As the 2018 campaign surpasses its midway point, the Saint Ignatius football team is looking like a contender.
The Wildcats dominated all aspects of the game on a chilly Senior Night at Byers Field. The Football Cats earned a complete victory over Clarkson Football North on Saturday, 45-13. The triumph marked the Wildcats’ fourth straight win, advancing the squad to 4-2 on the season.
The men of Chuck Kyle ’69 used all kinds of different ways to score – rushing touchdowns, passing strikes, two safeties, two field goals, and plentiful extra points. The Wildcats scored on nine plays, reaching 45 points in a regular season for the first time since a 49-0 win over Parma on October 1, 2016.
“I think we played a very good all-around game,” Kyle said. “We prepared pretty well on both sides of the ball.”
On offense, quarterback Patrick Delahunty and running back Jack Welcsh led the way. Delahunty completed 12-of-20 passes for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns. Welcsh ran for 94 yards on 18 carries and found paydirt twice. On defense, Tommy Eichenberg enjoyed another great game with 3.5 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, and Kyle Sullivan starred with 3 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss.
The game started with a Wildcats possession. Nate Conry and Jack Kennedy hauled in passes, and Jahadge “Bo” Floyd tallied a few nice runs, but Football North stepped up to force a punt.
Following a short possession by Football North, the No. 1 ranked high school team in Canada, the Wildcats went to work on offense.
Jack Welcsh pounded Football North’s defense both inside and outside. The junior bullied his way down the field, doing nearly all of the work behind a punishing offensive line. Welcsh completed the 8-play, 55-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown over the left side. Rory McConville nailed the extra point for the 7-0 lead with 3:53 left in the first quarter.
The score remained 7-0 entering the second stanza, thanks to continued strong play by the Wildcats’ defense. The Saint Ignatius offense started to drive down the field at the end of the first, with Floyd doing the heavy lifting.
On the first play of the second quarter, Football North dialed up a big blitz. The Saint Ignatius offensive line ate it up, giving Delahunty extra time for his wide receivers to get open. Just as the Football North blitz arrived, the senior signalcaller hefted a beautiful ball in front of Kennedy. The senior ran to it, beating double coverage, and galloped into the end zone for a 54-yard score. McConville converted the PAT for the 14-0 lead.
“He couldn’t throw a better pass to Jack Kennedy,” said Kyle. “We handled their blitz packages very well, we thought that was going to happen. When you’re still running the ball well, we could fit the blitz with our blockers and our backs were cutting. With that much blitzing, you have to get rid of the ball quickly, and Pat did a nice job with that.”
The Wildcats’ defense gave the offense great field position again on the next drive. Anthony Gerace and Zach McMahan sacked Football North on third down to force a punt by the visitors.
On the ensuing drive, the Wildcats cashed in. Following a short march to the edge of the red zone, the Wildcats sent out McConville for a 39-yard field goal. The junior did not disappoint, sailing the ball perfectly through the uprights to extend the lead to 17-0 midway at the 8:16 mark.
The squads traded punts following McConville’s trey. On Football North’s fifth drive of the day, the Wildcats’ defense earned some points.
Kyle Sullivan started the drive with a sack, breaking through on a blitz. On the next play, Football North’s quarterback found no one open, so he rolled out to his left. Connor Francz, on a zone assignment over the middle, sniffed an opportunity. The junior rushed forward and caught the signalcaller unaware, sacking him in the end zone for two points.
Defensive Coordinator Ryan Franzinger ’02 was proud of his young linebacker and defense on the play.
“It was an excellent play,” Franzinger said. “The great coverage forced the QB to hold the ball, and Connor came up to make the play.”
“Connor read it perfectly,” Kyle agreed. “He saw the quarterback get flushed and he had the right angle to get the tackle.”
Now leading 19-0, the Wildcats’ offense took the field with a cushion and confidence. Using a balanced attack, the Wildcats marched down the field. Welcsh ate yards on the ground and via a screen pass, and Connor Cmiel hauled in a nice first down pass at the hash marks.
With two minutes left to play, the Wildcats spotted the ball at the 1-yard on first down. Football North stood strong against the run for three plays before the Wildcats dialed up a pass. Delahunty found a cutting Jake Lang for a 1-yard strike on fourth down. McConville’s extra point placed the score at 26-0 with 1:28 remaining in the half.
Thanks to the stout defense for the Wildcats, which limited Football North to negative-3 yards in the first half, Saint Ignatius received one more chance to score. Delahunty drove the Cats into the red zone into McConville territory. The junior took care of business, knocking a 35-yard field goal through the uprights to set the score at 29-0 at halftime.
Football North showed no signs of surrender early in the second half. Brendon Barrow pierced the Wildcats for a 52-yard rushing strike, ending the shutout bid. Football North also stopped the Wildcats’ offense, but Pat Otter pinned the visitors at their own 1-yard line with a 50-yard punt.
Football North could not generate any offense, so the visitors decided to take a safety instead of attempting a punt. The two points advanced the Wildcats’ lead to 31-7 with nine minutes left in the third. The last time the Wildcats recorded two safeties in a game was in 2012 during a 49-13 win over Warren De La Salle.
“Offensively, they move the ball. They run the ball well, they throw the ball well. We bottled it up pretty well,” Kyle said. “Then we were getting some field position. When we get the ball at midfield, we can get some points out of it.”
On the ensuing kick, Cmiel dashed down the Wildcats’ sideline, setting the men of Ohio City up with great field position. Less than two minutes later, the Wildcats cashed in. Welcsh used his physicality inside to push the rock across from one yard out, sending the score to 38-7 Wildcats after a McConville PAT. The touchdown initiated the running clock with 6:23 left in the third.
Following a failed Football North drive, the Wildcats killed some clock. Griffin Hanna sent the squad into the red zone with a beautiful pass to Cmiel on the next drive. Floyd finished off the drive with a 9-yard off tackle run with 9:33 left in the fourth. Declan Mangan notched the extra point for the 45-7 lead.
Football North scored in response, taking 10 plays to drive down the field for a Quincy Vaughn touchdown pass. The two-point conversion did not succeed, leaving the score at 45-13 Wildcats.
A failed onside kick allowed the Wildcats to run out the rest of the clock, handing Football North its third defeat of the season.
The unsung heroes of the day were the offensive line. The men up front held off repeated Football North blitzes, on both running and passing plays. Due to an injury last week, Grant Abbott slid down to right guard and Seamus McCarthy played center on Saturday. The two seniors, and the rest of the line, performed well.
“The kids did a really good job this week,” Kyle said. “It was a lot of work involving picking up those blitzes and still being able to run the ball, wall up the gaps and make a cut. The backs did a good job of reading. You have to give the offensive line credit – whatever blitz they faced, they took care of it, and the backs found the seams. You can sit there and watch and say, ‘You’re going to run right into a blitz!’ Well, if you hit it right, it’s a great play.”
The Wildcats finished with 161 rushing yards and 373 total yards, both season highs. As a result, the Wildcats dominated the time of possession, 28:54-19:06.
“We’re at the midpoint of the year. Our kids understood that we have to prepare each week,” Kyle said. "We’ve come a long way since those first two games. I appreciate the kids understanding, ‘That’s fine, let’s go, what’s past is past.’ I think we’re getting to be a better football team, I really do.”
Schedule Update: The Wildcats will return to action next Saturday. The team will host West Toronto Prep on Saturday at Brooklyn High School. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Earlier this week, the OHSAA ruled that the Wildcats’ game vs. COF Academy will not count towards the playoff computer rankings. However, Saint Ignatius will continue to consider the game as a win, and the stats from the game will count.
If the season were to end today, the Wildcats would own the No. 5 seed in Division I, Region 1, according to Joe Eitel.