St. Ignatius prepares for change after reaching Class 6A semifinals

Wolfpack move to CCL/ESCC Green, up to Class 8A

St. Ignatius’ Justin Scott prepares for a play in Class 6A football playoff semifinal action at Crystal Lake on Saturday.

CHICAGO – The winds of change have hit St. Ignatius this summer.

The Wolfpack will need to make adjustments after back-to-back historic seasons with 31 graduated seniors, a change in divisions in the CCL/ESCC and a bump up to Class 8A. Players and coaches have started the process during summer camp as they try to build upon the program’s recent success.

“Losing those guys, we’re definitely going to have to reset,” Justin Scott said. “But we’ve got a lot of young talent, so those guys were really good. I’m going to miss them, but we’re ready to move forward.”

The 2023 class had a big impact on the program. St. Ignatius earned the program’s first postseason win in 2021 after an 8-1 regular season and then made it to the Class 6A semifinals last season where the Wolfpack lost to Prairie Ridge in the final seconds on a field goal.

St. Ignatius coach Matt Miller has a long list of open positions he’ll need to figure out this summer. Ten graduated seniors will play collegiate football, including running back Vinny Rugai, who earned All-State honors from the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association last season and was named the CCL/ESCC White Player of the Year after he set program records in all-time rushing and single-game rushing.

“It’s just so many unknowns,” Miller said. “It’s hard to use a measuring stick of where you’re at.”

Miller does think the program is in a better spot than it was when he took over in 2017. Back then he needed most of his players to play on both sides of the field. This season he’ll need three players to play both ways, but where his players are slotted is a work in progress.

Junior Jack Wanzung and senior David Zmora will battle for the starting quarterback position while lead wide receiver Clement Carey returns along with Joe Toney, who had experience rushing the ball last season as a sophomore. Emmett Callahan will try to lead a defense that has two returning players.

“To have options is nice,” Miller said. “We need to see what comes together this fall. I’m confident someone’s going to step up.”

Miller won’t have to worry about one spot on both the offensive and defensive lines with the return of Scott, the top-ranked junior prospect in Illinois. Scott is a five-star prospect listed as the eighth-best prospect in the nation by Rivals and the 21st-best by 247Sports. He’s considering Georgia, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Miami as he makes official visits during June.

“Losing those guys, we’re definitely going to have to reset. But we’ve got a lot of young talent, so those guys were really good. I’m going to miss them, but we’re ready to move forward.”

—  Justin Scott, St. Ignatius senior

Scott admitted that he doesn’t have much experience of being a leader on a team but he’s enjoyed the process of becoming one this summer. He’s led by working hard during practices and encouraging a group he believes has a lot of potential.

“I know all the young guys know, just seeing the success, flipping the program around the way we’ve been doing it the last few years, I know that they want to keep that going and not lose it,” Scott said. “We’ve got a target on our back after two historic seasons, so people are coming for us.”

St. Ignatius will be tested with the move up to Class 8A along with the CCL/ESCC Green. The Wolfpack will compete against new division rivals Marist, who was 7-4 last season, Joliet Catholic (8-3) and Niles Notre Dame (8-4) as part of the megaconference realignment. They’ll also play St. Patrick (5-6), Fenwick (7-6), Brother Rice (7-5), Nazareth (11-4), Marian Catholic (4-6) and St. Viator (5-5).

While Miller might’ve preferred to have 31 returning seniors with the move up in class and division, he knows the higher competition is a result of the success the Wolfpack had the last few seasons. St. Ignatius wants to show it can adjust to the winds.

“This is where we want to be,” Miller said. “We can use that opportunity and show up in the fall and prove that we can be here.”