CLEVELAND - It's never happened in 49 meetings. But, on Saturday night at Byers Field in Parma, St. Edward and St. Ignatius will take the field at 9-0 for the 50th edition of the Holy War. The game is a sellout.
Some compare this game to the Michigan-Ohio State battle at the collegiate level. It's an intense neighborhood rivalry.
"It's a privilege to play in a game like this," St. Edward coach Rick Finotti said. "It's a monumental game featuring two undefeated teams with high aspirations for the postseason. A lot of pride is on the line. We're excited"
Both teams are nationally ranked. St. Ignatius tops the AP state Division I high school poll and St. Edward is second. The Eagles are first in the Division I, Region 1 of the OHSAA computer rankings followed by the Wildcats. Both teams have secured a playoff berth and a first-round home game.
"I'm not big when it comes to rivalries. That's way I've always been," St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle said. "The students know each other very well. Hopefully, they'll just have fun with the game. It's definitely a big game. There will be a lot of energy . We will be playing a very good opponent in a great environment. But whatever the outcome, both teams will be on the practice field on Monday. We can't lose sight of our main goal which is to win a state championship. We're a very good football team but I do not feel we've reached the potential of the team we can be."
St. Ignatius leads the series, 27-21-2, including two victories last season. The Wildcats have won six of the last seven meetings. Coach Kyle has 21 victories against the Eagles and will be going for his 300th career win this week.
The Wildcats are the defending Division I state champs. St. Edward won the the state title in 2011 with a 15-0 record.
"We're focused on our team and it's place in school history," Finotti said. "Our coaches and players have worked hard. Our "Team 64" motto is about being a family and the 64th football team at the school. We want to do our part to keep the football tradition going at our school."
The Eagles are finishing a grueling three-game stretch to the regular season that includes wins over Cincinnati St. Xavier and Moeller.
Leading St. Edward offensively are senior quarterback Ryan Fallon, senior tailback Dwayne Aaron and senior wide receiver Anthony Young. Aaron rushed for 250 yard on 36 carries and scored four touchdowns against Moeller last week.
"We need to score points and use our up tempo to keep their (Wildcats) defense on their heels," Finotti said. "We have an explosive triple threat type offense. We also have to secure the football. "
"Our front six/seven guys on defense have to dominate the line of scrimmage," Kyle said. "We have to limit where they (Eagles) can have success. They have big play capabilities. Their skill players have amazing speed. They can score."
Defensive standouts for the Eagles are senior middle linebacker Lavonte Robinson and senior safety Domenic Abounader.
"They're the heart and soul of our defense," Finotti said. "When the going gets tough the coaches and their teammates can count on them."
Senior tailback Tim McVey and senior quarterback Mike LaManna are key components in the St. Ignatius offensive attack.
"Tim is a tough and fast running back who make big plays," Kyle said. "We also can throw the ball effectively. You need to have balance to go deep into the playoffs."
"They (Wildcats) are a fast temp team also," Finotti said. "We can't give them a quick score and must contain McVey."
Standouts on defense are senior end Kevin Kavalec (Boston College), senior nose guard David Katusha (Air Force) and senior defensive end Matt Gawlik.
"Going into the season we knew our experience defensive line would be very good," Kyle said. "Our linebackers continue to get better and made some huge plays the last few games."
No matter which team wins on Saturday night, there's a good possibility of a rematch in the playoffs. If that happens, there will be more the bragging rights on the line. It will be an elimination match.