LAKEWOOD, Ohio — Everything went right for the defenses and little for the offenses.
Fittingly, a defensive play decided St. Edward's 7-3 win Saturday at sold-out First Federal Lakewood Stadium — which lived up to its "Madhouse on Madison" nickname — against rival St. Ignatius.
Senior safety Richard Johnson pulled in a high-lofting pass with 1 minute, 9 seconds left to end St. Ignatius' final threat. Until then, the Wildcats managed two-field goal attempts — converting one — and needed a touchdown.
"I saw the ball in the air and had to go get it," said Johnson, who broke off his coverage with St. Ignatius wideout Connor Cmiel to chase down Griffin Hanna's last pass. "I saw the ball in the air and said, 'I gotta get there. I gotta get there.' I just turn and ran up under it. It's really a blur right now."
St. Edward defensive end Jeff Pietrowski turned from the backfield and said he saw Johnson running with his head up. Once Johnson secured the football and fell out of bounds, most of the St. Edward team mobbed him on the track as a sea of green jerseys celebrated toward an adjacent wall near the stands.
The Eagles (6-1), ranked second in the cleveland.com Top 25, clinched a cherished victory.
Here’s that interception to clinch it for @sehs_football. pic.twitter.com/oUtygifuYp— Matt Goul (@mgoul) October 13, 2019
"The Holy War, there's nothing like it," Pietrowski said. "Sold out with people standing along the fences. That's why you come to St. Ed's, to play games like this."
Neither team scored in the first half.
No. 7 St. Ignatius (3-4) finally took a 3-0 lead on junior Declan Mangan's 49-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. The Wildcats controlled the ball for much of the first half and held a 183-81 edge in yardage. They ended the half with opportunities to score, but missed a 24-yard field goal after a false start pushed them back from the 3-yard line.
"We had a chance to make it 7-0 and had a 5-yard penalty," said St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle, who lamented the first half's ending.
His Wildcats never advanced any closer to the goal line the rest of the night. The host Eagles held them to 105 yards in the second half and managed just enough of an offensive push to produce Joseph Formani's go-ahead TD run with 11:16 to go in the fourth quarter.
Formani's 6-yard run capped a nine-play, 61-yard drive. A senior running back, Formani finished with 87 yards on 19 carries.
"We knew it was going to be a dogfight from the beginning," he said. "It always is. We just knew we had to be patient because our time was going to come to score."
pic.twitter.com/e4J4CTSxY6— Matt Goul (@mgoul) October 13, 2019
Jack Welcsh paced St. Ignatius with 103 yards rushing on 20 carries. Hanna threw for 201 yards on 13-of-26 passing and didn't throw an interception until his final attempt. The Wildcats
The Wildcats, who travel Saturday next week to Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller (1-6), needed this one for playoff points. They entered this week eighth in the OHSAA Division I, Region 1 playoff ratings and follow the Moeller trip with home games vs. Cincinnati St. Xavier (6-1) and West Toronto Prep (0-7) at Byers Field in Parma.
"Obviously we feel we have to win all three," Kyle said. "What we'll do is we'll try to win all three. I know our kids will do that, and we'll see what happens."
St. Edward, which entered the week third in the region, plays host Friday to Clarkson Football North (3-4) — the same Canadian program that shocked St. Ignatius two weeks ago on a last-second Hail Mary pass. The Eagles' last five regular-season games are at home, including Moeller and National Christian Academy (5-1) of Maryland in Weeks 9 and 10.
They enter that stretch playing their best defense of the year. Pietrowski, a Michigan State commit, called Saturday's game their best defensive performance "by far."
"They're a great offense," he said. "To only give up three, that's what we were looking for."
Added St. Edward coach Tom Lombardo, "In a rivalry game, when the kids are playing hard, this is sometimes what you get."
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