Posted on 12/6/2019 at 10:22 a.m.

Another Fast Start Leads Lancers To Fourth Crown In Six Years

It started the final week of the regular season, when La Salle jumped out to a 27-6 halftime lead and held on for a 27-25 victory against Greater Catholic League rival Elder in a winner-take-all matchup to determine the prestigious league championship.  Fast starts have been the norm for the Lancers ever since that early November victory, and Thursday night in the biggest game of the season was no exception as La Salle held leads of 14-3 and 21-10 in the first half before eventually emerging with a 34-17 win against previously undefeated Massillon Washington in the Division II state championship of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Football State Tournament before a crowd of 11,286 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

The win earned La Salle its fourth state title in six seasons and fourth overall for a program that won three straight from 2014 to 2016.  In the process, the Lancers also earned state title No. 11 for GCL South schools since Elder won back-to-back DI state crowns in 2002 and 2003.  Elder (12-2) the Panthers play Pickerington Central (13-1) for the DI state championship in Canton.  An Elder win would give the GCL South its second state crown in four years, as La Salle and St. Xavier both won state titles back in 2016.

La Salle is now 4-for-4 in state finals.

The win, La Salle’s sixth straight, capped an impressive postseason run for coach Pat McLaughlin’s team – which outscored its five state playoff opponents by a combined score of 191-53 that included a 164-31 edge in the first half of the those games.  The win against Massillon, one of the state’s most storied programs, came against former La Salle coach Nate Moore  who left the Lancers’ program to take the Massillon job after leading the Lancers to their first state crown in 2014.  La Salle finishes the season 13-2 and is now 22-1 in the state playoffs since 2014.  Massillon suffers its first defeat and finishes 14-1 overall.

It was La Salle’s rushing attack that made the difference against Massillon, as the Lancers’ trio of junior quarterback Zach Branam, sophomore speedster Gi’Bran Payne and senior standout Cam Porter combined to run for 337 yards and four touchdowns.  Massillon finished with 82 yards on the ground.  Branam finished with a team-high 166 yards on 22 carries, while Payne ran for 133 and a 5-yard TD, and Porter racked up 57 yards and three scores in his final prep game.  Porter, who was named GCL South Co-Player of the Year with Elder senior quarterback Matthew Luebbe, has verbally committed to Northwestern University. 

La Salle also got a strong performance from its defense and special teams, led by senior and Ohio State University commit Jake Seibert – who kicked field goals of 43 and 38 yards, respectively.  Seibert’s 43-yarder set a state record for the longest field goal in a DII title game.  The Lanceres’ defense – as it has been all  season – turned in an impressive effort against a high-scoring Massillon offense that had put up 40 or more points nine times this season.  However, with La Salle leading 21-17 at halftime, the Lancers shut out Massillon in the final two quarters, with Porter’s 3-yard TD run in the third quarter and extra point giving La Salle a 28-17 lead – making the Lancer faithful who traveled nearly 230 miles to Northeast Ohio able to celebrate another state title.

You can expect to see plenty of purple in the stadium overlooking the Pro Football Hall of Fame tonight, as a large continent from Elder is expected to make the trek to Canton in support of Elder’s first appearance in the state final since 2009.  It should be noted that Pickerington Central’s primary school color also is purple.  The Panthers have won four straight since the loss at La Salle and nine of their last 10 since falling at La Salle.  Elder’s only other loss this season was in NE Ohio to defending state champion Lakewood St. Edward back in week four.  Pickerington Central, which defeated No. 1-ranked Mentor in last week’s state semifinals, won the DI state title two years ago;.  Elder and Pickerington Central last met in 2014, with the Tigers posting a 20-14 victory in the season opener that year as part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown at University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.

Posted on 12/1/2019 at 1:32 p.m.

Crusaders Extend Streak; La Salle Debuts With Convincing Win

Senior guard Max Land scored a game-high 25 points, while juniors Logan Duncomb and Alex Williams added 18 and 14 points, respectively, to help Moeller tip off the 2019-20 basketball season in impressive fashion with a 79-56 victory against Lutheran East High school from Cleveland Heights in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic on Friday night at Mason High School.  The two-time defending Ohio state champion Crusaders, coming off a perfect 29-0 season, have now 50 straight games dating back to December 2017.

La Salle was the other Greater Catholic League South Division team in action Friday, the first night that boys’ basketball teams in the state can play varsity games per Ohio High School Athletic Association rules.  The Lancers, on the same night their football teams advanced to the Division II state final, opened with a 68-44 victory against Dayton Belmont in the Tigers Basketball Classic at Withrow.

St. Xavier opens its season under first-year coach Mike Naszka against Princeton tonight.  Tipoff for the varsity game is 7:30, with the Bombers and Mount Notre Dame High School playing all three levels against the Vikings in alternating fashion through the day and evening.  Elder, which was victorious in theDI state football semifinals last night, opens its season against Huntington Prep in the Griffin Elite Prep Classic on December 7 at Northern Kentucky University.

Moeller broke open a close game by outscoring Lutheran East, 25-14, in the second quarter and then 19-6 in the third to take command.  The Crusaders made 30-of-49 field goals, for 61.2 percent shooting, and held a 34-14 edge in rebounding.  Land, a first-team All-GCL South performer last season, hit 9-of-11 field goals and 7-of-9 free throws to go along with six rebounds.  Up next for Moeller is a rematch of last season’s state title game, traveling to Akron next Saturday to take on St. Vincent-St. Mary at 5 p.m.  The Crusaders won, 52-44, this past March in Columbus after posting a 99-62 victory at Moeller last December.

La Salle got off to a fast start against Belmont, taking a 38-15 advantage into halftime.  Seniors Jaylen Lemons and Derek Eddings scored nine and eight points, respectively, in the opening two quarters, while junior Aydebn Schneider chipped in seven for the Lancers, who will face Dayton Meadowdale at 6:15 p.m. today in the second day of the event.  The Lancers’ home opener is next Friday against Purcell Marian at 7:30 p.m.


Posted on 11/30/2019 at 12:00 p.m.

GCL South Teams Look To Win State’s Top Two Divisional Titles

The Greater Catholic League South Division has long been regarded as one of the top high school football conferences in the state, region and the country – evidenced by the four member schools combining to win 10 state football championships since 2002.  Next week, the league will have an opportunity to win two divisional state titles in the same year for the second time in four years, after Elder and La Salle each recorded victories in their respective state semifinals of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Football State Tournament Friday night.

Elder (12-2) earned a trip to the Division I state championship game with its third consecutive come-from-behind win, a 31-24 thriller Friday night against Springfield at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium.  The Panthers, who trailed 14-7 in the first half before scoring a pair of touchdowns in just over two minutes early in the fourth quarter to snap a 17-17 tie and hold off a late Springfield drive to emerge victorious, will face Pickerington Central (13-1) at 8 p.m. next Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.  Pickerington Central defeated previously unbeaten Mentor, the state’s No. 1-ranked team all season,27-21,  in its semifinal Friday at Canton GlenOak to advance.  Pickerington Central is vying for its second DI state title in three years, also beating Mentor to win the 2017 crown, while Elder is looking for its third state championship overall after winning in 2002 and 2004.  The Panthers last played in the state final in 2009, falling to Cleveland St. Ignatius, 28-20.

La Salle (12-2), which entered its state semifinal game having outscored its three state playoff opponents by a combined score of 122-15, got off to another quick start – taking a 14-point lead twice in the first half – and went on to post a 35-21 victory against previously undefeated Toledo Central Catholic Friday at Sidney Memorial Stadium.  The Lancers advance to face Massillon Washington (14-0) in the state final at 7 p.m. next Thursday in Canton.  Massillon defeated Avon, 35-0, in its state semifinal game at Byers Field in Parma.  La Salle is making its fourth DII state title appearance in six years, having won three straight state titles from 2014 to 2016.  La Salle is 21-1 in the postseason the last six years, the lone setback coming to Winton Woods, 16-14, in the 2017 regional final.

La Salle and St. Xavier, GCL South rivals both located on North Bend Road, each won state football championships in 2016.  That year, St. Xavier also became the first team in OHSAA history to enter the state playoffs with a 5-5 record and go on to win the state title.  During its improbable postseason run, engineered by then senior quarterback Sean Clifford (now starting at Penn State University), St. Xavier reeled off five impressive wins – including a come-from-behind victory against previously undefeated Colerain and a 27-20, double-overtime thrilled against Cleveland St. Ignatius in the state final at Ohio Stadium.  The titles that year were the third for both La Salle and St. Xavier, which also won in 2005 and 2007.

Defending DIV state winner Wyoming is vying tonight to make it a perfect 3-for-3 for Cincinnati schools when it meets Clyde in its state semifinal at Marysville Impact Stadium, looking to extend its winning streak to 29 games and join Elder and La Salle in Canton next week.  The DIV state final will be held next Saturday.

After trailing GCL South rival St. Xavier, 24-21, in the regional finals before scoring on a 70-yard TD run by senior quarterback Matthew Luebbe with 1:20 left  to record a 28-24 win, and then falling behind Colerain by seven points twice in the first half of the regional final before rallying for a 28-21 win, Elder trailed Springfield, which entered riding an 11-game winning streak, 14-7, midway through the second quarter.  But the Panthers were able to tie the game, 14-14, when senior quarterback Matthew Luebbe hooked up with senior receiver and Ohio State University verbal commit Joe Royer on a 7-yard TD pass with just 12 second remaining before halftime.

Both teams added field goals in the third quarter, and then Elder scored on a 3-yard run by senior Joseph Catania with 10:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.  Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Royer recovered a kick that bounced off a Springfield receiver and set Elder up in plus territory, with junior Cooper Johnson going in from 5 yards out with 9:21 left in the game to give Elder a 31-17 advantage.  Springfield, however, managed to cut the deficit to 31-24 on a 15-yard scoring strike from sophomore quarterback Te’Sean Smoot to senior Larry Stephens with 6:46 left in the game.  The Wildcats had a final chance to mount a potential game-winning drive, but the Panthers’ defense came up big with a final stop to preserve the thrilling victory.

Like he has done all season, Luebbe led Elder in rushing with 114 yards on 25 carries – the seventh straight 100-yard plus game for the GCL South’s leading rusher.  He also completed 20-of-27 passes for 221 yards, two TDs and one interception.  Royer came up with a number of big catches, finishing with six receptions for 78 yards and a TD, while senior Evan Vollmer led the Panthers – hauling in 11 passes for 117 yards, including a 5-yard TD to give Elder an early 7-0 lead.  Vollmer set up the Panthers; first TD after taking a short Luebbe pass and scampering 55 yards to the Springfield 7 with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter.

Vollmer’s big game was especially helpful since Elder was without versatile sophomore Drew Ramsey, who was sidelined with any injury.  Ramsey had 54 receptions for 563 yards and five TDS, while also rushing for 245 yards in the Panthers’ first 13 games.  The Elder defense also played solid, forcing four Springfield turnovers and putting pressure on the talented Smoot all game.  Ben Deters, Nicholas Colton Sandhas and Nicholas Seger each had interceptions for Elder while Sandhas – the GCL South leading tackler – led the Panthers with eight total tackles.

For the fifth straight game, La Salle wasted no time putting up points to take an early lead against Toledo Central Catholic – scoring on its first two drives and then adding a third TD to lead 21-7 in the second quarter.  The trend started in the final game of the regular season against Elder in a winner-take-all matchup against Elder for the GCL South championship.  That night, the Lancers scored three first-quarter TDs and built a 27-6 halftime lead before holding on for a 27-25 victory.  In the opening round of the OHSAA state playoffs, La Salle led Little Miami 21-0 in seven minutes and 35-0 after one quarter of a 42-0 victory, before scoring four second-quarters TDs to lead 46-0 at halftime of a 35-7 win against Columbus Walnut Ridge in the regional semifinals, and then roll to a 24-0 lead after one quarter and 45-0 advantage at halftime against Harrison in the 45-8 victory in the regional final eight days earlier.

Junior quarterback Zach Branam had a big game for the Lancers, accounting for four of his team’s scores – three on the ground and one through the air.  Branam capped the Lancers’ first two drives with TD runs of 8 and 38 yards, respectively, to give the Lancers a 14-lead.  He then connected with sophomore speedster Gi’Bran Payne on a 59-yard pass to put La Salle up 21-7.  Toledo Central Catholic managed to put together a scoring drive before halftime to cut the deficit to 21-14.

But La Salle scored on a pair of 1-yard runs in the third quarter, the first from senior back Cam Porter and the second from Branam to take an insurmountable 21-point lead after three quarters, 35-14.  The road doesn’t get any easier for La Salle in the state final, as the Lancers will face their third undefeated team in the last four weeks in Massillon – which is coached for former La Salle leader Nate Moore, who guided La Salle to its first state title back in 2014 before taking over at Massillon, one of the state’s most storied programs and a team that has been considered one of the DII favorites all season along with defending state champion Akron Archbishop Hoban, the defending state champion that it beat, 17-14, in the regional final, and La Salle.


Posted on 11/29/2019 at 4:11 p.m.

Moeller Looks For Three-Peat In DI; Elder Start Delayed By FB

Three members of the Greater Catholic League South Division, including two-time defending Division I state champion Moeller, will tip off the 2019-20 high school basketball season with games the next two days.  Elder, which was not scheduled to open its season until next Tuesday, will delay the start of its season until Saturday, December 7 because of the Panthers’ lengthy run in the Ohio state football playoffs.  Elder plays Springfield in the Division I state semifinals tonight at Piqua.

La Salle, which finished 12-11 overall last season, is the first GCL South team to hit the hardwood as the Lancers meet Dayton Belmont tonight as part of the two-day Tigers Basketball Classic at Withrow High School.  La Sale is then scheduled to play Dayton Meadowdale at 6:15 Saturday.  The Lancers are in the Division II state semifinals in football tonight, facing Toledo Central Catholic at 7 p.m. at Marysville.  La Salle will be led by senior guard Jaylen Lemons, who was a first-team All-GCL South performer last season after leading the Lancers in scoring, at 11.9 points, and assists, 1.8.

Moeller, which capped the first perfect season in school history this past March with a 52-44 victory against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the DI state final, puts its 29-game winning streak on the line against Lutheran East from Cleveland Heights, Ohio as part of the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic at Mason High School.  The Crusaders must find a way to replace key players in Miles McBride, who became the first player in league history to win both the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in a vote by league coaches, and Alec Pfriem, the team’s leading scorer last season.  McBride is a freshman playing at West Virginia University, while Pfriem is a member of the Bellarmine University team in Louisville, regarded as one of the top DII programs in the nation.  Pfriem and McBride, respectively, were the top two scorers in the GCL South last season.

But don’t feel bad for the Crusaders, who return three members of the All-GCL South second team from last season in senior guard Max Land, and juniors Alex Williams and Logan Duncomb, as well as talented junior Will McCracken.  After opening the season Friday, Moeller is off until Saturday, December 7, when the team travels to Northeast Ohio for a rematch of last year’s DI state final by facing St. Vincent-St. Mary at 5 p.m. that day.

St. Xavier and first-year coach Mike Naszka, who took over the Bombers’ program after a successful run at Wilmington High School, open the varsity season at Princeton at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.  The Bombers finished 10-13 overall last season; they will be led by second team All-GCL South performer in senior Hank Thomas – who averaged 11.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, which rank him second among league leaders in that category.  Thomas recorded four double-doubles last season.

Elder, which was originally scheduled to tip off the season next Tuesday and then travel to Northern Kentucky and face Cooper on Friday, December 6, will now open the following day as part of the Griffin Elite Prep Classic powered by St. Elizabeth Healthcare at BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University.  The reward for the wait is a matchup with nationally ranked and regarded Huntington Prep from West Virginia, which boasts no fewer than six players who have committed to big-time college programs – including Duke University recruit in Jaemyn Brakefield.  Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on December 7, the third of four games in the event.

The Panthers finished strong last season after being beset by injuries and being relatively inexperienced during the regular season.  Elder put together a four-game winning streak to advance to the district final before losing to Springfield.   The Panthers welcome back senior guard Willard Cluxton, a first-team All-GCL South selection who averaged a team-best 11.4 points and 3.1 assists to rank among league leaders in both categories.  Elder finished 14-11 last season and 3-3 in the GCL South, second behind Moeller.

Elder has moved its game with Badin, originally set for next Tuesday, to February 15.  The Panthers’ game at Cooper, which was scheduled for Friday, December 6 has been changed to Friday, February 8 in Union, KY.


Posted on 11/28/2019 at 12:31 p.m.

Elder, La Salle Prepare For Games In Football State Semifinals

The ultimate goal of every high school football team is to still be playing over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, meaning that it is in the midst of a deep postseason run.  That’s the case for Elder and La Salle, two members of the Greater Catholic League South Division that will spend today getting prepared for the chance to move one win away from winning state  championships when the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament resumes Friday.  Along with Wyoming, the defending Division IV state champion, the three Cincinnati schools will represent Southwest Ohio in the seven divisional state semifinals to be played Friday and Saturday around the state.

Elder (11-2), which won its first regional title since earning back-to-back crowns in 2008 and 2009, will face Springfield (12-1) in one DI state semifinal.  Kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium.  The Panthers, who defeated Colerain, 28-21, last Friday at Mason to win Region 4, have won three straight and eight of their last nine – the lone blemish during that span a 27-25 setback at La Salle the final week of the regular season in a game that determined the outright GCL South champion.  Elder’s only other loss this season is to defending DI state champ Lakewood St. Edward, 42-25, on September 21 in Northeast Ohio.  Elder is led by a high-powered offense that is averaging 37.1 points per game.

La Salle (11-2), which won its fourth DII, Region 8 title in the last six years with a 45-8 win over Harrison last Friday at Lakota West, will attempt to knock a second team from the ranks of the unbeaten in its semifinal game against Toledo Central Catholic (13-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Sidney Memorial Stadium.  The Lancers, who have won four consecutive games following a 26-21 loss to Winton Woods in week nine of the regular season, are vying for their fourth DII state title since 2014 – when the school won its first state championship in football and the first of three straight.  The Lancers, who have outscored their three state playoff opponents by a combined 122-15 score, are 20-1 in the postseason since 2014.

La Salle beat then undefeated Columbus Walnut Ridge, 35-7, in the regional semis.

Wyoming (13-0), a member of the Cincinnati Hills League, is the other area team still playing.  The Cowboys, who have won 28 straight games dating back to the kickoff of the 2018 season, play Clyde (9-4) in the DIV state semifinals Saturday.  Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Marysville Impact Stadium.  The Cowboys, who defeated Valley View in the Region 16 final, 33-0, last Saturday at Princeton, won last year’s state title with a 42-14 victory over Girard.

Elder and La Salle are attempting to give the GCL South state title No. 11 since 2002, when Elder won the first of back-to-back DI state crowns.  La Salle and St. Xavier, which won in 2005, 2007 and 2016, have each won three in that period, while Moeller captured consecutive DI state championships in 2012 and 2013.  Elder also advanced to a third state final in 2009, falling to Cleveland St. Ignatius, 28-20, in the title game.

All state semifinal playoff sites will feature presale online ticketing at  Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, as participating schools keep a portion of presale ticket revenue.

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