Posted on 10/14/2016 at 1:54 p.m.

League Teams To Face Non-Conference Opponents This Evening

It might be a week off from the rigors of the Greater Catholic League South Division, but tonight is anything but a week off from playing some difficult opponents for the four football teams that comprise the league - especially Moeller and St. Xavier.  Moeller, which has dropped three consecutive games inside the league, travels to Columbus to face Cleveland St. Ignatius, while St. Xavier is at home to face Warren Central, Indiana’s top-ranked Class 6A team.

Elder and La Salle also are in action tonight, with the Panthers (5-2) hosting Winton Woods (2-5) – a team that knocked off Elder, 14-0, last season at Winton Woods.  Kickoff is 7 p.m. at The Pit in Price Hill.  La Salle (5-2), which has won three straight games including consecutive wins over Moeller and St. Xavier in the GCL South, joins Moeller in traveling to Greater Columbus tonight.  The Lancers will face St. Charles Prep (2-5).  Kickoff also is at 7.

Moeller, which currently sits at No. 9 in the Division I, Region 4 Harbin computer ratings used to qualify teams for the state playoffs, is looking to avoid missing the postseason for the second straight year.  The Crusaders will have chances to earn their way into the playoff picture, with the top eight from each region advancing to the playoffs, if it can defeat St. Ignatius tonight and beat two-time defending state champion Lakewood St. Edward a week from Saturday.

St. Ignatius is 6-1 and ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press Division I state rankings this week.  The Wildcats’ lone blemish this season is at Catholic Central from Novi, MI, which posted a 28-21 win back on September 16.  Moeller defeated St. Ignatius last year at Dublin Coffman High School, rallying from a 38-14 deficit in the second quarter to emerge with a wild 55-52 victory.

St. Edward is 5-1, with the Eagles lone setback at GCL South member Elder last month, 15-9.  Moeller is looking to snap a six-game losing streak against St. Edward, ranked No. 4 in the AP state poll.  The Crusaders lost in Northeast Ohio last fall and have not defeated St. Edward since posting a 40-10 victory on October 24, 2009, on the road.

Kickoff is 7 tonight at Otterbein University.

St. Xavier (4-3) will attempt to rebound from a tough loss at La Salle last week, a game the Bombers led 14-3 heading into the fourth quarter before La Salle rallied with a pair of TDs to win 17-14 and move within one win of earning the school’s first outright league football championship in its history.  The win also denied St. Xavier from winning the title outright.  The Bombers can still earn a share of the GCL South crown if Elder knocks off La Salle in week 10.

Tonight, though, St. Xavier (No. 5 In the Region 4 Harbin rankings) welcomes nationally ranked Warren Central – which is 7-1, the lone loss coming against Colerain, 31-28, in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown back on August 27 at University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.  The Warriors have won every other game and are loaded with talent that will be tested by a solid St. Xavier defense.  Warren Central is riding a six-game winning streak.

Warren Central is ranked No. 18 in the USA Today Super 25.

Kickoff is 7 tonight at Ballaban Field at St. Xavier Stadium.

Elder is looking to carry forward the momentum from last Friday’s 30-28 against Moeller at Lockland Stadium.  The Panthers, which suffered a rare shutout at Winton Woods last season, are led by junior quarterback Danny Nieman – who leads the GCL South in passing yards, with 1,335, and is coming off a four-TD performance against Moeller, and a defense that has been solid all season.  Elder is No. 3 in the Region 4 ratings this week.

Like Elder, La Salle looks to continue its recent streak that includes three consecutive wins – buoyed by the fourth-quarter rally against St. Xavier last week, with senior back Da’Meak Brandon returning an interception 35 yards for a TD with 4:22 remaining for what turned out to be the game-winning score.  The Lancers’ defense has been strong, too, allowing 14 or fewer points in five of the last six games.

La Salle is in solid playoff position, sitting at No. 3 in the Division II, Region 8 Harbins.  The Lancers are the two-time defending Division II state champion, and are hoping to finish with one of the top four spots and be able to host a first-round postseason game.

Posted on 10/8/16 at 8:34 a.m.

Nieman’s Four TD Passes Earn Elder Big Road Win Against Moeller

There was plenty at stake in Friday’s Greater Catholic League South Division game between La Salle and St. Xavier and, after three quarters, it looked as though the Bombers might emerge with a road win, which would be their third victory in as many weeks against league competition and give St. Xavier its first outright league football championship since 2012.  But instead, it was La Salle that scored twice in seven minutes to record a 17-14 win and now controls its own destiny in the prestigious GCL South race.

A 35-yard interception return for a touchdown by Lancers’ senior Da’Meak Brandon with 4:22 remaining proved to the game-winner for La Salle (5-2, 2-0 GCL South), which earned at least a share of the GCL South title and can win the outright league crown with a victory against Elder the final week of the regular season.  Elder (5-2, 1-1) stayed alive in the race with a 30-28 win against Moeller Friday night at Lockland Stadium.  An Elder win against La Salle would give Elder, La Salle and St. Xavier each a share of the GC L South crown.

La Salle has never won the GCL championship outright, tying for the South title in 2014 with Moeller and St. Xavier after each school finished with 2-1 marks.  The Lancers have twice earned co-championships, tying Elder in 1995 and then earning a share of the league title with Moeller in 2010.  La Salle is the two-time defending Ohio Division II state champion.

For three quarters Friday night, though,  it looked as if St. Xavier (4-3, 1-1), ranked No. 2 in The Enquirer’s Division I weekly area coaches’ poll, was headed for its fifth straight win after opening the season 0-2.  The Bombers took advantage of a fumble recovery late in the third quarter, and senior quarterback Sean Clifford scored on a 7-yard run to give St. Xavier a 14-3 lead with 3:31 left in the third quarter.  St. Xavier was coming off an impressive 31-7 win at Elder last Friday, having allowed only one TD in both games heading into the final 12 minutes.

La Salle, which defeated Moeller, 55-14, at home a week earlier, put together a 13-play, 80-yard drive on its next possession and senior Tre’Sean Smith  scored on a 1-yard run with 10:48 left to cut the deficit to 14-10 – setting the stage for Brandon’s game-winning interception return.  La Salle’s defense came up with two stops late in the game and enable the Lancers to keep the King of the Road trophy for the first time since a 27-24 win in 2010 – snapping St. Xavier’s five-game winning streak in the series.

Friday’s two league games, decided by a combined five points late in the fourth quarter, seemed only fitting for the GCL South – which was named the second toughest high school football conference in the United States by MaxPreps the same day based on computer ratings, trailing only California’s Trinity League that includes No. 3-ranked Mater Dei from Santa Ana and No. 4 St. John Bosco from Bellflower.  St. John Bosco defeated St. Xavier, 34-0, in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown in August at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.  

A week after being held without a TD pass against St. Xavier, Elder junior quarterback Danny Nieman completed 23-of-33 passes for 253 yards and four scores, including a 7-yard strike to senior Danny Falliace with 3:22 remaining to give the Panthers a thrilling 30-28 win over Moeller and keep Elder’s league title aspirations alive.  The loss was the third straight for Moeller (3-4, 0-3), which finished without a GCL South win for the first time since 2001.

Moeller had taken a 28-24 lead with 9:09 left on a 24-yard TD run by sophomore RJ Khayo.  Moeller wound up with 178 yards rushing, led by a team-high 104 yards on 25 carries by junior Colin Thurman – who gave Moeller a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter after scoring on a 10-yard run.  The Crusaders finished with 355 total yards and turned the ball only once in a game that was close throughout, with neither team ever leading by more than seven points.

Posted on 10/7/16 at 4:58 p.m.

La Salle Stands In Bombers’ Path; Elder, Moeller Play At Lockland

After victories over Moeller and Elder the last two weeks, St. Xavier can win the Greater Catholic League South Division football championship outright with a victory tonight in its final league game.  But it won’t be easy for the Bombers, who travel a few miles down North Bend Road to face a La Salle team coming off its most impressive win of the season.  Kickoff is 7 tonight at La Salle High School’s Lancer Stadium.

St. Xavier (4-2, 2-0 GCL South), now up to  No. 2 in The Enquirer’s Division I weekly area coaches’ poll, opened GCL South play with a 21-14 win over Moeller on September 23, a game that the Bombers led 21-0 in the third quarter.  St. Xavier followed that with a convincing 31-7 win over Elder last Friday night at The Pit in Price Hill, snapping Elder’s four-game winning streak in the process.  Senior quarterback Sean Clifford accounted for four TDs in the win, rushing for three scores and passing for another.  The St. Xavier defense did the rest, recording four interceptions and five sacks.

The Bombers hope to make it four consecutive wins tonight against La Salle – the No. 2-ranked Division II team that is coming off an impressive 55-14 home win against Moeller, a game in which the Lancers led 42-7 at halftime.  Junior quarterback Griffin Merritt accounted for seven TDs, including six through the air to go along with 388 yards passing.  Merritt also ran for a score to give La Salle (4-2, 1-0) an opportunity to win at least a share of the GCL South crown with a win tonight.  If La Salle defeats St. Xavier and then wins against Elder in the regular-season finale, the Lancers can win the title outright.

Moeller is the last GCL South school to win all three league games, back in 2013 when the Crusaders went on to win the second of its two back-to-back Ohio Division I state championships.  Tonight, though, No. 5  Moeller (3-3, 0-2) will be looking to avoid an 0-3 league record and third consecutive defeat, which has only happened once previously (in 2001) when it plays No. 3 Elder (4-2, 0-1) at Lockland Stadium.  Kickoff is 7 p.m.  Moeller will likely turn back to senior quarterback Evan Ernst after sophomore Miles McBride, making his first varsity start last week, suffered a shoulder injury.

Elder lost last week for the first time in five games, unable to get its offense in gear against a stingy St. Xavier defense.  The Panthers’ defense has been solid all season, too, allowing just 37 points in its first five games, including an impressive performance in the Panthers’ 15-9 win three weeks ago against Lakewood St. Edward.  Junior quarterback Danny Nieman continues to lead the GCL South in passing, having completed 96-of-156 passes for a league-best 1,083 yards and five TDs. 

St. Xavier and Elder are currently in good standing for the postseason, holding down the third and fourth spots, respectively, in this week’s Division I, Region 4 Harbin computer ratings that are used to qualify teams for the state playoffs.  Moeller is sitting at No. 9, with the top eight schools in each region earning a postseason berth.  La Salle is No. 4 in the Region 8 weekly rankings, with the top four schools also set to host a first-round game before moving to neutral sites.  The weekly Harbin computer ratings are released each Tuesday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Posted on 10/1/2016 at 12:43 p.m.

Big Third Quarter Leads Bombers at Elder; La Salle Impressive Against Moeller

Senior quarterback Sean Clifford threw a touchdown pass, ran for three more scores and, for the second consecutive week, the St. Xavier defense forced four turnovers to help the Bombers notch their fourth straight victory – scoring 17 points in the third quarter to post a 31-7 win over Elder Friday night at The Pit in Price Hill.  The victory moves  St. Xavier within one win of capturing the Greater Catholic League South Division championship outright for the first time since 2012.  The Bombers close their GCL South schedule at La Salle next Friday.

La Salle should have plenty of momentum entering the game against St. Xavier after opening its league schedule in impressive fashion as junior quarterback Griffin Merritt completed 17-of-22 passes for career highs of 388 yards and six TDs in a 55-14 win over Moeller Friday night at Lancer Stadium.  Merritt also ran for a score, giving him seven total TDs in the game as La Salle defeated Moeller for the third consecutive year.  Senior running back Christian Turner hauled in three of Merritt’s TD tosses.

Here is a look at Friday’s GCL South games:

St. Xavier (4-2, 2-0 GCL South) held a 7-0 lead at halftime, thanks to a 1-yard run by Clifford just over two minutes into the game – the only scoring in the first half.  But the Bombers, No. 3 in The Enquirer’s Division I weekly area coaches’ poll, widened its lead over No. 2 Elder (4-2, 0-1) – which had won four straight games – in the third quarter, as Clifford scored on a 41-yard run and  later connected with junior back Cameron Specht on a 44-yard TD pass to make it 24-0.  Kevin Lockwood also kicked a 26-yard field goal in the quarter.

No. 2 Elder (4-2, 0-1) was never able to get untracked offensively, finishing with only seven first downs and 174 yards against an opportunistic St. Xavier defense that intercepted Panthers’ quarterback Dany Nieman, the leading passer in the GCL South, four times.  Senior defensive back Eugene Stallworth had two of the Bombers’ four picks, and the St. Xavier defense also recorded five sacks.  St. Xavier has now intercepted 18 passes and recorded 12 sacks this season.

Clifford wound up completing 10-of-14 passes for 109 yards, while also rushing 15 times for a team-best 65 against Elder – which came into the game having only surrendered 37 points in its first five games with two shutouts.  Senior back Quinn Earley carried 13 times for 61 yards.  The Bombers managed 11 first downs and 273 total yards, converting 6-of-13 third downs and averaging four yards per rush.  Elder stopped St. Xavier on two fourth-down conversion attempts.

While St. Xavier was posting an impressive road win at The Pit, La Salle celebrated Homecoming with a convincing win against No. 4 Moeller – taking a 42-7 lead at halftime behind Merritt and an explosive passing attack to win for the second straight week.  La Salle (4-2, 1-0), ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Division II State poll this week, had two receivers go over 100 yards in the game – led by senior Ben Braybender’s three catches for 127 yards, including an 80-yarder from Merritt that gave La Salle an early 7-0 lead.

Senior John Whyle caught four passes for 116 yards from Merritt, including two TD receptions – a 55-yarder in the first quarter that gave La Salle a 14-0 advantage and a 30-yarder to start the scoring in the second half, putting the Lancers on top 49-7.  Turner had a team-high seven catches and came within one yard of giving La Salle three players with more than 100 yards receiving in the game.  Turner’s scoring catches covered 10, 4 and 44 yards, respectively, as La Salle gained 388 of its 420 total yards through the air.

Moeller (3-3, 0-2), which turned the ball over four times in a 21-14 loss at St. Xavier last week, again was guilty of three turnovers.  Sophomore Miles McBride made his first start of the season at quarterback, and completed 9-of-16 passes for 59 yards, one TD and two interceptions before leaving the game with an injury.  Moeller wound up with 218 total yards, but was unable to recover after the Lancers scored 28 points in the second quarter to take a commanding lead.

The Crusaders host Elder next Friday.  Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Lockland Stadium.

Posted on 9/30/2016 at 12:54 p.m.

La Salle Hosts Moeller In GCL South Opener For Lancers

One streak will come to an end tonight on the first full night of play in the Greater Catholic League South Division, as St. Xavier travels to Elder looking to gain command of the league race while in the process extend its winning streak and end one for Elder.  Kickoff is 7 p.m. at The Pit in Price Hill.  In the other GCL South game, La Salle opens its league schedule by hosting Moeller, which attempts to stay alive in the league race with a road win.  Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Lancer Stadium.

Besides undefeated Colerain, which has been ranked No. 1 in The Enquirer’s Division I coaches’ poll every week since the preseason, Elder and St. Xavier enter week six of the football regular season hotter than any other teams in Greater Cincinnati.  The No. 2 Panthers (4-1), since opening the season with a 20-14 loss to Pickerington Central in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown, have reeled off four straight victories – including a 15-9 win over previously unbeaten and two-time defending DI state champion Lakewood St. Edward two weeks ago at home.

No. 3 St. Xavier (3-2, 1-0 GCL South), coming off a 21-14 win last Friday against Moeller in its GCL South opener, has won three straight – including a 34-29 win over previously undefeated Indianapolis Cathedral two weeks ago at Butler University.  The Bombers, who opened with losses to nationally ranked St. John Bosco from California and then fell in overtime to Colerain, 20-14, one week later at home, have persevered despite a rash of injuries, including losing all five of its projected starters on the offensive line.

Coach Steve Specht, who used quarterbacks Sean Clifford and Chase Wolf in the win over Moeller, is likely to call on both again against an Elder defense that has surrendered only one TD in the last two games, including a shutout 42-0 win over Pittsburgh University Prep last Friday.   The Panthers have given up just five touchdowns in five games, including only allowing three in the last four games.

Clifford, a senior Penn State University commit, tossed a TD pass and ran for one against Moeller, while Wolf also threw a scoring pass.  Both of the TD passes were to junior receiver Andrew Wittrock, while junior back Cameron Specht finished with a team-high nine catches for 67 yards.  Clifford completed 17-of-24 passes for 156 yards and two scores, while Wolf was 5-of-5 for 52 yards and one TD.

Elder’s offense is led by junior quarterback Danny Nieman, who leads the GCL South with 991 passing yards.  Nieman, who also has thrown five TD passes, has connected with senior Adam Schwallie 24 times for a league-best 366 yards and two TDs.  Junior Danny Falliace has hauled in 20 passes for 275 yards and two scores.  Junior Jack Mazza is second in the GCL South in rushing yards, with 465 yards, and has scored five TDs.

Elder and St. Xavier are both sitting in good position in the Division I, Region 5 Harbin computer ratings used to qualify teams for the state playoffs.  Elder is No. 2, trailing only Colerain, and St. Xavier is sitting at No. 4.  The top eight teams from each region advance to the postseason.  Elder moved into the Associated Press Division I state poll this week at No. 8.  Colerain is the only other area team ranking in DI, holding the top spot.

Moeller (3-2, 0-1) can definitely use a win at La Salle to solidify its playoff position.  The Crusaders, No. 4 in The Enquirer’s coaches’ poll, are No. 8 in the Harbin computer ratings.  The Crusaders are looking to eliminate turnovers, which cost them at St. Xavier.  Moeller turned the ball over on its first three possessions, helping the Bombers build a 21-0 advantage before rallying for two second-half scores.

Senior quarterback Evan Ernst ranks second in the GCL South in passing yards, with 824.  He has thrown eight TD passes and been intercepted six times.  Sophomore RJ Khayo ranks second in the league in receiving yards, with  19 receptions for 311 yards.  Khayo also returned a kickoff a school-record 98 yards for a score against St. Xavier last week.  Junior back Colin Thurman leads the league in rushing, with 401 yards and three TDs.

La Salle (3-2), the two-time defending Division II state champion, snapped a two-game skid with a 20-13 win at Winton Woods last Friday.  The Lancers,  No. 2 in The Enquirer’s DII poll and sitting No. 3 behind Turpin and Princeton in the Region 8 Harbin ratings, are also ranked No. 8 in this week’s AP DII state rankings.  

The Lancers are looking to get rolling on offense, particularly in the running game.  Junior quarterback Griffin Merritt, senior back Jarell White and senior Christian Turner rank among GCL South leaders in passing, rushing and receiving yards, respectively.  Merritt completed 10-of-16 passes for 122 yards and two TDs against Winton Woods, including five connections for 115 yards and one score to Turner.

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