By Adam Baum, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elder proved it can play with the best in the state Saturday afternoon, taking the No. 1-ranked Division I team in Ohio, Cleveland St. Ignatius, down to the wire in a 30-28 loss in The Pit.
"We proved we can play," said Elder head coach Doug Ramsey. "That's the thing, now we gotta clean a few things up. We can be a pretty good team."
Ramsey told his team after the game that the Panthers looked like a different team from last week's 40-7 beatdown at the hands of No. 4 Lakewood St. Edward.
"We played a lot harder, a lot more physical this week than we did last week," said Ramsey.
It was the fifth meeting all-time between St. Ignatius and Elder with the Wildcats taking a 3-2 series lead. It was St. Ignatius' first trip to Elder since 2001.
Meeting Saturday for the first time since the Wildcats beat Elder in the 2008 Division I state championship, the difference proved to be the right foot of St. Ignatius senior Matthew Trickett, who hit three field goals from 45, 40 and 55 yards.
"I was telling those guys, their kicker made the difference in the game," said Ramsey. "Every one of our drives we started at the 20 and in except for one and he kicked the ball out of bounds and right before half we went down, 2-minute drive and scored. I thought our offense did a lot of good things and our defense did a lot of good things against them. We just came up a little short."
Trailing 17-14 at halftime, Elder watched the Wildcats extend the lead to 20-14 early in third quarter, when the Panthers went back to work with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Danny Nieman to Jack O'Brien that gave Elder its first lead of the game, 21-20.
Then, Trickett put the Wildcats back on top, 23-21, with a 55-yard field goal that tied a school record.
Midway through the fourth quarter, St. Ignatius struck again and went up 30-21 on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Alexander to Sam Snyder.
Elder responded with an 80-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown pass to junior Kyle Trischler from Nieman with 2:10 left in the game.
Elder's defense forced a three-and-out while the Panthers burned all three timeouts. On its final possession, Elder worked all the way down to the Wildcats' 41-yard line when Nieman was intercepted to seal it.
Nieman was 23-of-37 for 303 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Danny Faillace finished with 10 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown, while Trischler caught eight passes for 116 yards and two scores.
Elder outgained the Wildcats 426-388, but St. Ignatius was able to rush for 198 yards against Elder’s 77.
Outside of the fact that Elder missed a field goal in the first half, there were two sequences -- one in the first half, the other in the second -- that proved to have an impact on the game.
In the second quarter, Elder's defense thought it had come up with a stop in its own territory when it was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for seemingly celebrating a big tackle. The penalty extended the drive and two plays later the Wildcats scored to take a 14-7 lead.
In the third quarter, St. Ignatius was threatening to score at Elder's 5-yard line when running back Mark Bobinski fumbled it over to Elder. With the game televised, the press box was able to see the replay that showed the fumble was caused by contact with the ground, meaning it should have stayed with the Wildcats.
Elder has to lick its wounds and get back to work with a trip next week to St. Xavier, the defending state champion and No. 2 team in the AP state poll.
"That's gonna be the hard part," said Ramsey. "The emotional part of this game and then we gotta bounce back and go over to X. We've gotta regroup and get ready for a tough game."