Elder-St. Xavier Streaks On Line Tonight


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.