Walsh Jesuit football stays unbeaten with win over Lake Catholic

Steve Batko
Correspondent

Behind play on both sides of the football, Walsh Jesuit went on a 28-point barrage to lead to an impressive 42-28 victory over Mentor Lake Catholic.

Walsh moved to 4-0 for the first time since 2007.

Coming into the game, the Cougars had won three straight games since a season-opening 16-point loss to small-school Ohio powerhouse Kirtland.

It was a win that avenged last year’s 21-20 loss to Lake Catholic, but more importantly, it kept the Walsh train moving forward one game at a time for head coach Nick Alexander.

.Football

On offense for Lake Catholic (3-2), everything starts and ends with dual threat quarterback Joe Malchesky, who averages 237 yards a game, including 589 total rush yards.

The Warrior’s defense, led by defensive coordinator Phil Bokovitz, held Malchesky in check.

However, Malchesky had a strong start to give the visiting Cougars a 14-7 lead.

After the Cougar’s first drive, a 76-yard scoring drive of nearly five minutes

Capped by a one-yard plunge by Ryan Joy to for a 7-0 lead at the 7:21 mark, Malchesky then intercepted Walsh junior QB Matt Natale.

Malchesky hit tight end Brady Bowser to the Warrior 12, and then promptly tossed a 12-yard fade TD pass to Charlie Vincent.

With 9:27 left in the first half, Lake Catholic gained momentum and the lead at 14-7 on Walsh’s Senior Night.

Sandwiched in between those scores, Natale scored his eighth TD of the fall late in the first quarter on a one-yard keeper on a second-effort run of fourth-down-and-1.

After the Vincent score, Lake Catholic blocked a Walsh punt and getting the ball at the Warrior 31 with a golden opportunity.

It looked like the junior-dominated Warriors were on their heels just a touch.

That didn’t last long.

The Walsh defense forced a punt and the hosts responded as junior QB Scott Kean threw a 34-yard scoring pass to junior wide receiver Christian Ochei to make it 14-14 with 3:41 left in the first half.

Walsh struck again after the Cougar offense fizzled out. Kean found senior receiver Dom Grguric in the flat and he ran in from seven yards out with 19 seconds left before halftime to gain a 21-14 edge.

In third period, Walsh executed a fourth-and-4 fake punt to perfection as junior linebacker Kasey Kish was the upback and he took the snap, bounced outside and dashed 29 yards for a first down.

“Kasey (Kish) looked really fast running down the sideline,” pointed out Alexander.

“Coach Bokovitz is awesome at coming up with great special teams play,” Alexander said. “We had a ton of confidence in it all week and the kids executed it really well.”

Kish (5-10, 200), who also had a great game on defense, had that run set up the next play – a 30-yard scoring jaunt by standout junior running back Will Rumple.

That tally pushed the Warrior lead to 28-14 at the 10:03 mark of the third stanza.

Rumple showed durability and ball security and he had a great game of 27 carries for 213 yards and two scores. He also had two catches for 11 yards.

In all, Walsh ran for 294 yards against a strong front seven for MLC. The Warriors amassed 455 total yards on 70 plays.

“Rumple is running really well,” declared Alexander. “He brings a hard, physical running style with the ability to bust the long run at any time to our offense. We focused on being balanced this week, however from looking at the stats, he got hot and we kept riding him.”

After another Walsh stop on defense, the Warrior offense scored again when junior back Leshon Crenshaw had a 16-yard scamper to push the lead to 35-14 with 6:55 left in the third quarter.

Crenshaw’s run was aided by a nice pancake block out front by another junior back, Jack Romanini, who is playing more on defense this fall at outside linebacker where junior R.J. Bentley has also stepped up.

Kean, who completed 17 of 27 passes for 148 yards and two scores, was intercepted by Alex Pacheco near midfield to set up a Cougar TD that would put Lake Catholic within two scores.

Joy had a one-yard TD dive to slice the lead to 35-21 with 7:48 remaining.

However, Rumple would strike again. He had an 11-yard TD scamper to make it 42-21 with 3:39 left as sophomore kicker Cooper Kirda hit his sixth straight extra point in the win.

Rumple has 591 yards rushing this fall with 10 TD’s. His five TD rush game recently against VASJ was the first of its kind for Walsh since 2011 when Brock Jones did it against Chesterland West Geauga.

Lake Catholic wasn’t through yet as Malchesky converted a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line on a pass to fullback Simon Taraska.

Suddenly it was 42-28 with 1:36 left and time for an onside kick attempt.

However, Ochei recovered the kick.

Junior wide out Kenyon Marshall had six catches for 53 yards, Ochei three for 49 yards, and Grguric had three catches for 29 yards.

Crenshaw had three rushes for 31 yards and three receptions for 21 yards.

Romanini had two rushes for 13 yards and had a TD catch called back with 4:34 left.

As for Kean’s presence, Alexander has said all fall that his quarterback room is crowded with promise.

Shockingly, after the graduation loss of 3-year starter Cameron Mayes, this is a position of strength for Walsh with great depth. Kean is a highly-regarded move in from Florida with size (6-2, 190).

“Our quarterbacks will continue to battle and we are in a good position at QB,” stated Alexander. “We also have a talented sophomore in Ryan Kersher. We take pride in making sure all three are ready to go.”

Other Walsh seniors honored prior to the game were OT David Wohlabaugh, LB Bailey Russ, DE Bobby Perebzak, OT-DL Nathan Boggs, DB Mike Pollard, WR Ben Ligan, DB-QB Jake Campagna, DL-TE Connor Thomas, LB Joe Cerrito, RB-LB George Granchi, and Richie Poinsatte (special teams/DB).

Speaking of playoffs, Walsh is excited to compete in this fall’s all-in concept, but first, it is Hoban Week.

In a quick turnaround, the Warriors host Hoban Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s not often that you get to prepare for the number one team in the state and a nationally ranked opponent,” observed Alexander. “We are excited for this opportunity.”

Walsh competes in the Division II, region 5 district alignment where a whopping 16 schools have qualified for the state playoffs in the last three years.