CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Did you really expect anything different?
Just when it seemed like Chuck Kyle's storied 41-year run would come to an unceremonious end, his Wildcats fought back just one more time.
Saint Ignatius overcame a 28-point halftime deficit to earn a stunning 50-49 win over Cleveland Heights last Friday night in the second round of the OHSAA Division I football playoffs. It marks the 377th victory of Kyle's career, and earns him one last battle against archrival St. Edward in next weekend's regional semifinals.
Seeded fourth in Region 1, the Tigers were able to wear down Ignatius early with an unstoppable running game, as Darreon Fair posted multiple long carries including a 66-yard touchdown run that put Heights up 28-14 in the second quarter. Just before the half, Henry Perrymond Jr. picked off a Joshua Papesh pass and took it to the house, making the score 42-14 at intermission.
But in the third quarter, the No. 5 Wildcats (8-3) suddenly found life, with Papesh running for a touchdown and throwing for two more to cut the lead to seven. Early in the fourth, he found a wide-open Jonathan Merimee from 17 yards out to tie it up at 42.
Things stayed that way until just 1:16 remained, when Fair's fourth TD put Cleveland Heights (10-2) up 49-42. However, on the ensuing kickoff, Max Ritt sent the visiting stands into a frenzy with an 82-yard return to make it 49-48. Rather that kick the PAT and tie it up, "Chico" opted to go for 2, and Brandon Webster broke a tackle on a Papesh screen pass before scampering in to put the Cats on top.
Heights had one last chance to win it with 1:03 left, but a fourth-down pass landed incomplete. It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Tigers, who have not made it past the second round of the postseason in more than two decades.
It seems fitting that Saint Ignatius and St. Edward will now meet again in Kyle's final playoff ride, just as the two foes have done so many times before. Kyle is 26-17-1 all-time as a head coach against the Eagles but has dropped the last five in the series dating back to 2018, including a 48-6 beatdown last month.
Top-seeded St. Ed defeated Jackson tonight 42-0. For here on out, all postseason games will be played at neutral sites, with the locations yet to be determined.