CLEVELAND — You couldn't have scripted it any better.
With family, former players, and well wishers from all around, Saint Ignatius football legend Chuck Kyle coached the final regular-season game of his remarkable 40-year career Friday night. The matchup with Clarkson Football North out of Ontario, Canada, took place at tiny Wasmer Field, in the shadow of the school "Chico" devoted his life to for so many decades.
"Who would've thunk back then that Chuck would have taken over as the new legend," Kyle's fellow 1969 graduate Kevin Mirande said. "We're so proud of him and want to give him a good send off."
It was a picture-perfect night on Cleveland's west side, one that could've only been somewhat spoiled if the Wildcats had managed to lose. Thankfully, Kyle's last group of "Ignatius Men" made sure that didn't happen, hanging on for a thrilling 10-7 win over the Chargers.
The pivotal moment came with less than a minute to go, as Football North (3-4) lined up for a 52-yard field goal that would've tied the game. However, Brandon Webster managed to get around the line and block it, icing Kyle's 375th overall victory.
Saint Ignatius (6-3) actually trailed 7-0 after the contest's first drive, but quarterback Joshua Papesh eventually found Jonathan Merimee for a long touchdown to knot things up at 7. John Leszcz then recorded an interception by the goal line, keeping things all even heading into halftime.
In the third quarter, a catch-and-run by Webster set up a 25-yard Tommy Kilbane field goal to give the Wildcats their first lead of the evening. It would remain that way well into the fourth, when Iggy failed to pick up a fourth down just beyond midfield, giving the Chargers a chance.
Football North got to the Ignatius 35, but rather than go for it on fourth-and-9, the opted to try for three. Fortunately, Webster managed to get his fingertips on it as Ben Taliak dashed down the sideline. A penalty would take the return back a bit, but it didn't matter as the Wildcats kneeled on the ball to preserve the final margin, as fans stormed the field and chanted "Thank you, Chico!"
"Tonight its really just the fruits of the labor of all the 40 years that he's worked for to build up the respect and the reputation for the Saint Ignatius program," former player Tommy Wasinski told 3News.
It was a fitting send off for Kyle, but his ride isn't over yet. Saint Ignatius now awaits its opponent for the first round of the OHSAA Division I playoffs, which will take place at Byers Field in Parma.
"I mean, I'm getting chills as we speak about Coach Kyle, about his legacy, about everything he's going to be doing," 2020 alum Nick Ventura said.
'An Ignatius Man forever'
3News' Jim Donovan pays tribute to Chuck Kyle and his remarkable run with the Wildcats:
'I wouldn't trade a second'
Jimmy also recently sat down with Kyle for a special one-on-one interview, where the famed coach discussed football, family, opportunities, and life lessons along the way. You can watch the full 40-plus-minute exchange below:
'He demanded the most of us'
Former Wildcats Drew and Eric Haddad also spoke with Jimmy about what it was like to play for Coach Kyle
'A letter to my dad'
Kyle's daughter Maureen, who you know well as one of the hosts of 3News' "GO!", shared a special message to her father prior to kickoff:
'I'm happy to call you my coach'
Well wishes continue pouring in from the Saint Ignatius community, including Broncos defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones: