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Posted on 11/16/2020 at 7:49 a.m.

St. Xavier Senior Goalkeeper O’Toole Named League Player Of Year

The Greater Catholic League South Division is pleased to announce its all-star soccer team for the 2020 season. Members of this prestigious team, along with winners of the special awards, were voted on by league coaches at a special meeting held at the conclusion of the regular season.

St. Xavier senior goalkeeper Briggs O’Toole, who capped his varsity career by in helping the Bombers post an 11-2-2 record during the regular season by outscoring their opposition, 43-13, and limiting teams to an average of less than one goal per match,  is the GCL South Player of the Year.  Including the postseason, O’Toole finished his senior season with 8.5 shutouts in helping the St. Xavier defense allow just five goals in six matches during the state playoffs.    League coaches were quick to acknowledge the season by O’Toole, who continually made big saves in critical points of matches to help St. Xavier make its longest run in the postseason since 2005.

St. Xavier coach Brian Schaeper, whose team earned the No. 2 seed in the Southwest District bracket of the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Boys’ Soccer Tournament, is the Coach of the Year.  The Bombers were ranked all season in the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association Division I state poll, working their way to as high as No. 3 in the statewide rankings, won the GCL South Division championship outright with a record of 5-0-1, and won its fourth straight district title.  The Bombers advanced to the DI state semifinals where they lost to New Albany, 2-1, on Wednesday night.  St. Xavier finished with a 16-3-2 overall record against a difficult schedule.

Here is a look at this year’s league all-star selections

ALL-GCL SOUTH DIVISION SOCCER TEAM
 
FIRST TEAM
NAME, SCHOOL,  CLASS
Hunter Begehr, St. Xavier, Senior
Will Bernhard, St. Xavier, Senior
Leo Bill, Elder, Junior
Brock Kiper, Moeller, Junior
Andrew Mueller, Elder, Senior
Briggs O’Toole, St. Xavier, Senior
Christian Ohmer, Moeller, Junior
Prince Okonny, St. Xavier, Senior
Charlie Pearson, La Salle, Junior
Chase Sisky, La Salle, Junior
Jason Steigerwald, St. Xavier, Senior
Chase Willis, La Salle, Senior
 
HONORABLE MENTION
NAME, SCHOOL, CLASS
Aaron Burke, La Salle, Junior
Kyle Dressman, Elder, Senior
Willis Johnson, La Salle, Senior
Brent Lands, St. Xavier, Senior
Brady Manahan, St. Xavier, Junior
Bradley Poppell, Moeller, Freshman
Jacob Stiens, Elder, Senior
Luke Wilson, Moeller, Sophomore
 
ACADEMIC ALL-STARS
NAME, SCHOOL, CLASS
Andrew Mueller, Elder, Senior
Matt Doenges, La Salle, Senior
Jake Carrington, Moeller, Senior
Josh Mountain, St. Xavier, Senior
 
SPECIAL AWARDS
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Briggs O’Toole, St. Xavier
 
COACH OF THE YEAR
Brian Schaeper, St. Xavier

Posted on 11/14/2020 at 12:48 p.m.

La Salle’s Playoff Run, Bid To Defend DII State Title Ends In Close Semifinal Loss
 
St. Xavier football coach Steve Specht had talked to his team all season about putting a complete game together, emphasizing the need to get back on track offensively and to keep its mettle on defense heading into Friday’s Division I state final of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Football State Tournament.  To say that the Bombers got the message would be a minor understatement.
 
Facing Pickerington Central, the defending DI state champion and winner of 23 consecutive games behind a powerful rushing attack and sound defense, St. Xavier saved its best game of the season for last – exploding for 30 points in the first quarter and taking a 44-3 lead at halftime in what would be the final score of a game on a perfect night for football at Fortress Obetz, a multi-purpose facility that serves as home of the OHSAA state football titles games in all divisions this year.
 
St. Xavier (10-2), which posted its eighth straight win and ends the season with 10 victories in 11 games, racked up 555 yards total offense, keyed by a huge night from senior receiver Jalen Patterson, and limited the Tigers’ offense to five first downs and 76 total yards in a dominating win to earn the school’s second state title in five years and fourth in its program history – also winning crowns in 2005, 2007 and 2016.
 
La Salle, St. Xavier’s Greater Catholic League South Division rival and neighbor on North Bend Road, was looking to successfully defend its DII state title from last season and win for the fifth time in seven years while giving the schools state titles in the same year for the second time since 2016 – when La Salle won the last of three consecutive state crowns before winning again last December.
 
But the Lancers (8-3), who entered last night’s semifinal matchup against Massillon Washington riding a nine-game postseason winning streak and a 26-1 record in the state playoffs in its last six appearances, fell just short in a 14-10 setback at Marysville High School’s Impact Stadium.  La Salle defeated Washington, 43-13, in last year’s state final.  This time, however, the Lancers were without two of their top playmakers in junior back Gi’Bran Payne and senior Devonte Smith, a University of Alabama commit.
 
Still, behind another stellar performance from senior quarterback Zach Branam (who rushed 25 times for a game-high 150 yards), the La Salle was in position to advance late in the game.  That is, before Washington QB Zach Catrone found receiver Martavien Johnson on a 48-yard scoring strike with just 2:13 remaining to put Washington ahead, 14-10.  La Salle picked up one first down on the ensuing possession before four incomplete passes turned the ball over.
 
Washington (10-1), which has won 10 in a row after opening with a one-point loss to Lakewood St. Edward, advances to meet Akron Archbishop Hoban (10-0) in the DII final at 7 p.m. next Friday at Fortress Obetz.  Hoban defeated Avon, 28-14, in the other semifinal last night at  Byers Field in Parma.
 
Against Pickerington Central (11-1), St. Xavier was looking for another win in the DI Final Four after a late field goal and a 29-27 win against the Tigers moved the Bombers to the title game against Cleveland St. Ignatius, where St. Xavier capped an improbable run through the postseason after finishing the regular season at 5-5 with a 27-20 win against St. I in double overtime in the final at Ohio Stadium.
 
No one would have ever expected St. Xavier’s latest state final win to be so dominant against a talent-laden Pickerington Central team.  But the Bombers got four first-half TD connections from junior quarterback Brogan McCaughey to senior receiver Jalen Patterson to stun the Tigers’ defense.   Patterson, who had five receiving TDs entering the game, came within one yard of scoring a fifth in the first half when he was found just short of the goal line.
 
McCaughey, coming off a four-interception, one-fumble performance in the state semifinal win against Springfield, was on target Friday – completing 26-of-40 passes for 292 yards and four TDs, while also rushing for another score.  Patterson hauled in five passes for a team-high 105 yards and the four scores.  Patterson caught TD passes of 14, 35, 8 and 10 yards, respectively.
 
Junior receiver Terrell McFairlin had seven catches for 71 yards, while junior back Charles Kellom had seven catches for 61 yards.  Senior receiver Liam Clifford, St. Xavier’s all-time leading receiver who had his team’s lone TD receptions in the last two games, had four catches for six yards on this night.  But Clifford, a Penn State University commit, joins his brother Sean as a state champion at St. Xavier.  Sean Clifford was the Bombers’ catalyst during their 2016 state title run and is now starting QB at Penn State.
 
The St. Xavier defense, coming off winning performances in a 10-7 victory against Lakota West in the Region 4 final and a 12-10 win versus Springfield in the state semis, this time turned it up another notch and held Pickerington Central without a TD.  The Bombers’ defense even outscored their opponent after senior defensive back Gabe Dubois returned a fumble 58 yards for a score near the end of the first half to close the scoring.  Pickerington Central’s previous offensive low this season was in a 34-7 win against Hilliard Bradley back on October 23.

That was plenty for a St. Xavier offense, one of the school’s most prolific in its history behind offensive coordinator Andrew Coverdale – who had the perfect game plan all season.  In the end, the Bombers average 36.8 points per game against a grueling schedule and had a four-game stretch at the end of the regular season and the opening three rounds of the state playoffs where they scored 62, 49, 45 and 56 points, respectively.  The Bombers also did not commit a turnover in the state final.
 
St. Xavier finishes 10-0 against Ohio schools.

La Salle, which entered the state semis after an impressive 35-10 win against previously unbeaten and the region’s No. 1 seed in Winton Woods a week earlier to win the regional title for the fifth time in seven years.   La Salle took the early 7-0 lead near the end of the first quarter on a 1-yard TD run by Branam, who set up the short score with a 76-yard run.  Branam even showed his versatility, by playing in the secondary to help make up for the loss of Smith, and he came up with a key pass break up in the first half.
 
The La Salle defense held an opponent to 14 points or less for the fifth time in six games, and they did a solid job on Washington receiver and Ohio State commit Jayden Ballard, who had only one catch for five yards.  But Washington managed to put together a lengthy drive that ended with a 3-yard TD run by Jumacius Portis to tie the game, 7-7, entering halftime.
 
La Salle took a 10-7 lead with 7:57 left in the fourth quarter when sophomore Mason Luensman capped a 72-yard scoring drive that chewed up more than nine minutes with a 32-yard field goal. The Lancers’ defense did force on more punt, but the offense was unable to maintain possession and run out the clock.  So La Salle was forced to punt the ball back to Washington – which was able to come up with the big passing play that ultimately was the difference in the game.  The Lancers’ seniors had quite a career, including state and regional championships, along with a GCL South title in 2019.

Posted on 11/13/2020 at 6:15 p.m.

St. Xavier, La Salle Look To Win State Titles For Second Time In Five Years

In December 2016, St. Xavier and La Salle high schools – both members of the Greater Catholic League South Division with campuses located just slightly more than five miles from each other on North Bend Road – returned  home from Columbus with state football championships in their respective divisions.  And, while it might take a week longer this year, the league rivals are looking for a repeat of that season.

St. Xavier gets the first opportunity to win state, facing defending Division I state champion Pickerington Central in the DI state final at 7 tonight at Fortress Obetz in Greater Columbus.  The Bombers, who have won seven straight and nine of 10, and are coming off wins in the regional final and state semifinals by a combined five points, last met Pickerington Central in the state semifinals during their 2016 title run – winning 29-27 on a field goal with just under 40 seconds remaining.

La Salle needs to earn one more win to advance to the DII state final and attempt to successfully defend its state title.  To get there, though, the Lancers will have to defeat Massillon Washington – the team they beat in the state final a year ago, 43-13, to win a fourth state title in six years after winning three in a row from 2014 to 2016.  Kickoff is 7 tonight at Marysville High School, with the winner advancing to the state final at 7 p.m. next Friday at Fortress Obetz.

La Salle is likely to be without two key members of its team, one on each side of the ball.  Junior running back Gi’Bran Payne, who has been saddled by injuries all season, is a game-time decision because of a foot injury.  And senior defensive back and University of Alabama commit Devonte Smith is among five to seven players who also are expected to be sidelined.

Posted on 11/13/2020 at 11:05 a.m.

Two Of Bombers’ Three Losses This Season To State Finalists

St. Xavier’s quest for the school’s second state championship in soccer came to an end Wednesday night, when the Bombers lost to New Albany, 2-1, in the Division I Final Four of the Ohio High School Boys’ Soccer State Tournament at Xenia.  The Bombers led 1-0 at intermission, but New Albany managed to score two second-half goals to advance to Saturday’s state final.

New Albany (18-3-1) will oppose St. Ignatius (20-0-0), which beat Medina, 2-0, in Wednesday’s other semifinal, in the DI state championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, home of the Major League Soccer Columbus Crew.  Two of St. Xavier’s three defeats this season are to the state finalists, with the Bombers falling to St. Ignatius, 2-0, during the regular season.

St. Xavier (16-3-2) scored first when junior forward Tanner Creech found the net with 13:38 remaining to give the Bombers a 1-0 advantage – which they maintained until the second half. New Albany senior forward Ryan Blackburn scored just five minutes into the second half to tie the match and, at about the 20-minute mark, Eagles’ senior Will Fischer snapped the tie with a goal to put New Albany in front, 2-1.

Just how good had the St. Xavier defense been entering the match?  Consider that the Bombers had not allowed more than one goal in a match since October 6, when Greater Catholic League South Division colleague La Salle scored twice in a 3-2 St. Xavier victory.  In the postseason, St. Xavier had outscored its opponents, 17-3, in five matches before facing New Albany.  St. Xavier continued to pressure the Eagles’ defense, but the Bombers were unable to find the net again.

It should come as no surprise that the match was decided by one goal, as both teams had each been involved in seven contests decided by a single goal.  In fact, St. Xavier’s only other defeat this season was a 2-1 setback to perennial state power Mason.  St. Xavier was making its first state semifinal appearance since 2005, when the Bombers fell to St. Ignatius, 3-1.

St. Xavier won the big-school state title in 1983.

The Bombers’ State Championship Week continues tonight, when St. Xavier’s football team attempts to win its second DI state crown in five years when it faces defending champion and undefeated Pickerington Central in the DI final at 7 p.m. at Fortress Obetz in Greater Columbus. The Bombers have previously won three state football championships, in 2005, 2007 and 2016.

Posted on 11/11/2020 at 11:30 a.m.

St. Xavier’s Clifford, La Salle’s Branam, Elder’s Ramsey Share Player Of Year Honor
 
It has been quite a football season for the Greater Catholic League South Division, with St. Xavier and La Salle high schools trying to continues their respective paths to winning state championships for the second time in five years this week.  The Bombers play Friday in the Division I state final of the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament, while the Lancers play that same night in the DII state semifinals as they attempt to defend their state title.

The result is a talent-laden list of league all-star football teams and special award winners for the 2020 season that is being released today.  First- and second-team members of this prestigious team, along with winners of the categorical awards, were voted on by league coaches at a special meeting last Sunday.

St. Xavier senior receiver Liam Clifford, a Penn State University commit and the school’s all-time leading receiver and the GCL South leader in receiving yards, with 1,084; La Salle senior quarterback Zach Branam, who will likely finish this season with 2,000-plus yards combined rushing and passing; and Elder versatile junior Drew Ramsey, who finished third in the league in rushing and receiving yards with a total of 22 touchdowns, shared GCL South Player of the Year honors.  St. Xavier’s Steve Specht, who is looking to win his fourth state championship and led his team to a perfect GCL South record this season, is the Coach of the Year.

Clifford, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, is enjoying a record-setting season that includes leading the league in receptions, with 68, yards receiving, 1,084, and touchdowns, with 12.  In the Bombers’ victory against Lakota West in the regional final, Clifford because the school’s career leader in receptions.  He now has 162 catches for  2,532 yards and 30 touchdowns at the varsity level. Clifford’s biggest game of the season came in the Bombers’ 62-37 victory against Cleveland St. Ignatius on the final day of the regular season, when he hauled in 12 passes for a single-game record 300 yards and a pair of TDs.  He will join his older brother, Sean, at Penn State – where the 2017 St. Xavier graduate is the Nittany Lions’ starting QB.  Sean Clifford helped lead the Bombers to the 2016 state crown during his senior season.
 
Branam has been the leader of the La Salle offense the last two seasons, leading the team in rushing and passing both years.  This season, the 5-10, 200-pounder is the GCL South leader in rushing 1,025 yards on the ground and 14 TDs.  He also has thrown for 1,387 yards and 10 scores to rank third among passing leaders.  More importantly, though, is his consistent play – especially in the postseason.  With Branam at the helm, La Salle enters Friday’s state semifinal game riding a nine-game winning streak in the state playoffs.  This year, Branam has rushed for 10 TDs and thrown six TD passes in the Lancers’ dominant run to date in the DII state playoffs.  In last week’s 35-10 win against Winton Woods in the regional final, Branam rushed for 209 yards and four scores while also throwing a TD pass.

Ramsey was as versatile a player as there is in the league and likely in Greater Cincinnati, posting impressive receiving and rushing numbers, many times taking the direct snap from center.  He also is the Panthers’ punter and was even used on defense in the backfield in necessary situations. Ramsey finished third in both rushing and receiving yards in the league, carrying for 721 yards and 14 scores while also catching passes for 762 yards and eight TDs.  In Elder’s first-round playoff win against Fairfield, Ramsey rushed for 188 yards and four TDs while also catching six passes for 120 yards to help  the Panthers rally from 11 down in the fourth quarter for a 42-39 victory.  Elder advanced to the regional semifinals before losing to St. Xavier.

Specht, who led St. Xavier to state titles in 2005m 2007 and 2016, has his team one win away from the school’s fourth crown in football.  The Bombers are perfect this season against Ohio teams, posting a x-x record, with its lone defeats coming to a pair of Indiana state powers in Brownsburg, 30-24, in week one in a game that was televised live by ESPN, and Indianapolis Cathedral, 25-22, a few weeks later.  Cathedral has been the top-ranked team in the Hoosier state all season.  St. Xavier ended the season ranked No. x in the final Associated Press DI state poll.

Here is a look at the all-league teams, with the players listed in alphabetical order by school, position, class, height and weight.  Special award winners are listed after the all-star teams.
 
2020 ALL-GCL SOUTH DIVISION FOOTBALL TEAMS
 
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
NAME, SCHOOL, POSITION, CLASS, HEIGHT, WEIGHT
Zach Branam, La Salle, QB, Senior, 5-10, 200
Liam Clifford, St. Xavier, WR, Senior, 6-2, 190
Cameron Collins, St. Xavier, OL, Junior, 6-4, 260
Landon Fickell, Moeller, OL, Senior, 6-5, 270
Paul Haywood, La Salle, OL, Junior, 6-3, 322
Josh Kattus, Moeller, TE, Junior, 6-4, 245
Charles Kellom, St. Xavier, RB, Junior, 6-0, 183
Brogan McCaughey, St. Xavier, QB, Junior, 6-1, 185
Scott Nieman, Elder, WR, Senior, 6-6, 215
Brian Parker, St. Xavier, OL, Junior, 6-5, 276
Jalen Patterson, St. Xavier, WR, Senior, 6-1, 193
Austin Rack, La Salle, OL, Junior, 6-1, 270
Drew Ramsey, Elder, WR, Junior, 6-1, 200
Ryan Reynolds, La Salle, OL, Junior, 6-2, 275
TJ Rotello, Moeller, RB, Senior, 5-11, 195
Cole Schneider, La Salle, TE, Senior, 5-11, 169
 
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
NAME, SCHOOL, POSITION, CLASS, HEIGHT, WEIGHT
Gio Albanese, St. Xavier, DL, Senior, 6-0, 278
Sam Buerkle, St. Xavier, DL, Junior, 6-4, 246
Arron Byrd, La Salle, DL, Senior, 5-10, 207
Wyatt Bullock, Moeller, DL, Senior, 6-2, 270
Gabe Dubois, St. Xavier, DB, Senior, 5-9, 165
Matthew Devine, St. Xavier, LB, Senior, 6-0, 220
Jaylen Johnson, La Salle, DB, Senior, 6-3, 210
Jaymar Hargrove-Mundy, La Salle, DB, Senior, 5-10, 200
Eli Kirk, St. Xavier, DB, Junior, 6-0, 184
Grant Lyons, St. Xavier, LB, Junior, 6-2, 220
Gaillin Mitchell, Elder, DL, Senior, 6-1, 230
Nate Pabst, Moeller, DL, Senior, 6-5, 255
JJ Ruffin, La Salle, LB, Junior, 6-3, 227
Aden Seger, La Salle, DL, Senior, 6-1, 225
Devonta Smith, La Salle, DB, Senior, 6-0, 220

SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
NAME, SCHOOL, POSITION, CLASS, HEIGHT, WEIGHT
Drew Beckenhaupt, Elder, OL, Senior, 6-4, 285
Tennel Bryant, Moeller, WR, Sophomore, 5-7, 140
Ben Hambelton, Elder, QB, Junior, 6-1, 190
Cooper Johnson, Elder, RB, Senior, 5-8, 185
Daylon Fischer, La Salle, OL, Senior, 6-0, 260
Joe Folzenlogen, Elder, OL, Senior, 6-3, 240
Brody Koch, St. Xavier, OL, Junior, 6-2, 250
Gi’Bran Payne, La Salle, RB, Junior, 5-10, 200
Gavin Robbins, La Salle, OL, Senior, 6-3, 275
Fredrick Sturgis, Moeller, OL, Senior, 6-3, 275
Jack Tucker, Elder, OL, Senior, 6-2, 250

SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
NAME, SCHOOL, POSITION, CLASS, HEIGHT, WEIGHT
Ivan Anderson, Moeller, LB, Junior, 6-0, 204
Ryan Anderson, Moeller, DB, Senior, 5-8, 170
Max Roberto-Bailey, La Salle, LB, Senior, 6-2, 215
Deago Brumfield, La Salle, DB, Senior, 5-9, 172
Nicholas Paff, Elder, LB, Junior, 5-9, 180
Deuce Shaw, Moeller, LB, Senior, 6-0, 205
Andrew Spinney, Elder, LB, Junior, 6-0, 210
Austin Wandstrat, Elder, DB, Senior, 6-0, 190
Michael Whitehouse, St. Xavier, DL, Senior, 6-4, 227

SPECIAL AWARDS
 
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Zach Branam, La Salle
Liam Clifford, St. Xavier
Drew Ramsey, Elder
 
COACH OF THE YEAR
Steve Specht, St. Xavier
 
OFFENSIVE SKILL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Scott Nieman, Elder

TIGHT END OF THE YEAR
Josh Kattus, Moeller
 
ALL-PURPOSE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Devonta Smith, La Salle
 
CO-OFFENSIVE LINEMEN OF THE YEAR
Landon Fickell, Moeller
Brian Parker, St. Xavier

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR
Gio Albanese, St. Xavier
 
LINEBACKER OF THE YEAR
Matthew Devine, St. Xavier
 
CO-DEFENSIVE BACKS OF THE YEAR
Jaylen Johnson, La Salle
Jaymar Hargrove-Mundy, La Salle

KICKER OF THE YEAR
Mason Rohmiller, St. Xavier

PUNTER OF THE YEAR
Logan Forcum, La Salle

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