Natale's passing record highlights Walsh Jesuit football's rout of Padua

Steve Batko

There’s no doubt that the names are familiar and the list is long, which is why Matt Natale’s performance was so impressive.

A first year starting quarterback for Walsh Jesuit, Natale passed for 302 yards and five touchdowns to lead Walsh to a 56-14 win in the home opener over Parma Padua Franciscan.

The list of standout Warrior signal callers is vast: Connor Cook, Justin Alaburda, Dan Larlham, Cameron Mayes, Todd Riddle, Doug Snider, Greg Koss, Pat Ford, Matt Smith, Neil Strebler, Kyle Snyder, Nick Wargo, Rick Arnold, Vic Ferguson, Joe Baum, Joe Vassalotti, Chris Denholm and Andy Bruno, just to name a few.

The 2-0 start is the first since 2010 for the Warriors as Natale broke the single game passing record with 302 yards passing.

Natale, who was taken out early because of the big lead, tossed for five scores as he connected on 18 of 22 passes.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Natale broke the school record of 300 yards set back in 2001 by Strebler.

Last year, Mayes came close to the mark with passing games of 298 and 280 yards.

In addition, the five TD’s passing by Natale are second all-time as Alaburda holds that record with six. Alaburda guided the Warriors’ 1999 state title team.

Warrior head coach Nick Alexander is excited about the emergence of Natale, who is a junior.

“I am very proud of Matt and this accomplishment,” proclaimed Alexander.

“It was a complete team effort,” he added. “From the defensive guys that helped prepare the offense this week, to the offensive line who protected Matt all night as well as the awesome receivers that went up and made plays on the ball.”

Speaking of receivers, Walsh has a bevy of them and senior Dom Grguric had a sensational game as he caught 10 passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns.

“Wide receiver is definitely the best depth we have as a team — it is the deepest group I have been around since my time at Mentor,” said Alexander.

“There are seven to eight guys that play and get touches,” he added. “That isn’t normal for high school football. Any of them can go off at any time. It is fun to watch.”

Junior wide out Christian Ochei also had an outstanding game as he had four receptions for 103 yards and a score.

Also catching a touchdown pass was junior Josh Campagna, who had two receptions for 23 yards. Natale found Campagna on a short toss to make it 7-0 at the 10:33 mark of the first quarter.

Another junior wide out, Kenyon Marshall, had two catches for 39 yards, senior wide receiver Ben Ligan had one for 10 yards and sophomore wide out Tre Bell also had his first varsity catch.

One of the factors that has enhanced the aerial attack is the fact that Walsh is running the ball with some success and consistency this fall.

A pair of junior running backs have led the way – Will Rumple and Leshon Crenshaw.

Rumple had 21 attempts for 78 yards and two touchdowns against Padua while Crenshaw added seven totes for 18 yards and a TD.

“Being able to run the ball has completely changed our offense this year,” stressed Alexander. “The big guys up front have taken tremendous pride in the ground game. Will and Leshon have worked hard as well to do their part in this.”

Grguric had a diving TD catch to push the lead to 14-0 with 2:09 left in the first period, but Padua countered with a Sam Ehrbar to Dan Peterson 17-yard scoring pass to make it 14-7 with 11:02 left in the first half.

It was all Walsh from that point on as the locals churned out 26 first downs and 417 total yards.

The youthful Warriors meet Villa Angela St. Joseph Sept. 19 at Euclid High at 7 p.m.

Besides being more balanced on offense, the Warriors are quietly having a breakthrough early season on the defensive side of things.

“I could not be more proud of the defense,” offered Alexander. “Our goal was to stop the run and we did that. Coach (Phil) Bokovitz and the defensive staff deserve a ton of credit for this.”

Bokovitz is a veteran assistant who is the Warriors’ defensive coordinator.

Junior nose guard Tyrin Rodgers, senior linebacker Bailey Russ, and sophomore end Drew Erdmann each had a sack.

Unofficially, the Bruins were held to 81 yards rushing on 26 attempts.

Alexander also had a lot of praise for junior linebacker Kasey Kish and sophomore safety Josh Grogan as well.

Rangy junior quarterback Scott Kean also saw action for the Warriors, hitting 3-of-6 passes for 14 yards.