"To win Region 1, you have to go through St. Ignatius," Mentor quarterback Mitch Trubisky said after the Cardinals' 57-56 win over the Wildcats Saturday night.
That was true when Ignatius knocked the Cardinals out of the playoffs in the regional championship last year.
However, now Mentor has more than revenge. They have the regional championship and they won it in spectacular fashion.
It came down to one play in triple overtime. Mentor and Ignatius traded touchdowns for two overtimes. Then Wildcats Michael LaManna tossed a touchdown pass to running back Timothy McVey.
The Cardinals responded in kind. A pass from Trubisky to Connor Krizancic set up a Trubisky touchdown run.
Mentor Head Coach Steve Trivisonno knew his defense was tired and that he didn't want to keep trading punches with Ignatius, so he decided to go for the two-point conversion.
If the Cardinals scored, they won. If they didn't, they lost to Ignatius for the second consecutive year.
"I almost went for two on the first (overtime,") Trivisonno said. "Our defense was tired. It has been a long two weeks," he added, alluding to the Cardinals' hard-fought win against St. Edward in the regional semifinal.
As he has throughout the season, Trubisky found Brandon Fritts in the end zone.
"He's my go-to guy," Trubisky said of Fritts, adding, "My guys in front of me gave me time to make it happen."
In the regional final, Ignatius faced a very different Cardinals team than the one they trounced 48-21 earlier this season.
The Mentor defense has since matured and were able to slow down Ignatius' offense exactly as much as they needed to.
In fact, tough Cardinal defense and a slow start from LaManna allowed Mentor to climb out to a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
For the first 12 minutes of the game, wide receiver Corey Plavcan was Mentor's standout. He caught a 46-yard option pass from Krizancic for a touchdown and then nabbed a 72-yard throw from Trubisky to set up a field goal by Mike Muzic.
However, McVey soon helped swing momentum to the Wildcats. McVey ran for two touchdowns in the first half. For the entire game, he ran for 242 yards and three touchdowns on 41 attempts. He also caught a touchdown.
On McVey's back, the Wildcats pulled ahead 28-20 by the third quarter.
However, instead of wilting, Trubisky demonstrated why he's a Mr. Football candidate and the Cardinals proved why they deserve to be in the state tournament.
Trubisky led an 11-play, 80-yard drive that tied the game. Twice Trubisky saved the drive when it threatened to stall. He ran for 20 yards and a first down on a fourth down. Then, on third down, he threw a 29-yard pass to Krizancic to put them in the red zone.
Trubisky capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run and threw a 2-point conversion pass to Fritts.
The Trubisky-Fritts connection tied the game at 28. It would later win the game.
Trubisky threw for 411 yards and two touchdowns on 25 completions from 40 attempts. He also ran for 138 yards and four touchdowns.
Trubisky had some important support from his wideouts. Fritts caugh eight passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Krizancic and Nick Delisa each caught six passes for 83 and 85 yards, respectively.
The Cardinals kept the momentum after tying the game. Trubisky's 45-yard completion to Delisa on the next drive set up another touchdown run for the quarterback.
However, Ignatius rallied in the final minute. A touchdown throw from LaManna to wide receiver Mike Siragusa tied the game with five seconds remaining.
Both offenses could not be stopped in overtime. Ignatius and Mentor both scored three touchdowns in three overtimes with the final difference being Trivisonno's willingness to gamble on a 2-point conversion and his team's ability to complete it.
Mentor will face Toledo Whitmer in the state semifinals next Saturday.