Walsh Jesuit football wins first opening game in decade vs. Holy Name

Steve Bakto

Whether it was a first varsity start or an athlete with a new role, the season opener for Walsh Jesuit’s football team was an opener jam-packed with firsts.

All of those firsts were positive – especially the Warrior’s impressive 24-7 victory over Parma Heights Holy Name in North Royalton.

It has been almost a decade since Walsh captured a win to open up a season.

The last time Walsh won a season opener – that came on August 26, 2011 — the state-playoff bound Warriors edged Louisville on the road in a 27-26 thriller.

“It was a great way to start the 2020 season with a win,” said second-year head coach Nick Alexander.

After Walsh was sidelined just before its scheduled  opener against a club that experienced positive COVID-19 tests, the program got the go ahead to move forward.

Thanks to thorough and quick work by school officials in conjunction with health officials, Walsh was cleared to play and added Holy Name at literally the last minute on the schedule.

“The game was difficult to prepare for because we did not have much film on Holy Name, but these kids went out and executed and just played hard for four quarters,” said Alexander.

It was a complete game win for the Warriors.

Junior quarterback Matt Natale had a solid debut as a varsity starter as he completed 16 of 22 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

Natale, who survived a deep battle for the quarteback job, also added 17 yards rushing on six attempts.

Meanwhile, the Warrior defense held Holy Name scoreless until late in the contest.

“It was a big confidence boost for the team, knowing that we can run the football and also stop the run," explained Alexander. “Those were two focuses of the off season.”

A lot of that success started and ended with the work in the trenches, led by the club’s youthful offensive front wall that played the entire game.

Senior David Wohlabaugh started at left tackle with senior Nathan Boggs at right tackle, junior Joe DeAngelis at center, junior Dom Fallon at right guard and sophomore Dom Bernard at left guard.

“Our offensive line played great all night and did a good job in pass protection as well,” observed the coach.

Walsh wants to establish a consistent ground game and did so by amassing 210 yards rushing on 30 carries.

That's a 7.0-yards per carry average and football teams usually win with numbers like that.

Will Rumple, a junior transfer from Lakewood St. Edward, led the charge with 128 yards on 17 totes and one TD – a 1-yard plunge.

Rumple had a 55-yard scamper to set up one score as he broke two tackles, cut back across the field, and broke another tackle. He also added a 20-yard catch.

“Will got the bulk of the carries and made the most of them while Leshon Crenshaw was our change of pace back,” said Alexander.

Crenshaw gave the Walsh staff a glimpse of how we can be a multi-purpose threat this fall. He can impact a game catching the ball, running it, and in the return game on special teams.

Crenshaw scored his first varsity TD and had some spectacular runs. He caught a play action pass from Natale in the flat and scored from seven yards out to make it 7-0.

Setting up Rumple’s TD, Crenshaw broke loose for a 40-yard run as he snuck through a crowded sideline and raced down the field.

In all, Crenshaw had four rushes for 56 yards and three receptions for 21 yards and a score. Tested junior back Jack Romanini added six yards on two carries.

On the defensive side, Walsh limited Holy Name to just 166 total yards unofficially and to 2-of-13 on third down conversions.

“I think one of the big defensive plays came when senior captain Bailey Russ forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow linebacker Kasey Kish,” noted Alexander.

Rotating at defensive end was senior Connor Thomas, junior JP Fyda, senior Bobby Perebzak and sophomore Drew Erdmann. Tyrin Rodgers played at nose guard as the junior has bulked up to 230 pounds.

“The d-line played stout all night,” said Alexander. “Our ends led us along with the big man Tyrin Rodgers, who did a great job at nose for us. He is tough move in there.”

Wide receiver Christian Ochei also had a breakthrough outing as the junior had six catches for 87 yards, including an 18-yard TD catch in the left corner, near the goal line.

More depth at the receiver was evident as Natale connected with seven different targets.

Junior Kenyon Marshall added two catches for 13 yards. Junior Josh Campagna had two catches for nine yards, senior Dom Grguric had one for eight yards, and senior Ben Ligan, who had one catch for four yards.

Sophomore Cooper Kirda excelled in his debut as the starting placekicker.

“It was nice to see Cooper go three-for-three on extra points and then knock in that 28-yard field goal,” said Alexander.

In upcoming action, Walsh was set for its home opener against Parma Padua Sept. 11 and meets Villa Angela-St. Jospeh Sept. 19 in Euclid.