BY JOSH WEIR
Repository sports writer
The record says “6-4.”
The name says “St. Ignatius.”
The latter carries more significance.
With Halloween recently passed, McKinley received the trick rather than the treat when it got matched up with the Wildcats. The Bulldogs host Ignatius in a Division I, Region 1 quarterfinal at Fawcett Stadium on Saturday night at 7.
Earning a first-round home playoff game shouldn’t include Ignatius coming to your front door. But that is the challenge that awaits the 9-1 Bulldogs.
“You’re going to get the best from Ignatius, and that was the message to our kids,” McKinley head coach Todd Filtz said.
These two tradition-laden programs meet for the first time in a game that counts since 2003.
McKinley and Ignatius finished eighth and 10th, respectively, in the Associated Press Division I state poll. Ignatius handed the No. 3 (St. Edward) and No. 6 (Mentor) teams in that poll their only losses this season.
McKinley will be just the fourth Ohio opponent Ignatius has faced this year. Among the out-of-state schools the Wildcats played was Brother Rice (Mich.), the 22nd-ranked team in the nation according to USA Today.
That tough schedule has contributed to a season of injuries unlike any other head coach Chuck Kyle has seen.
The Wildcats lost Ohio State-bound linebacker Kyle Berger for the season during an August scrimmage against McKinley at Fawcett. Berger tore an ACL while trying to chase down future teammate Eric Glover-Williams — McKinley’s quarterback and a Buckeye recruit.
This happened after starting quarterback Kyle Mahoney was lost for the season due to an ankle injury on the first day of full-contact drills.
The injury problems never really stopped for Ignatius.
“There were points in the season it just seemed like we were getting a significant injury almost every game,” Kyle said. “It was a little disheartening. But a tremendous credit to the kids. They were all into the idea of ‘Next guy up, because our goals can’t change.’ ”
They don’t ever at Ignatius.
The Wildcats have suffered one losing season in Kyle’s 31 years as head coach. They have made the playoffs in 25 of the last 26 years. Their 11 state titles are the most by any school, in any division.
Dameon Willis, a University of Indiana recruit, has become the leader of the Ignatius defense in Berger’s place. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior is a hybrid linebacker-safety.
“He gets after it. He’s a special one,” Filtz said. “We need to be sure we’re identifying him. But all over the field, it’s no secret, they’ve got guys that can play.”
McKinley counters with a run-heavy offense built on the considerable talents of Glover-Williams, who is healthy after laboring with a midseason ankle injury.
“I know his nickname is Superman,” said Kyle, recalling the highlight-reel touchdown Glover-Williams had on a punt return in the scrimmage. “... You certainly have to know where he’s at.”
Filtz hopes the McKinley offense can sustain some drives after gaining only nine first downs in last week’s 34-7 loss to Massillon. Some production from the passing game would help in that area.
Filtz says it is hard to put a finger on the Wildcats’ offensive identity because their personnel constantly changed this season. But with senior quarterback John Thomas back and healthy after a shoulder injury, it would not be surprising to see Ignatius throw the ball a lot Saturday.
That’s what happened during the August scrimmage. Thomas hit 6-foot-3 wide receiver Michael Siragusa for several big plays and Ignatius sliced up McKinley’s zone defense.
“We can’t just be (standing) around in our zone this week,” Filtz said. “We’ve got to be there with intentions on making plays on the ball.”
Led by an offensive line featuring 6-4, 300-pound tackle Jim Byrne, a Notre Dame recruit, the Wildcats aren’t shy about pounding the ball on the ground, too.
The McKinley defense, which struggled with Massillon’s running game last week, has been a strength much of the season. Senior linebacker Jamal Davis II leads the Bulldogs.
“Their team speed is very good. ... They can make big plays pretty quickly,” Kyle said. “And they’re the typical Canton McKinley image of aggressive football. They’re going to come at you and hit you.”
Reach Josh at 330-580-8426
On Twitter: @jweirREP