The former state powerhouse had a few rough seasons for their standards since their most recent title, but they returned to the playoffs last season with a 6-4 record (where they were bounced at home against Cleveland Glenville) and this year they will look to take the next step.
St. Ignatius has a pair of competent quarterbacks in Andrew Holland (6-1, 190, Jr.) and Pat Ryan (6-2, 185, Sr.) However, early word is that the talented Holland will be the starter and Ryan will move to wideout. Holland only played two varsity games last year, but everyone around the program is excited about him. He is a mobile quarterback who can burn teams with his legs or arm. And he’s a tough customer who is occasionally the lead blocker out of the shotgun after he hands off.
Legendary head coach Chuck Kyle is entering his 25th year at the helm and he doesn’t plan on stepping down “anytime soon.” You won’t find a more-respected coach in the state. The Wildcats have just five returning starters this year (2 offense, 3 defense), but they have one of the best junior classes in Ohio.
St. Ignatius almost always has a powerful running game, but it must replace graduated running back Matthew Merletti who had over 1,000 rushing yards last season. That job will likely go to senior Nick Shurtleff. He broke a school record with a 98-yard touchdown run last year and it will be interesting to see how well he does as the full time starter. He is one of many playmakers on what is expected to be an exciting and productive offense.
One major issue for the Wildcats this season could be their offensive line. They return just one starter in Steve Bigach (6-3, 220, Sr.) who also plays linebacker. He already has offers from Air Force, Army and Navy and is getting interest from several other schools such as Ohio University.
However, OT Frank Whitaker (6-3, 245, Jr.) is a first-year starter that the coaching staff is excited about. He could play defensive tackle as well.
The top wide receiver will likely be Joe Parris (6-0, 175, Jr.) who is the younger brother of Notre Dame WR Rob Parris.
Defensively, linebacker Emmitt Lydon (6-2, 225, Sr.) and DE/SS Dan Fox (6-2, 205, Jr.) will lead a formidable unit. And yes, you read that correctly. The multi-faceted Fox (who can also play tight end) can line up at defensive end or strong safety. Lydon will also be the starting fullback.
Other players to watch on the defense include returning starting linebacker Bryan Conway (6-2, 225, Sr.) and senior defensive end Kevin Medgley who led the team in sacks last year despite playing in a backup role.
The Wildcats have a very tough schedule and everyone will find out just how good they are when they host Cincinnati St. Xavier in week nine. But as we said in our Division I preview earlier this week, St. Ignatius is our pick to win the Division I, Region I championship and advance to state semifinals.
Cleveland St. Ignatius
|9/8/2007||Buffalo (N.Y. )Canisius||–|
|9/21/2007||Athol Springs (N.Y.) St. Francis||–|
|10/6/2007||@ Warren G. Harding||I|
|10/12/2007||@ Cincinnati LaSalle||I|
|10/20/2007||Cincinnati St. Xavier||I|
|10/27/2007||@ Lakewood St. Edward||I|