St. Ignatius becomes first Ohio school to win 10 football state titles


St. Ignatius opened up a 21-0 lead on Elder before holding on 28-20. (Photo by Gary Housteau)

When the St. Ignatius football players arrived at practice last Thursday morning, 300 former Wildcats greeted them.

Never mind that it was Thanksgiving. They had a tradition to uphold.

When the St. Ignatius football players arrived at practice last Thursday morning, 300 former Wildcats greeted them.

Never mind that it was Thanksgiving. They had a tradition to uphold.

Some had played on one or more of the school’s nine state championship teams from 1988 to 2001. Others hadn’t experienced the thrill. But their mere presence inspired the current edition to greatness.

That greatness was achieved Saturday night at Canton Fawcett Stadium. The Wildcats clawed their way to a 28-20 triumph over persistent Elder to win their first Division I crown in seven years.

And if the performance of one particular junior is any indication, an 11th state title for Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle could certainly be earned in 2009. That player is linebacker Scott McVey, who registered four-and-a-half of the team’s eight sacks, added an interception, and spent half the evening in the Panthers’ backfield.

McVey was so impressive that Kyle compared him to Massillon Washington legend Chris Spielman, who went on to be a standout linebacker at Ohio State and three-time Pro Bowler in the NFL.

“There have been some great players who have played on this field over the year, kids like Spielman, and this is a kid who can be like that,” Kyle exclaimed. “He loves playing the game. Send him on a blitz – he loves it. Put him out in coverage and he’ll get an interception for you. He has skill, that’s for sure, but you can also see that he loves the game. There are certain players who are just playmakers and he’s one of them.”

So is Wildcats quarterback Andrew Holland, who placed his team in control from the start by engineering a scoring drive on the game’s opening possession. He fired a pass over the middle to tight end Brendan Carozzoni, who shed a tackle and raced into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown that made it 7-0.

The Panthers responded by driving into Ignatius territory, but an interception by McVey (who else?) killed the march. Hot-Hand Holland continued to fire away, then stretched the advantage to 14-0 on a perfect arc pass to senior Connor Ryan.

The Wildcats were merely revving up. They made it three touchdowns in three possessions on a 2-yard run by Pat Hinkel, a brilliant safety who doubles as a goal-line back.

The teams traded interceptions in the second quarter, after which prolific Elder quarterback Mark Miller and receiver Tim O’Conner went to work. The pair hooked up on a 9-yard scoring strike with three minutes remaining in the first half to give their team hope.

It would become a trend. Miller continued firing away the rest of the game and finished with Division I title game records of 28 completions and 401 passing yards. O’Conner contributed 15 receptions, which is a championship game record for all divisions.

But the Panthers couldn’t recover until their defense did. And that defenses yielded another touchdown on the Wildcats’ first drive of the second half when Holland dumped a short pass to Ryan, who broke a tackle and raced 51 yards down the right sideline to increase the lead to 28-7.

“Our offensive coaches called some great routes,” said Holland, who completed 12 of 22 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. “And I had great protection. I tried to look at it like a regular season game, but that was hard to do. The coaches did a great job putting together a scouting report. (Elder) played a 4-2 and dropped their defensive backs, so those curl routes in the middle of the field were going to be open all night.”

Elder finally found itself defensively from that point on, but it was a classic case of too little, too late. A 45-yard bomb from Miller to 210-pound wideout Josh Jones chopped its deficit to 28-13 (Ignatius safety Dan Fox blocked the extra point) with 17 seconds left in the third quarter. Miller added a 2-yard scoring pass to O’Conner with 1:22 remaining in the game.

The Wildcats, however, clinched it when Tommy Hunt snagged the ensuing onside kick. The Panthers were out of timeouts, which allowed Ignatius to run out the clock and set off a raucous celebration.

And when it was over, Elder coach Doug Ramsey reflected on McVey’s dominance.

“That kid hurt us, man,” he said, shaking his head. “He’s a good blitzer. We knew coming in that he would be a tough guy to handle. He beat linemen, he beat backs, he beat tight ends. He’s a great football player.

“He was the guy who we were most concerned with, but they did a good job of doing different things so we couldn’t say, ‘OK, he’s going to be here, so let’s do this.’ They moved him around a little bit from side to side.”

McVey was quite appreciative.

“All we were trying to do was pressure the quarterback,” he said. “After that, everything fell into place. We just used our speed around the edge and our defensive linemen definitely helped me.”

On the other hand, the Wildcats could do nothing to slow down O’Conner. But from the morose look on his face following the game, it appeared he would have traded in all 15 of those receptions for a victory.

“We worked hard, but we couldn’t get anything going in the first half,” he said. “We just gave up too many points defensively.”

And because of it, the number of Wildcats who have experienced a state championship just grew yet again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *