Saturday, October 23, 1999

St. Ignatius major roadblock for St. X

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The game is billed as the “Cheerios Bowl.” At 7 tonight at Lakewood Stadium in Cleveland, St. Xavier (7-0) and Cleveland St. Ignatius (7-1), the two Ohio high school football teams with their pictures on Cheerios Cereal boxes, will meet.

        Ranked No.2 in the Associated Press Division I poll, St. Xavier can take a step toward claiming the top spot held by Grove City, while St.Ignatius (No.5) could move up several notches in the rankings.

        The Wildcats' only loss was to Youngstown Boardman the second game of the season.

        “We're already in the playoffs and so is St. X,” St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle said. “It's nice for neither team to have to worry about making it. Two good teams can now go out and play a great football game.”

        A crowd in excess of 10,000 is expected to jam Lakewood Stadium for the game, which will be St. Xavier's first on an artificial surface this season.

        “I would have to think that we're the underdog,” Kyle said. “We only returned two starters on offense and two on defense. On the other hand, St. X has an experienced team.”

        Besides a big offensive line, St. Ignatius features junior quarterback Bryan Panteck, who has thrown for 830 yards, and senior tailback Dan Murphy, a 5-foot-11, 220-pound junior with 4.6 speed over 40 yards.

        “Bryan didn't take over until the third game, when our senior got dinged up,” Kyle said. “He's come a long way and is doing a great job.”

        But the heart and soul of the Wildcats' offense is Murphy, who rushed for 230 yards two weeks ago against Canton McKinley. He's averaging 6 yards a carry and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards this season.

        “Dan is very strong and has deceptive speed,” Kyle said. “He cuts very well and can really scoot.”

        St. Ignatius has four receivers with 15 or more catches: Mike Foran, Dan Arbeznik, Rory Hennessey and Jonathan Gannon.

        Through eight games, St.Ignatius has averaged 256 yards rushing and 168 passing.

        “The key for us is to be able to consistently move the ball against their defense,” Kyle said. “They blitz a lot, and we haven't played too many teams that put eight defenders in the box.”

        Defensively, Kyle said the Wildcats have changed.

        “We were becoming very predictable and teams knew what to expect,” Kyle said. “We're now mixing it up and we'd like to put pressure on their quarterback (Marty Mooney) to rattle his cage.”

        St. Xavier's defense has allowed 64 points, 898 yards rushing and 681 passing en route to a 7-0 record.

        “There's no secret what we have to do,” Bombers coach Steve Rasso said. “The keys are playing good defense, and running, throwing and kicking the ball on offense.”

        Besides Mooney, St.Xavier's key offensive players are receivers Michael Larkin, Nick Larsen and Eric Arling, along with tailback Steve Sollmann.

        “Steve has a sore shoulder and had it examined this week,” Rasso said. “But if I know Steve, he'll be ready to play.”

        St. X is 0-4 against St. Ignatius, including a loss in the 1992 state championship game. With a four-hour bus ride, artificial turf and a pro-St. Ignatius crowd, St. X will have a tough time.


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