CINCINNATI – Elder gave the state’s top-ranked football team everything it could handle late Saturday afternoon at The Pit.
Although Cleveland St. Ignatius defeated the Panthers 30-28, Elder coach Doug Ramsey was pleased with the effort his squad gave throughout the game.
“We played harder and a lot more physical this week than we did last week for sure,” Ramsey said.
Elder (3-2) lost to undefeated Lakewood St. Edward 40-7 at Bedford High School Sept. 16, and the natural question was how the Panthers would respond.
“We proved we can play,” Ramsey said. “We got to clean a few things up. We can be a pretty good team.”
Elder proved to be up to the task on a very warm Saturday afternoon – rallying from a 10-point deficit in the first half to take its first lead at 21-20 with 4:40 left in the third quarter. That was when senior quarterback Danny Nieman found senior Jack O’Brien for a 20-yard touchdown pass connection.
But, special teams proved to be crucial for St. Ignatius (5-0), ranked the No. 1 team in the Associated Press Division I state poll. Every Elder drive started at its own 20 and within on kickoffs except for one, and Ramsey said that was significant.
Senior Matthew Trickett tied a school record with a 55-yard field goal to give St. Ignatius a 23-21 lead with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter.
“Their kicker made a difference in the game,” Ramsey said.
Elder’s offense went three-and-out on its next two possessions. The Panthers struggled to run the ball in the second half – gaining only 77 rushing yards for the game. Ramsey admitted he was reluctant to call running plays in the second half.
St. Ignatius took advantage of a big play with 5:08 left when senior quarterback Daniel Alexander found senior Samuel Snyder for a 50-yard touchdown pass connection. The play was similar to the Wildcats’ opening drive, which led to the first score of the game.
However, Elder quickly responded with its passing game with under three minutes left. The Panthers had 426 total yards including 329 in the air.
Nieman found junior Kyle Trischler for a 54-yard pass connection. Five plays later, Trischler made an outstanding diving catch in the end zone to help Elder close the gap to 30-28 with 2:10 left.
St. Ignatius punted on its next possession.
Elder moved the ball quickly with under two minutes left and no timeouts. But, St. Ignatius had an interception near the Elder sideline at the Wildcats’ 41-yard line to seal the game with 39 seconds left.
Nieman was 23 of 37 passing for 303 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Danny Faillace had 10 receptions for 151 yards and a 2-yard touchdown catch. Trischler had eight receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
Elder senior linebacker Jared Tepe had nine tackles including 1 ½ sacks.
The Panthers open GCL South play Sept. 29 at St. Xavier (5-0). The Bombers are ranked No. 2 in the AP state poll, No. 14 nationally by MaxPreps and No. 20 nationally by USA Today.
“That’s going to be the hard part,” Ramsey said. “The emotional part of this game and then we have to bounce back and go over to X. So we have to re-group and get ready for a tough game.”
Saturday was the first meeting between St. Ignatius and Elder since the 2008 Division I state final. It was the first matchup for the two programs at The Pit since 2001.
Saturday was also part of a home-and-home agreement with St. Ignatius. Elder travels to Northeast Ohio to play the Wildcats in 2018.