EUCLID, Ohio — This was the way Chuck Kyle would've wanted to go out: Battling his bitter (but respected) rival one more time.
Granted, he would've certainly rather had a win, but he can take pride in knowing his underdog team fought for him to the very last whistle.
Kyle's 40-year career as Saint Ignatius' football coach officially came to an end Friday night, as the Wildcats lost to St. Edward 28-7 in the OHSAA Division I regional semifinals. The top-seeded Eagles came in as huge favorites after beating their arch foes 48-6 last month, but this game was much closer than the final score might indicate.
Despite being out-gained 160-40 in the first half, fifth-seeded Ignatius trailed just 7-0 at intermission. Marvin Bell put St. Ed out in front with a 1-yard touchdown run, but the Eagles also missed three field goals.
That gave the Wildcats life as the third quarter began, with junior quarterback Joshua Papesh leading them on a drive deep into Eagle territory. On fourth down from the 3-yard line, he found Hunter Moriarity in the end zone for a score, tying thing things up at 7.
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But from there, St. Edward (12-1) was able to impose its will, with Casey Bullock hitting Kyan Mason for a 45-yard gain that set up another Bell TD. After Nate Gregory came up with a third-down sack of Papesh on the next series, the Eagles took over and saw Mason haul in another reception 38 yards downfield before Bullock connected with Grady Lentz-Pieffer to make it 21-7.
Saint Ignatius had one more chance to get back in it, but Papesh was intercepted by Jonathan Slaper with just over 2 minutes left, returning it all the way to the Wildcat 4 and setting up one last Bell touchdown. As the clock ran down, members of the Eagles' student section began to taunt Kyle on his impending retirement, but he eventually met his St. Ed counterpart Tom Lomardo at midfield for a warm embrace, signifying the respect the two competitors have had for each other over the years.
The book is now closed on the Chuck Kyle era at Saint Ignatius, but what an era it was: 377 wins, 11 state titles, three national championships, and countless men and women who love him and have felt his impact on them. He also finishes with a career record of 26-18-1 against St. Edward, although he unfortunately dropped the last six dating back to 2018.
St. Edward advances to the Division I, Region 1 finals, where they will face No. 3 Mentor at a neutral site for a trip to the state semis. The Eagles are seeking their second consecutive state championship and fourth under Lombardo.