“St. Ed could have the unenviable distinction of being the best 3-win team in the country this year with the loss of its head coach and turnover of talent.” This quote was excerpted from an article written by Dallas Jackson for TristateFootball.com, a national, online newspaper.
Almost everyone outside the Eagle community doubted the Green Machine for the 2015 season. This gave much satisfaction in the Ohio State locker-room as varsity players kissed the trophy after winning back-to-back state championships. A new coach, quarterback, and almost entirely new defense overcame the odds this season as St. Edward brought home its 57th state title.
Despite playing arguably the toughest schedule in the country, the Eagles managed to lose only one game this season. Opening up against Gilman (Maryland), St. Ed’s won their first game 14-13, knocking off their first national powerhouse. Snickers and Wrangler spoofs swayed many students to bring not only their energy, but their denim against Glenville for the home opener. The Eagles crushed the Tarblooders 52-20, as many new faces got to prove themselves in front of the coaches.
The Eagles lost their first game to St. Joseph Regional (New Jersey) 22-20, as they fell to 2-1 on the year. But then they never looked back, beating Cincinnati Elder 31-20 and reclaiming their spot as the top team in Ohio. Bergen Catholic (New Jersey), Cocoa (Florida), Mainland (Florida), and Canada Prep (Ontario, Canada) all fell as the Green Machine kept on rolling. Next up: the Crusaders of Cincinnati Moeller. A brutal first quarter of the game left the Eagles down 17-0. However, that didn’t last long as Coach Lombardo led his team to score 49 unanswered points.
Lastly, St Edward had to square up against arch rival St. Ignatius Wildcats. The Cats needed the win more than anything, as it decided their fate for the rest of the season. After a back-and-forth fourth quarter the Eagles won 35-28, crushing the Wildcats’ hopes of reaching the playoffs.
The first round of the playoffs had arrived and St. Ed’s was to face Cleveland Heights, a rematch of a preseason scrimmage. Shaky play by both sides of the ball affected the game, but the Eagles managed to sneak by, winning 20-12.
The Eagles were able to cruise by the next three rounds off the postseason, blowing out Mentor, Euclid, and Stow in the state semi-finals. Big plays were made by first year starters throughout the playoffs. Players such as quarterback Jimmy Keefe, wide receivers Teddy Gordon, Matthew Gonzalez, Mike Carbon, and safeties Kyle Fallon and Liam Coyne stepped up to lead the team to their second straight title game.
Finally, the state championship game. For the third time since 2010, St. Edward was ready to prove themselves as the best team in Ohio. And for the third time since 2010, St. Edward was to play Huber Heights Wayne. The Warriors were looking for vengeance against the Eagles because of the 2010 and 2014 losses. They were also seeking their first football state championship in school history.
The Eagles looked to have had a comfortable lead throughout the first three quarters. Jimmy Keefe scored the first touchdown of the game, running it into the end-zone from 2 yards out. Jake Budyka made a 35 yard field goal to put St. Ed’s up, 10-7 after the first quarter. Jared Supinski rolled over the Wayne defense to score and put the Eagles up 17-7 going into halftime.
Despite a 67 yard touchdown by Wayne, the Eagles were able to answer as Jimmy Keefe threw a long pass to Kordell Hoover on a trick play. This led to Keefe throwing to his number one target throughout the season, Matt Gonzalez for the score. To start the fourth quarter, Keefe threw another touchdown pass to Mike O’Malley, who also scored in last year’s state championship. Three straight, unanswered Warrior touchdowns made the game interesting, but Coach Lombardo never showed anything but confidence in his team, and neither did Cole Gest.
Cole Gest, star running-back and Fox Sports Player of the Year, scored two straight times to add to his record-breaking career at St. Edward. It was also his 21st straight game in which he scored in. The Eagles clinched the victory with a Kyle Fallon interception. Tony Butler also had an interception. Jimmy Keefe tied the Ohio Division 1 state championship passing yards record with 419.
Coach Lombardo led the Eagles to a state title victory in only his first season as head coach. He is the first coach in state history to win state championships with two different schools, even though St. Edward was doubted in the preseason. Reporters said St. Ed’s lost too much talent and couldn’t do it with a new head coach. But the Eagles never ever gave up as they brought their well-earned trophy to Lakewood, Ohio where it belongs.