2016 State Football Championship Preview: Jesuit Bowl III

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14 weeks have come and gone, and those 14 weeks have seen 13 wins for the 2016 Saint Ignatius Wildcats, who have now reached their ultimate goal of playing in a state championship game.

They are one win away from capturing the school’s 12th OHSAA Division 1 State Championship. However, they have to go through, and beat, the 9-5 Bombers of St. Xavier, who are having a historic playoff run. After cruising through the first round, the Bombers went into back-to-back overtime games in regionals, knocking off nationally ranked Colerain in the Regional Semifinal, and then beating a highly underrated Sycamore team in the Final.

Nor did they have it easy in the State Semifinal, having to go up against an always legitimate Pickerington Central ballclub that was able to hang in with St. Xavier after not playing their best game of the season.

None the less, we are ready for Jesuit Bowl III, the Wildcats vs. Bombers. This is the third time these two schools with go head-to-head in the state championship game. The first time came back in 1992, where undefeated Saint Ignatius defeated the undefeated Bombers 24-14. The second time came in 2001, where Saint Ignatius won again, 37-6.

The 2016 matchup could be eerily similar, where both teams have strong offenses, but incomparable defenses. St. Xavier’s defense has given up 1748 yards, 25 redzone scores, and 17 rushing touchdowns. The games the Bombers have won were extremely close. The Bombers have gone into overtime three times this season and are 2-1 in those games. Two of the overtime games have come against Colerain, and they won the all-important matchup in the Regional Semifinal, 29-23. Other close games have included a 34-29 win over Indianapolis (IN) Cathedral, a 17-14 loss to La Salle, a 19-18 loss to Warren (IN) Central, and most recently a 29-27 win over Pickerington Central in the State Semifinal.

St. Xavier’s quarterback Sean Clifford is a Penn State recruit and has gotten looked at by college football experts and recruits from around the country. After just making the playoffs, Sean Clifford was able to come back for the postseason and lead the Bombers on a historic playoff run. He came back for the Colerain playoff game and threw for 131 yards and 1 touchdown, running 87 yards and 1 touchdown. He is their running back, and he is their strength on offense. If not for Clifford, the Bombers probably would not be in the State Final.

In six starts, Clifford has thrown for 1284 yards, 7 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and leads the team in rushing with 548 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.

His weapons for throwing the ball have been impressive as well, with Cam Specht, the head coach’s son, receiving for 639 yards and 3 touchdowns. Running back Quinn Early is expected to see a lot of action Friday night, as he has run for 529 yards and 3 touchdowns.

If Saint Ignatius stays strong with their defensive scheme they have been going with all season long, then they should be in a good position all game long. Clifford is going to have success, and he is going to have a good game. The Wildcats are just going to have watch for the pass and quarterback sneak. Clifford will run the ball after looking for an option to pass the ball. Their offensive line is impressive and will give him all day.

Matching up against our offense, St. Xavier’s defense is not as strong as their offense, and with Bobinski carrying the ball, he can run all over their smaller defensive line.

Kickoff from Ohio Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University is at 8:00, as the Wildcats are looking to rescue that 12th state championship trophy.