For Walsh Jesuit football, the season opener against Mayfield revealed that there is plenty to be excited about. It was the new-look Warriors with a solid debut under first-year head coach Nick Alexander.
It was familiar territory for Alexander, a 2006 Mayfield graduate who played quarterback for the Wildcat program.
Alexander was amped up to say the least.
"I thought it was a very cool experience coaching my first game back at my alma mater," Alexander said.
"Obviously, it was not the outcome that I wanted, but I am proud of the effort that our kids played with," Alexander added. "Ross Bandiera [the Mayfield head coach] is doing a great job over there and I have nothing but respect for him, his staff and the entire program."
Walsh showed flashes in the 45-21 road loss.
The Warriors seized a 14-7 lead in the first quarter and had loads of energy in all three facets of the game.
Outside of some lapses, two extremely costly turnovers, and having difficulty with Mayfield's defensive pressure, Walsh played well.
The two turnovers devastated the Warriors as the visitors fumbled the ball on consecutive plays, which both led to Wildcat touchdowns.
"The guys came out ready to play," said the coach. "It wasn't difficult to get the kids up for the opener, it was a long offseason and they were excited to get the opportunity to hit someone else."
Senior quarterback Cam Mayes, a three-year starter, is off to a great start.
On third-and-11, the athletic Mayes ran out of the pocket and broke loose for a huge 40-yard touchdown scamper.
After sophomore Kasey Kish blocked a Wildcat punt, Mayes connected with junior receiver Bailey Russ in the corner of the end zone for an immediate 20-yard TD strike.
Suddenly, it was 14-7 in favor of Walsh as versatile Joey Isabella scored Mayfield's first TD on a 25-yard jaunt at Wildcat Stadium.
"Cam got the scoring going as he took off and he has the ability to beat you with his arm and his legs," noted Alexander. "He found Bailey in the corner of the end zone."
That tally lasted into the second stanza, but that's when two opportunistic scores pushed the Wildcats ahead and beyond.
Mayfield scored on a 31-yard pass from Michael Huss to wideout Ben Sherlock and then on a 17-yard run by Joe Suchy, set up by a fumble on the kickoff.
"We had two self-inflicted wounds when we fumbled the ball on consecutive plays, both leading to touchdowns," explained Alexander.
The bleeding didn't stop there.
Mayfield scored on its first three second-half possessions to stretch it to 45-14 and put the running clock into effect.
After a field goal, the regional qualifying Wildcats (5-6 in 2018) used an 82-yard scoring drive as Joey Dostal had a 16-yard TD run and Jack Klika added a 5-yard TD run.
The Wildcats, who may reach the state playoffs for a third straight year, had over 400 yards of offense.
Walsh went up against a staunch Mayfield defense, led by linebacker Domenic DeMuth (5-11, 215), who had five tackles behind the line.
The 21 points scored was impressive as Mayfield had shut out Walsh in the last two openers.
Mayes had his moments on offense with both the run and pass in the Warriors’ multiple offensive set.
Through the air, Mayes hit on 12-of-20 passes for 117 yards, one TD and most importantly, he had no interceptions. He added 17 rushing yards on 16 attempts, including sacks.
Alexander had plenty of praise for two-way athlete Dom Grguric, who had six catches for 70 yards and made plays on defense.
"Defensively, we were led by Bobby Perebzak, Nathan Boggs and Dom," said the head coach of his trio of juniors.
Kish, a linebacker/running back, also brought his lunch pail as he shined on special teams, defense and helped on the offensive end.
"Kasey blocked the punt and he was on every special teams unit, played offense for us and didn't come off the field at linebacker," commented Alexander.
"It was really positive how we played on special teams," added the mentor. "All of the guys performed well and it is something we will continue to hold our hat on."
Battle-tested senior Adam Salek had four rushes for 22 yards and a TD for the Warriors.
Sophomore Jack Romanini added four carries for 11 yards and senior placekicker Caroline Flessner was 3-for-3 on PATs.
Overall, Alexander and the coaching staff was encouraged.
"The players never quit," stated Alexander. "They kept fighting until the final whistle. We are still a hungry football team that has played and scrimmaged some good competition that we feel will have us ready moving forward."
After making its home debut Friday against Akron St-Vincent-St Mary, Walsh hosts Columbus Bishop Watterson Sept. 13 in non-league action.