How They Got to Canton- By Connor Martens ’13
By now every St. Ignatius student knows that the football team has won its record eleventh state championship, but some do not know how the ‘Cats found their way to Canton, so let us look back on the football team’s great playoff run:
Regional Quarterfinal vs. Boardman
Eric Williams uses his arm and feet to help lead the Wildcats to a 29-14 victory over Boardman. Williams completed 15 of 25 passes for 174 and three touchdowns and rushed for 102 yards on 15 carries as Saint Ignatius earned its spot in the regional semifinal vs. St. Edward. Boardman (7-4) surprised the Cats early by kicking a line-drive to open the game and recovering the football at midfield. Boardman took advantage of the short field position and punched in a touchdown by senior standout Devin Campell. The ‘Cats answered right back though, with a 7-play, 60-yard drive, capped off by a Blake Thomas 15- yard touchdown grab. From there it was all St. Ignatius as the tenacious defense, led by Mike Ryan, David Katusha, Zach Ryan, and Rustom Khouri, pressured Boardman’s quarterback Ryan Polifrone all night, eventually leading to a safety by Mike Ryan. The offense held its own as Tim Shenk hit two field goals in the second quarter and receivers Blake Thomas and Tim McCoy each hauled in a touchdown in the second half to seal the deal.
Regional Semifinal vs. St.Edward
It is hard enough to beat St.Eds once in a season, but twice? Almost impossible. But as the always reliable Tim Shenk sent a booming kick right through the uprights, St. Ignatius had come back to beat St. Edward yet again in dramatic fashion. As expected, it was a physical encounter and the score was knotted 3-3 at halftime. St. Eds came out strong in the second half as star running back Dwyane Aaron and quarterback Ryan Fallon ran for 64 and 45 yard touchdown runs, respectively, as St. Edward took a 17-3 lead. The Wildcats stormed back, though, as Eric Williams led an 11-play drive late in the third quarter, capped off by a Blake Thomas 15-yard touchdown catch. The ‘Cats responded again as talented junior tailback Tim McVey closed the gap on the scoreboard with an impressive 34-yard touchdown scamper, tying the score 17-17. The final seven minutes of play were wild, to say the least, as Tommy Fanning first recovered a fumble ,but then a few plays later St. Edward intercepted the ball at the Ignatius 39. It wasn’t all over, though, as St. Edward fumbled again on the very next play. This fatal mistake set up the ‘Cats last drive that featured Jake Mooney and Conor Hennessey on clutch receptions that set up Shenk’s 32- yard field goal. The win sent St. Ignatius to the regional final vs. Mentor and sent St. Edward home once again with a bitter taste in their mouth.
Regional Final vs. Mentor
This game went to the ‘Cats defense as it shut down Mentor’s spread offense and held it to 185 total yards, far below its average of 470 yards. The defense, led by junior Kevin Kavalec’s two sacks, a couple tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery, attacked Mentor’s star quarterback Mitch Trubisky and made him feel very uncomfortable in the pocket all night. Also helping out on the defensive side were Tommy Fanning, Adam North, Chad Aerni, Mike Svetina, and linebackers James Sheehan, Rustom Khouri, and Zack Ryan. Trailing 3-0 after the first quarter, the ‘Cats took a 13-3 lead on touchdown passes to Conor Hennessey and Jake Mooney. After a fumble recovery by Kevin Kavalec, Williams again found the end zone but this time with his feet as he barreled in on a quarterback keeper from one yard out to make the score 23-10 with 10:22 remaining. Mentor came back however, on a 32-yard pass to Conner Kriszancic with 6:27 left. Mentor, with all the momentum on its side, still could not stop the Iggy offense, as the ‘Cats ran the clock out with gutsy calls and talented running by Tim McVey. The win set up a state-semifinal matchup with Toledo Whitmer (13-0).
State-Semifinal vs. Toledo Whitmer
The Wildcats, with the defense setting the tone from the very first snap, kept a high-powered offense at bay as the ‘Cats defeated the previously undefeated Toledo Whitmer, 17-6. The defense jumpstarted the offense early as safety Chad Aerni intercepted a Toledo Whitmer pass and returned it deep in Whitmer’s side. Eric Williams took advantage of the short field and threw a terrific 18-yard pass to talented junior Conor Hennessey who made a diving grab in the end zone to put the ‘Cats up, 7-0, early in the first quarter. Following a recovery of a fumbled punt, Whitmer was on the verge of tying the game, but then exceptional corner Tommy Fanning picked off the ball at the goal line and returned it to Ignatius’s 31. Off a Rustom Khouri fumble recovery, Tim Shenk boomed the ball through the uprights from 51 yards out, making the score 10-0. Whitmer got back in the game after halftime following a 90-yard touchdown run by tailback Jody Webb. However, St. Ignatius got on the board again as Eric Williams threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tim McCoy. The game was sealed by a Mike Svetina fumble recovery as the ‘Cats found themselves in a place they were all too familiar with: the state championship game.