La Salle Rallies In Fourth Quarter To Beat St. Xavier


Posted on 10/8/16 at 8:34 a.m.

Nieman’s Four TD Passes Earn Elder Big Road Win Against Moeller

There was plenty at stake in Friday’s Greater Catholic League South Division game between La Salle and St. Xavier and, after three quarters, it looked as though the Bombers might emerge with a road win, which would be their third victory in as many weeks against league competition and give St. Xavier its first outright league football championship since 2012.  But instead, it was La Salle that scored twice in seven minutes to record a 17-14 win and now controls its own destiny in the prestigious GCL South race.

A 35-yard interception return for a touchdown by Lancers’ senior Da’Meak Brandon with 4:22 remaining proved to the game-winner for La Salle (5-2, 2-0 GCL South), which earned at least a share of the GCL South title and can win the outright league crown with a victory against Elder the final week of the regular season.  Elder (5-2, 1-1) stayed alive in the race with a 30-28 win against Moeller Friday night at Lockland Stadium.  An Elder win against La Salle would give Elder, La Salle and St. Xavier each a share of the GC L South crown.

La Salle has never won the GCL championship outright, tying for the South title in 2014 with Moeller and St. Xavier after each school finished with 2-1 marks.  The Lancers have twice earned co-championships, tying Elder in 1995 and then earning a share of the league title with Moeller in 2010.  La Salle is the two-time defending Ohio Division II state champion.

For three quarters Friday night, though,  it looked as if St. Xavier (4-3, 1-1), ranked No. 2 in The Enquirer’s Division I weekly area coaches’ poll, was headed for its fifth straight win after opening the season 0-2.  The Bombers took advantage of a fumble recovery late in the third quarter, and senior quarterback Sean Clifford scored on a 7-yard run to give St. Xavier a 14-3 lead with 3:31 left in the third quarter.  St. Xavier was coming off an impressive 31-7 win at Elder last Friday, having allowed only one TD in both games heading into the final 12 minutes.

La Salle, which defeated Moeller, 55-14, at home a week earlier, put together a 13-play, 80-yard drive on its next possession and senior Tre’Sean Smith  scored on a 1-yard run with 10:48 left to cut the deficit to 14-10 – setting the stage for Brandon’s game-winning interception return.  La Salle’s defense came up with two stops late in the game and enable the Lancers to keep the King of the Road trophy for the first time since a 27-24 win in 2010 – snapping St. Xavier’s five-game winning streak in the series.

Friday’s two league games, decided by a combined five points late in the fourth quarter, seemed only fitting for the GCL South – which was named the second toughest high school football conference in the United States by MaxPreps the same day based on computer ratings, trailing only California’s Trinity League that includes No. 3-ranked Mater Dei from Santa Ana and No. 4 St. John Bosco from Bellflower.  St. John Bosco defeated St. Xavier, 34-0, in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown in August at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.  

A week after being held without a TD pass against St. Xavier, Elder junior quarterback Danny Nieman completed 23-of-33 passes for 253 yards and four scores, including a 7-yard strike to senior Danny Falliace with 3:22 remaining to give the Panthers a thrilling 30-28 win over Moeller and keep Elder’s league title aspirations alive.  The loss was the third straight for Moeller (3-4, 0-3), which finished without a GCL South win for the first time since 2001.

Moeller had taken a 28-24 lead with 9:09 left on a 24-yard TD run by sophomore RJ Khayo.  Moeller wound up with 178 yards rushing, led by a team-high 104 yards on 25 carries by junior Colin Thurman – who gave Moeller a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter after scoring on a 10-yard run.  The Crusaders finished with 355 total yards and turned the ball only once in a game that was close throughout, with neither team ever leading by more than seven points.