St. Xavier Takes Control Of GCL South Race

10/01/2016

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.