The big matchup is upon us this Friday Night in Columbus for the Division One OHSAA State Championship as the St. Ignatius Wildcats take on the St. Xavier Bombers.
The Bombers come into the game on a five-game winning streak, improving their once poor 4-5 record to 9-5 currently. They struggled through a regular season filled with injuries and some tight losses, but have bounced back and caught their stride at the right time.
Head coach Steve Specht will have to have his team ready on both sides of the ball if they hope to compete with the Wildcats. The Bombers will need a big game out of returning starting quarterback Ryan Clifford. This Penn State commit is the real deal and a key reason behind the late season and playoff run by the Bombers.
Sean Clifford has dealt with injury this year, but has since returned and tossed 7 touchdowns with 1,884 yards to go along with it. Not only can he throw, but he can run, and does major damage on the ground as well. Clifford has run for 548 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Wildcats must keep Clifford contained and judging on the success of their defense this season, should be able to. Opponents average only 10 points a game against them, and only twice all season have they given up more than 17 in a game, and both of those games went into overtime.
With Justin Sands and Mathew Viancourt anchoring the secondary along with Adam Shibley and James Leyden wreaking havoc on opposing Quarterbacks all season, expect more dominance from this defense Friday Night. The defense has been so good, they have only allowed opponents into their red zone 22 times this season.
As mentioned in prior articles, I firmly believe the outcome of this game will depend solely on the ability of St. Ignatius Quarterback Patrick Ryan to run the ball. Perhaps the biggest key to victory Friday night will be the legs, not the arms of Quarterback Patrick Ryan. He is deceptively fast and has caught teams off guard plenty of times.
His big 69 yard run last week put the game away against Liberty, and his massive night rushing the ball against Solon also helped the Wildcats win earlier in the playoff run. Ryan, finished with 581 yards on the ground this season to go along with 11 touchdowns. Mark my words, if Ryan gets room to run, this game will not be close.
If Chuck Kyle can keep the defense of the Bombers guessing, as to who will run the ball, the Wildcats should win this game handily. Between Bobinski, Stowers and Ryan in the backfield they will have plenty of weapons. The Wildcats also have the triple wide receiving threat of Travis Pot, Connor Kennedy and Ryan Cook to keep the Bombers from stacking 8 in the box to stop the run.
In the end, it will be a tight one, and I see it coming down to a Matthew Trickett kick in the final moments to put the game away for the St. Ignatius Wildcats as they secure their 12th State Championship 24-20.