St. Edward Loses 'Holy War' Rematch
Second-half miscues, penalties key St. Ignatius comeback win — in the final play of the game — over St. Edward, 20-17.
To call the St. Edward/St. Ignatius rivalry "bitter" is a huge understatement.
For evidence of this rivalry being more than "just a game" one needed to look no further than just outside of the visitors’ locker room after St. Ignatius kicker Tim Shenk made a 32 yard field goal with 2 seconds on the clock to seal the victory for the Wildcats.
The two teams meet each year in the regular season finale in what is known as "The Holy War."
This year, it was a hotly contested battle that came down to turnovers; the Wildcats came away victorious by a score of 20-17.
Saturday night, the deepest in the playoffs that the two perennial powerhouses have met, would be no different — literally, it was the same final score with the Wildcats again capitalizing on mistakes.
The Eagles’ team spirit was evident after the crushing defeat; Eagles’ players, coaches, family and friends shared hugs, words of encouragement, and tears. After the loss, St. Edward coach Rick Finotti huddled for several minutes on the field with his team.
“We had the momentum, but the turnovers killed us," Finotti told Lakewood Patch after the game. "Our kids fought hard, some calls didn’t go our way. You have to give them (St. Ignatius) credit. Their quarterback made some nice throws, and in the end, we didn’t stop them.”
After a truly ground-breaking first-round playoff win over Cleveland Heights, in which the Eagles rushed for over three hundred yards as a team, running back Dwayne Aaron looked to be up to his old tricks.
On St. Ignatius’ first possession, the result was a Shenk field goal from 20 yards out for a 3-0 Wildcat lead. On the drive, Wildcat quarterback Eric Williams was sacked once; he would be sacked an astounding 8 more times throughout the evening.
The Eagle defense held up throughout the rest of the first half, buoyed by a swarming defense that kept pressure on Williams with exotic blitz packages, led by senior linebacker Sam Martello and senior defensive lineman Tom Lally, and stellar coverage in the secondary — notably by junior cornerback and All-State wrestler Domenic Abounader, who punished Ignatius receivers several times and almost came up with a key interception in the third quarter.
Senior kicker Jake Wilhelm chipped in a 21-yard field goal with 2:30 to go in the half to tie the game headed into the locker room.
Known for his halftime adjustments, St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle kept a calm demeanor in the locker room, and knew that coming out in the second half, his team had to counter the blitzes being thrown at Williams and contain Aaron for his team to have a chance.
"They had us in situations where it was one on one pass blocking, and that was more blitzing than we’re used to seeing them do," Kyle said. "A credit to our defense, we held in there, and we had our chances.”
Out of the gate in the second half, it looked as if Finotti had gotten the better of his counterpart Kyle, as Dwayne Aaron left Wildcat defenders grasping for air and streaked for a 64 yard score with just over 2 minutes gone in the half, giving the Eagles a 10-3 lead. At that point in the game, Aaron had rushed for 196 yards on just 21 carries.
The game looked to be playing right into the Eagles’ hands.
On the next three Wildcat possessions, the Eagles continued their defensive dominance, with Lally and senior defensive linemen Darryl Render and John Webb sending Williams crashing to the turf over and over again.
The Eagles took a commanding 17-3 lead on a broken play by junior quarterback Ryan Fallon when he scurried down the sidelines for a 45 yard touchdown. At that point, St. Edward had rolled up 124 yards of offense in the quarter, while St. Ignatius tallied negative 5 yards.
Then, the miscues and missed opportunities started to pile up for the Eagles. Penalties for a late hit and interference allowed the Wildcats to move down the field and score on a third down pass play from Williams to Blake Thomas with under a minute left in the third quarter.
After a quick three-and-out for St. Edward, the Wildcats tied the game on their first drive of the fourth quarter on a 34-yard score by junior Tim McVey.
The Wildcat defense, without the services of starting linemen Edward Cleveland and Kevin Kavalec, had figured out the Eagles’ running game, so St. Edward turned to the passing game to extend a drive midway through the quarter. Fallon made a great throw to a leaping Quincy Jones who came down with it to convert a long third down.
Then the game got sloppy, which turned out to be in the Wildcats’ favor. Two plays after recovering an Eagle fumble, Williams was under heavy pressure and threw into the waiting arms of freshman defensive back Shaun Crawford. On the next play, Fallon fumbled, giving the ball back to the Wildcats to set up Shenk’s deciding field goal.
With two teams so evenly matched, the game came down to missed opportunities, penalties and mistakes. It is a difficult way to end a season, as Finotti acknowledged after the game, but he and the team are upbeat in looking ahead to next season.
The Eagles have several players graduating on the offensive and defensive lines, but much of the rest of the team remains intact, as they gear up for another run at a state title, and another shot at St. Ignatius next October in the 2012 season finale.
St. Edward finished their season with a record of 8-4, St. Ignatius heads into a rematch in the Regional Finals with Mentor at 10-2. The series between the schools now stands at 27-21-1 in favor of St. Ignatius.