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Posted on 9/25/2016 at 11:18 a.m.

Elder, La Salle Win Final Non-Conference Tune-Ups Before League Play

St. Xavier quarterbacks Sean Clifford and Chase Wolf each threw touchdowns passes, and Clifford ran for another score to help the Bombers build a three-TD lead and eventually hold on for a 21-14 win over Moeller in the Greater Catholic League South Division opener for both schools Friday night at a sold-out Ballaban Field at St. Xavier Stadium.  The win was the third straight for St. Xavier, and gives the Bombers an early lead in the league race.  Elder and La Salle open league play next week after posting non-conference wins Friday night.

Clifford, a senior and Penn State University commit coming off a strong performance in St. Xavier’s win last Friday at previously unbeaten Indianapolis Cathedral, connected on 17-of-24 passes for 156 yards the game’s first score – a 14-yard strike to junior Andrew Wittrock with 1:52 left in the first quarter to give St. Xavier (3-2, 1-0 GCL South) a 7-0 lead.  The Bombers extended the advantage to 14-0 on a 16-yard TD toss from junior Wolf to Wittrock with just 28 seconds remaining in the first half.  Wolf finished 5-for-5 for 52 yards and the one TD. 

It was Clifford’s 1-yard TD run with 6:17 left in the third quarter that gave a tough St. Xavier defense a seemingly insurmountable lead.  That was before Moeller sophomore RJ Khayo returned the ensuing kickoff a school-record 98 yards for a score to narrow the gap.  Moeller senior quarterback Evan Ernst scored on a 1-yard run with 3:24 remaining in the game to bring Moeller (3-2, 0-1) within one score at 21-14, but the Bombers were able to emerge victorious.

St. Xavier was not guilty of a turnover in the game, while Moeller committed four miscues – including turnovers on the Crusaders’ first three drives of the game.  The win was the second straight for St. Xavier in the series.  The Bombers had lost four straight to Moeller before rallying for a 14-10 win last season at University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, a game that Moeller led 10-0 in their third quarter.  The win should move St. Xavier into a solid position when this week’s Division I, Region 4 Harbin computer rankings are released Tuesday.

Ernst finished 17-of-33 for 224 yards, but was intercepted twice by St. Xavier.  Junior Colin Thurman led Moeller on the ground, picking up 90 yards on 17 attempts.  St. Xavier, however, held Moeller to just 106 yards rushing on 35 attempts.  St. Xavier was limited to only 91 yards on the ground on 30 attempts by the Moeller defense; senior Cameron Specht led the Bombers’ offense with nine catches for 67 yards.  St. Xavier controlled the time of possession, holding the ball for almost nine minutes more than the Crusaders.

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

Elder 42, Pittsburgh Prep 0 – The Panthers had little trouble in their final non-conference game, winning for the fourth straight week – this time doing most of the damage on the ground.  Michael Mittner and Tiariq Bailey each score two TDs for Elder (4-1), which rushed 49 times for 308 yards and jumped out to a 28-0 lead at halftime.  The Panthers, coming off an impressive 15-9 win last week over two-time defending Division I state champion Lakewood St. Edward, allowed just two first downs and 49 total yards in the victory,

Elder opens GCL South play by hosting St. Xavier at 7 next Friday at The Pit.

La Salle 20, Winton Woods 13 – The Lancers got a pair of TD passes from Griffin Merritt to Christian Turner, and Jarrel White returned an interception 45 yards for a score to snap a two-game losing streak.  Merritt, La Salle’s junior quarterback, completed 10-of-16 passes for 122 yards and two scores.  Five of his completions were to Turner, a senior running back, who wound up with 115 receiving yards.  White’s third-quarter interception return gave La Salle a 20-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter against Winton Woods (2-3).

La Salle plays its first GCL South game at 7 next Friday against Moeller at Lancer Stadium.

Posted on 9/23/2016 at 9:45 a.m.

Elder, La Salle Continue Non-Conference Schedule Tonight  

Moeller and St. Xavier, both coming off perhaps their biggest wins of the season on the road last week, return to Cincinnati to kick off the always rigorous Greater Catholic League South Division regular-season football schedule by facing each other in the league’s first matchup tonight.  Kickoff between two of Greater Cincinnati’s top three ranked teams is 7 p.m. at a sold-out St. Xavier Stadium’s Ballaban Field on the St. Xavier High School campus.

Moeller (3-1), which traveled to Ramsey, N.J. last Saturday evening to defeat nationally regarded Don Bosco Prep, 20-14, is looking to extend its winning streak to three games and take the early GCL South lead.  The Crusaders, ranked No. 2 in The Enquirer’s Division I weekly area coaches poll, are looking to senior quarterback Evan Ernst to lead their team against a tough St. Xavier defense.  Ernst has connected on 49-of-85 passes for 600 yards this season with eight touchdowns and four interceptions.

Against Don Bosco, Moeller had a balanced offensive attack as junior running back Colin Thurman rushed 13 times for 113 yards and a TD.  Thurman has gained 311 yards, which ranks him second in the GCL South in rushing yards, and scored three TDs.  Sophomore running back RJ Khayo ranks third in the GCL South in receiving yards, with 237, having hauled in 14 passes from Ernst.  He had three catches for 90 yards, including a 70-yard TD reception in the win last week.

St. Xavier senior quarterback Sean Clifford, sidelined much of the early season with an injury, returned to action last week – coming off the bench to complete 13-of-22 passes for 224 yards and a TD.  Clifford, a Penn State University commit, also rushed for 32 yards and two scores to help the No. 4 Bombers knock off Indianapolis Cathedral in the Butler Bowl last Friday, the Bombers’ second straight win.  Cathedral entered the game unbeaten and ranked No. 1 among Indiana’s Class 6A schools. 

The Bombers have been solid in their last three games – including a week two 20-14 overtime defeat to No. 1 Colerain – a game in which St. Xavier trailed 14-0 at halftime before rallying with two third-quarter scores to eventually send the game into overtime.  Defensively, St. Xavier senior back Colton Paul leads the GCL South with four interceptions – including a key pick in last week’s win over Cathedral, a week after he intercepted a pass and returned it 83 yards for a TD to preserve a 20-7 win over Mentor.

St. Xavier won last year’s meeting, 14-10, at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.   Bombers’ senior running back Sean Prophit scored the game-winning TD on a 5-yard run with just over six minutes remaining to cap a St. Xavier comeback after Moeller held a 10-0 lead into the third quarter.  Prophit gained a team-high 75 yards  to help St. Xavier snap a four-game losing streak in the series between the two perennial GCL South contenders. 

Elder and La Salle, which begin their league schedules next Friday, face non-conference opponents tonight.  No. 3 Elder is looking to extend its winning streak to four when it hosts  Pittsburgh University Prep (0-3) at 7 at The Pit in Price Hill.  The Panthers are coming off a 15-9 home victory against Lakewood St. Edward, the two-time defending Division I state champion and previously No. 1 ranked team in Ohio.  The win snapped St. Edward’s 15-game winning streak.

La Salle (2-2), No. 1 in The Enquirer’s Division II poll this week, is looking to get back on track after suffering consecutive losses when it travels to face Winton Woods (2-2).  The Lancers suffered a 31-18 loss Christian Brothers, Tenn. last Saturday afternoon in Memphis – a game that that La Salle led 18-16 entering the final three minutes.  A week earlier, La Salle endured its first loss of the season – falling 6-0 on the road to rival Colerain, 6-0.  Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Winton Woods High School.

Posted on 9/18/2016 at 9:39 a.m.

Panthers defeat No. 1 St. Edward; Crusaders Win At Don Bosco

One night after Greater Catholic League member St. Xavier went to Indianapolis and knocked off Indiana’s top-ranked Class 6A team Cathedral, Elder and Moeller staged impressive victories of their own to give the league a 3-1 record in the two-day period against elite football competition.  For the second time in three years, Elder used a strong defense to take down Ohio state power Lakewood St. Edward, 15-9, while Moeller traveled to New Jersey to record a 20-14 win over nationally regarded Don Bosco Prep.

La Salle was the lone GCL South team to lose this weekend, as the Lancers fell to Christian Brothers, Tenn. in Memphis Saturday afternoon, 31-18 – a game that La Salle led 18-16 heading into the final three minutes before Christian Brothers scored twice.  The Lancers committed four turnovers, while the opposition failed to turn it over in the game.

Here is a look at the GCL South games Saturday:

Elder Wins Third Straight – Like two years ago, St. Edward came to The Pit unbeaten and ranked as the state’s top Division I team – a familiar spot for the two-time defending big-school state champions.  But Elder (3-1) was able to outgain the Eagles and limit St. Edward to less than 65 yards total offense in the second half after going to the locker room with a 9-6 halftime lead – a lead that could have been even greater had the Panthers not fumbled deep into St. Edward territory.

But Elder had a balanced offense, led by junior quarterback Danny Nieman – who completed 19-of-31 passes for 232 yards and one TD – in the passing game, and junior Jack Mazza carrying the load on the ground – rushing 20 times for 106 yards, with a long run of 34 yards.  Senior receiver Adam Schwallie was Nieman’s top target, hauling in seven passes for 115 yards, including an 18-yard scoring strike with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter to give the Panthers a 15-6 advantage.

Elder was led defensively by senior defensive back Zach Lyons, who finished with 10 total tackles and helped Elder hold St. Edward (3-1), which entered the game riding a 15-game winning streak, to just 3-of-11 conversions on third down and also stopped the Eagles attempt to keep a drive alive on fourth down.  Elder evened the series against St. Edward at 5-5 with the victory, and also won its third straight game after narrowly missing a win in the season opener, 20-14, against undefeated Pickerington Central at Nippert Stadium.

Moeller Ups Record To 3-1 – Six days after holding off Mason for a 17-14 victory on the road last Sunday, the Crusaders ventured some 12-plus hours to Ramsey, N.J. and emerged with a 20-14 win against Don Bosco Prep – a team that defeated Moeller in Cincinnati, 31-14, this same week a year ago.  Moeller led this game 20-0 at halftime before the Ironmen, playing their home opener after falling to two national powers on the road, rallied for a pair of second-half TDs to cut the final margin to six points.  

Senior quarterback Evan Ernst completed 11-of-18 passes for 186 yards and two scores, while junior running back Colin Thurman led Moeller’s rushing attack by gaining 113 yards on 13 attempts, including a 65-yard scoring run with 7:42 left in the first quarter to give Moeller an early 7-0 advantage. Ernst then tossed a pair of second-quarter TD passes, one covering 70 yards to sophomore back R.J. Khayo to give Moeller what appeared to be a comfortable halftime advantage.

Defensively, Moeller was able to limit Don Bosco (0-3) to just 56 yards rushing on 34 carries, an average of 1.6 yards per carry.  The win was the Crusaders’ third in four games, the lone loss coming at Huber Heights Wayne – the state’s No. 2-ranked team in last week’s Associated Press Division I state rankings that likely will vault to the top spot after Elder’s win over St. Edward.  The GCL South has opened the football season with an impressive 10-5 record against solid non-league competition.

La Salle Falls Late In Memphis – The Lancers were victimized by four turnovers, and Christian Brothers scored two touchdowns in the final 2:29 Saturday afternoon in Memphis to avenge a loss at La Salle last season.  The loss was the second straight for La Salle (2-2), the two-time defending Ohio Division II state champion ranked No. 2 in last week’s DII state poll.  Junior quarterback Griffin Merritt gave the Lancers an 18-16 lead when he connected with senior receiver John Whyle on a 9-yard TD pass with 9:17 remaining in the game.

But Christian Brothers scored twice in the final few minutes to win for the fourth time in five games.  Merritt completed 23-of-32 passes for 251 yards and two TDs.  The Purple Wave (4-1), however, snagged three interceptions and recovered a La Salle fumble while also committing no turnovers.  For the second straight week, La Salle was unable to get its running game untracked as the Lancers carried 20 times for just 51 yards, an average of 2.6 yards per carry.

Posted on 9/17/2016 at 6:36 p.m.

Bombers Hand Indiana’s Top-Ranked Class 6A Cathedral First Loss

Senior quarterback Sean Clifford engineered a late scoring drive, and senior defensive back Colten Paul followed the game-winning touchdown with a key interception to help St. Xavier post a 34-29 victory over previously undefeated Cathedral, the top-ranked Class 6A team in Indiana, Friday night at Butler University’s Butler Bowl.  The Bombers’ victory kicks off a weekend of difficult tests for all four schools in the Greater Catholic League South Division, with the remaining three set to play today.

St. Xavier (2-2), which narrowly missed knocking off Greater Cincinnati’s top team Colerain, falling 20-14 in overtime two weeks ago before winning 20-7 at Mentor last Friday, held multiple double-digit leads against Cathedral, but the Fighting Irish continued to rally.  Cathedral took its first lead of the game at 29-28 with 9:35 remaining on a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Quincy Keller to Daijon Collins.  After both defenses held their ground for almost seven minutes, St. Xavier took over on its own 34 with 2:34 remaining.

The Bombers marched 66 yards in just four plays, capped by a 15-yard scoring run from Clifford with 1:16 to go, to put St. Xavier ahead 34-29.  Cathedral had a final chance to mount a potential game-winning drive, but Paul intercepted his second pass of the game to preserve the St. Xavier victory.  Last Friday, Paul intercepted a pass on the game’s final play and returned it 83 yards for a TD to negate a last-ditch scoring effort from Mentor and seal the Bombers’ first win of the season.

St. Xavier got a solid performance from Clifford, who was 13-of-22 passing for 224 yards and one TD.  He also ran for a couple of scores, the game-winner and a 19-yard TD early in the third quarter that game St. Xavier a 28-16 lead at the time.  St. Xavier’s defense was opportunistic, forcing three turnovers and coming up with the big stand in the game’s final minute.  The Bombers were led in rushing by senior Quinn Earley, who finished with 15 carries for 67 yards and one TD – a 15-yard scoring run to give St. Xavier an early 7-0 lead.

The Bombers’ three GCL South colleagues will also attempt to win big games today.  La Salle (2-1) is in action first, traveling to Memphis to face Christian Brothers, Tenn. (3-1) in a game that is set to kick off at noon.  Elder (2-1), riding a two-game winning streak, is the lone league team at home as the Panthers host two-time defending Ohio Division I state champion and top-ranked Lakewood St. Edward (3-0) at 7 p.m. at The Pit.  Elder knocked off St. Edward, 21-14, two years when it came to Price Hill as the state’s No. 1 team.

Finally, Moeller travels to New Jersey to face nationally regarded Don Bosco Prep (0-2), which is winless in its first two games for the first time in 22 years.  Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. in Ramsey, N.J.  The GCL South is hoping for a repeat of last weekend, when its teams posted a 3-1 record against elite competition – the lone loss being La Salle’s hard-fought 6-0 setback at neighborhood rival Colerain.  The GCL South takes a combined 8-5 record into today’s play.

Posted on 9/15/2016 at 3:27 p.m.

Elder To Host Ohio’s Top Team, While St. Xavier Faces Test In Indy

Just when you thought that the schedule couldn’t get any more difficult for Greater Catholic League South Division football teams, you take a glance at the upcoming weekend of games.   This Friday and Saturday, Elder will host Lakewood St. Edward, Ohio’s two-time defending Division I state champion and the state’s current No. 1-ranked team; La Salle travels to Memphis to take on highly touted Christian Brothers; Moeller voyages to New Jersey to face Don Bosco Prep; and St. Xavier heads up Interstate 74 to oppose undefeated and highly regarded Indianapolis Cathedral.

It’s just another week in the GCL South.

Elder (2-1), which has won consecutive games after a close season-opening loss to unbeaten Pickerington Central, has its annual matchup with St. Edward (3-0) – which is coming off a 41-0 victory over Cleveland Glenville last week.  The Panthers are hoping for the same magic at The Pit that they found two years ago, when Elder knocked off then No. 1 St. Edward, 21-14, on September 20, 2014 when running back Ja’Vahri Portis scored on a 3-yard run and the Panthers followed with a two-point conversation with 10:46 remaining to erase a 14-13 deficit.

Coach Doug Ramsey’s team is coming off a 20-14 road win at previously undefeated Scott County, Ky. last Friday.  Junior quarterback Danny Nieman has looked good in taking over for Peyton Ramsey, now at Indiana.  Nieman leads the GCL South in passing yards, with 668, having connected on two-thirds of his attempts with four touchdowns and two interceptions.  Nieman’s favorite targets have been Andrew Schwallie (284 yards receiving), Danny Falliace (217) and Kyle Trischler (165), the top three in the league, respectively, in receiving yards.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. Saturday at Elder High School.

La Salle (2-1), which suffered a rare regular-season defeat last Friday to Greater Cincinnati’s top-ranked team in Division I and neighborhood rival Colerain, 6-0, on the road, looks to start another regular-season winning streak when it travels to Memphis for a return game with Christian Brothers (3-1).  The Lancers won the first meeting last season in decisive fashion, 49-14, at home behind an eye-popping performance from Jeremy Larkin (now at Northwestern University), who had more than 400 total yards and scored six touchdowns in the game.

Christian Brothers is coming off back-to-back victories by a combined 98-21 score, but the Purple Wave isn’t likely to find moving the football nearly as easy against a La Salle defense that has not allowed a touchdown in the last two games – shutting out East Central, Ind., 31-0, and then holding Colerain’s explosive option attack to just two field goals.  La Salle’s defense is led by sophomore defensive back Garrett Bledsoe, who has a team-high 27 total tackles – including seven solo and six assists last Friday at Colerain.  Kickoff is noon Saturday in Memphis.

Moeller (2-1), which held off Mason, 17-14, on Sunday afternoon in a game that had to be rescheduled after a bomb threat forced it to be postponed Friday evening at Mason, takes to the road and travels to the Garden State to face nationally regarded Don Bosco Prep Saturday evening.  Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Ramsey, N.J.  Don’t be deceived by Don Bosco’s 0-2 record, the first time this program has started winless in its first two games.  Both losses have come to elite competition on the road for the defending New Jersey state champs.

Don Bosco handed Moeller a 31-14 defeat last season in Cincinnati in a game that saw Ironmen quarterback Tommy Devito, a Syracuse University commit and junior last year, connect on 14-of-16 passes for 199 yards and two TDs as Don Bosco built a 14-0 lead after one quarter and led 31-7 with just under eight minutes left in the game.  The Crusaders are hoping that senior quarterback Evan Ernst (414 yards passing with six TDs and only two interceptions) and an opportunistic defense can be the difference in this meeting.

St. Xavier (1-2), which traveled to Northeast Ohio last Friday to record its first victory in 2015, 20-7, against Mentor, heads to Indianapolis to take on unbeaten Cathedral – ranked No. 2 in Indiana by MaxPreps.  The Bombers have gotten solid play from junior quarterback Chase Wolf the last two weeks, as they narrowly missed knocking off Colerain in overtime and then won at Mentor.  Wolf, who has started the last two games, is coming off a solid performance against Mentor – completing 14-of-27 passes for 168 yards and one score.

The Bombers will need a similar performance against Cathedral, which has opened with four straight wins in impressive fashion – scoring 40 or more points in every game and outscoring the opposition, 181-30.  St. Xavier defeated Cathedral, 31-17, last season, scoring on two fourth-quarter runs to break open a 17-17 game.  The Bombers’ defense was sound in the win, holding Cathedral to just 48 rushing yards in 29 attempts and forcing the Fighting Irish to convert on 5-of-15 third-down conversions.  Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Friday at Butler University in Indianapolis.

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