La Salle, St. Xavier Advance In State FB Playoffs

11/12/2016

Posted on 11/12/2016 at 7:27 a.m.

Lancers Extend Streak; Bombers Defeat No. 1 Colerain IN OT

Greater Catholic League South Division members La Salle and St. Xavier knocked off a pair of previously unbeaten teams Friday night in the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament and, as a result, both teams earned berths in their respective regional finals and moved one win away from advancing to the state semifinals.

La Salle (10-2), the two-time defending Division II state champion, extended its postseason winning streak to 12 games with an impressive 34-3 victory over Turpin in a Region 8 semifinal at Lakota West’s Firebird Stadium.  The Lancers, who have now won eight straight, advance to meet Miamisburg (10-2) in the regional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday at a site to be announced Sunday by the OHSAA.  Miamisburg defeated Troy, 28-21, in the region’s other semifinal.

St. Xavier (7-5), which trailed the state’s No. 1-ranked Division I team Colerain, 23-7, with less than two minutes left in the third quarter, rallied behind senior quarterback Sean Clifford to tie the game 23-23 in regulation and eventually pull out a thrilling 29-23 win in overtime in a Region 4 semifinal game at Hamilton’s Virgil M. Schwarm Stadium.  The Bombers advance to meet Sycamore (8-3) in the regional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday.  Sycamore beat Mason, 20-7, for the second time in three weeks in the region’s other semifinal.

A week after getting past Edgewood, 23-21, in the opening round, La Salle turned in a complete performance against Turpin (11-1), ranked No. 2 behind the Lancers in The Enquirer’s Division II final regular season coaches’ poll and a team that had outscored its previous 11 opponents, 368-112, entering the matchup with La Salle.  Senior Jarell White rushed 16 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns for coach Jim Hilvert’s team, and the stingy La Salle defense did the rest – holding Turpin to eight first downs and 103 total yards.

White’s 34-yard TD run in the second quarter gave La Salle a 17-0 lead at halftime, and he later added a 12-yard scoring run to put the Lancers ahead 27-3 entering the final quarter.  La Salle’s defense, which has come up big all season, limited Turpin to 15 rushing yards in 20 attempts and allowed the Spartans to convert just 1-of-10 third-down conversions.  Turpin, the Eastern Cincinnati Conference champion, was averaging almost 360 yards offensively and more than 20 points a game entering Friday’s game.

Things did not look good late in the third quarter for St. Xavier against Colerain (11-1), which had been the state’s No. 1-ranked Division I team since the preseason.  The Cardinals held a 16-point advantage with less than 14 minutes remaining, but Bombers’ senior linebacker Brady Stoll blocked a punt that was returned four yards for a score by senior back Carl Grimm with 1:30 left in the third quarter to cut the margin to 23-13 and gave St. Xavier new life.

Clifford, who came off the bench when junior Chase Wolf left with an injury in the first quarter, started to find his rhythm leading the Bombers’ offense – both running and through the air.  The senior Penn State University commit finished with 87 yards rushing in 22 attempts against a tough Colerain defense while also completing 10-of-21 passes for 131 yards and one score, the game-winning 20-yard TD strike to senior Nicholas Moeller on the Bombers’ first play of OT after Colerain had just missed a field goal on its possession.

Clifford’s 11-yard TD run with 7:50 left in regulation narrowed the Colerain lead to 23-20, and senior kicker Kevin Rockwood’s 30-yard field goal with 6:03 remaining pulled the Bombers even.  Neither team scored before the end of regulation, and the Bombers’ defense came up big and stopped Colerain on two runs and a pass on the Cardinals’ OT possession – setting up the winning TD pass to finish a game that is another in what has turned out to be a classic rivalry between these two football programs.

The game, called one of the nation’s top 10 high school games this weekend by MaxPreps, certainly did not disappoint those in attendance on a chilly, windy night.  Colerain and St. Xavier have played five of the last six seasons in the postseason, with four of those meetings coming in the second round like Friday night.  St. Xavier has won three of those five meetings, with three of the last four meetings in the series (including the regular season) being decided in OT.  The Cardinals beat St. Xavier, 20-14, in OT back in week two.