defender. COF Academy’s safety awaited Conry near the 10-yard line, where Conry nearly broke the player’s ankles with a beautiful cut inside. The senior's 58-yard touchdown catch marked his first of his career.
“I was trying to get as vertical as I could once I got past my guy so I would have room to run after I caught it,” Conry said of his great route. “On the first move, I had the guy right on top of to me, and I knew I couldn’t go left and go out of bounds, so I cut back right. The other kid had the angle, so I decided to cut inside.”
In the lead-up to Friday’s game, Kyle mentioned Conry as a player to watch. Conry made his coach proud with two impressive catches for 87 yards and a punt return for 14 yards.
“Nate had a couple really nice plays and the return. It was nice to see,” said Kyle. ”You gotta have skill kids. He’s coming around very nicely.”
Rory McConville converted his third extra point of the day for a 21-0 Wildcats lead, which stood as the score at the end of the first quarter.
The Wildcats earned great field position on their first drive of the second stanza. On the fifth play of the drive, the Wildcats opted for a run-pass option. Delahunty faked the run inside, pulled back the ball, and scrambled to his right. Seeing Jake Lang open on the right side off the playaction, Delahunty tossed it to the junior for an 11-yard touchdown strike at 7:55 of the second quarter.
Delahunty’s fourth and final touchdown pass occurred four minutes later. Jack Kennedy beat his man on a fly route down the near side hash and secured Delahunty’s throw for a 15-yard score. The strike capped off a 5-play, 46-yard scoring drive that only required 1:22 of clock to come to fruition.
“Our heads were in the game nicely,” Kyle said. “With a long bus trip down, you have to get focused to play football, and we did,” Kyle said.
After stopping the COF offense, the Wildcats drove down the field in the closing minutes. Senior running back Michael Mangan caught a pass in the flat and dashed 15 yards on a clutch play with 7 seconds left. The Wildcats ran out the clock on the half, but Mangan’s teammates appreciated the play.
Entering halftime with a 35-point lead, the running clock began at the start of the third quarter. The large margin allowed the coaching staff to play nearly every player on the roster. Kudos to Offensive Coordinator Nick Restifo and Defensive Coordinator Ryan Franzinger ’02 and the entire coaching staff for calling a near-perfect first half and playing a wide variety of players in the second half.
“We got a chance to play everybody, and that’s a good thing,” Kyle said. “Those kids practice, too, and they want to get out there and play.”
The visitors held COF Academy scoreless in the second half. The Wildcats’ hard working second and third-teamers stepped up with great plays to secure the Wildcats’ first shutout of the year.
Danny Scelza led the team with 3 tackles, while Aidan Hubbard followed closely behind with 2.5 tackles. Tommy Eichenberg notched a team-high 2 tackles for loss. Both Eichenberg and Rico LeVert tallied sacks. Aidan Rechin, Erik Daugenti, and Connor Mathews all notched pass breakups. A total of 23 Wildcats had a hand in a tackle tonight.
“Defensively, it was a shutout, so we played well. The coverage was nice,” Kyle said. “The front six guys have done some really nice things the last few weeks. Teams haven’t been able to run the ball effectively against us, and that makes teams one-dimensional. Make them punt and give us field position.”
On the offensive side, Delahunty completed 6-of-8 passes for 218 yards and 4 touchdowns. Cmiel led the wideouts with 99 yards on two catches. Eight different Wildcats caught a pass on Friday for the first time since September 3, 2016 during a 49-7 win over Mentor.
“The skill kids played well. The receivers ran good patterns and we got good chunks of yardage in the passing game,” Kyle said. “We’re running the ball better each week, but when teams start loading up on the run, we need to be able to take advantage of that [with the pass]. With the teams we’re going to be playing, we need to be balanced.”
The victory advanced the Wildcats to 2-2 on the year heading into next Saturday’s 3 p.m. matchup with Elder at Byers Field.
“It’s a big confidence booster,” Conry said. “No matter who you’re playing, you can tell how you play within yourself. Our offense played well and executed tonight.”