FNTD Week #10: Flea Flicker, Blocked Punt Lift #2 St. Edward over #1 St. Ignatius
PARMA, Ohio – The 50th meeting between St. Edward and St. Ignatius will go down as one of the best in the storied rivalry, affectionately known as the ‘Holy War.’ The Eagles and Wildcats came into the game with matching 9-0 records, and ranked #1 and #2 in the Division I AP Poll, but St. Edward coach Rick Finotti made two big gambles, which both paid off in the decisive fourth quarter.
The Eagles used a flea flicker and blocked punt to score the final 14 points of the game, and beat St. Ignatius 20-13. The win gave St. Edward its second undefeated regular season under Finotti in the last three years, plus the top seed in the region 1 playoffs, which start next weekend.
Legendary St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle came into the game with 299 career victories, including a pair of wins over St. Edward in 2011, as the Wildcats won their Ohio record 11th State Championship; and early on, it looked like Kyle would pick up win number 300 at the Eagles’ expense. On a windy night at Byers Field, senior quarterback Michael LaManna used his legs to lead the Wildcats to the game’s first points, a 36-yard field goal by junior Matthew Colella, which gave Ignatius a 3-0 lead.
But after St. Eds went three and out, LaManna made his first mistake of the night, throwing an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Eagles’ cornerback Patrick Riley. A long pass from Ryan Fallon to Shaun Crawford , and a personal foul penalty on the Wildcats moved Eds into field goal range, where Taylor Marsilio’s 24-yard kick tied the game at 3-3.
That’s when Ignatius turned to its workhorse, Tim McVey. The senior tailback carried the ball four times, leading the Wildcats on long drive that ended with their only touchdown of the night, a well-throw fade from LaManna to senior Conor Hennessey, which put Ignatius back on top, 10-3.
It looked like the Wildcats would take the seven point advantage into halftime, until Fallon made two big plays, first with his arm, firing a strike to Anthony Young on 3rd and 13, to keep the drive alive. Then Fallon did it with his legs, reversing field and avoiding tacklers to pick up 30 yards, setting up Marsilio’s second field goal of the half, a 29-yard kick that cut the Wildcats lead to 10-6 at the break.
The third quarter was dominated by the two talented defenses. Wildcats linebacker Dameon Willis stopped a promising St. Edward drive when he picked off a Fallon pass that was intended for Alex Middleton. But the Eagles’ defense returned the favor, stripping Michael Siragusa and recovering the fumble. The only points of the quarter came on Colella’s second field goal, a 30-yard kick, which extended the Ignatius lead to 13-6.
But the fourth quarter belonged to Fallon and the Eagles. The senior signal caller orchestrated a pivotal drive, completing three passes for first downs and marching St. Eds into Wildcats territory. That’s when Finotti made the first of his two calls that turned the game in the Eagles favor. Facing a big third down, he called for a handoff to Dwayne Aaron, but the speedy tailback took just steps with the ball, before stopping and pitching it back to Fallon, who then heaved it deep downfield to the streaking Young, who despite a sprained ankle that kept him out of practice all week, made a diving catch in the end zone, to tie score at 13.
With the momentum clearly on their side, the St. Edward defense forced Ignatius into a quick three and out, but the Wildcats got a big lift from Colella’s tremendous punt, which pinned the Eagles deep in their own territory. Then, after a key sack by Ignatius defensive end Matthew Gawlik, Fallon was forced to throw on third down and long, and his pass was intercepted by senior Bryan Fisher near midfield.
Needing just a field goal to take the lead, the Wildcats turned to McVey, but the Eagles defense was ready and forced Ignatius into another three and out. That’s when senior Connor King made the play of the game. King slipped through the Ignatius line and blocked Colella’s punt, and Kenny Butler dove on the ball in Wildcats’ territory, setting the stage for the biggest drive of Fallon’s career.
The Eagles drove inside the ten yard line, where Ignatius stopped Aaron on two inside runs, forcing a huge third down play with just over four minutes remaining. But Fallon saw what he was looking for; single coverage on sophomore David Dowell, who outjumped Scott Arthrell to catch the go-ahead touchdown pass. Marsilio’s extra point gave the Eagles their first lead of the night, 20-13.
For the first time all season, LaManna and the Wildcats offense needed a touchdown, just to force overtime, and after a short completion and a pair of misfires, St. Ignatius’ perfect record came down to a 4th and 8 play from their own 40. However, LaManna was able to hit Ziragusa on a crossing pattern for 13 yards, to move the chains and keep the drive alive.
LaManna then connected with McVey and Rocky Zingale in rapid succession, driving the Wildcats into the red zone, before Ryan Davis got free and sacked LaManna for a big loss with just over a minute to play, forcing Ignatius into 3rd and 18. And when LaManna’s fourth down pass fell incomplete, the St. Edward fans erupted, celebrating their first win over St. Ignatius since the Eagles state championship season of 2010.
St. Edward finishes the regular season a perfect 10-0. The Eagles clinched the top seed in Region 1 and will likely host Mayfield (6-4), which finished just percentage points ahead of Cleveland Heigths (8-2) for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The loss dropped St. Ignatius to 9-1 on the season, and put an end to their 15-game winning streak. The Wildcats finished second in Region 1 and appear headed for a showing with 7th seeded Austintown-Fitch (9-1).
The Division I Playoffs begin next Saturday, November 3, at the home fields of the top four seeds.
For all the final scores, plus video highlights and photo galleries from Friday and Saturday’s games, head over to the FOX-8 High School Football page.