La Salle, St. Xavier Advance To State Title Games

11/26/2016

Posted 11/26/2016 at 10:22 a.m.

Lancers One Victory From Three-Peat; Bombers Rally To Win Again

Greater Catholic League South Division members La Salle and St. Xavier will have an opportunity to win a state football championship next week and, if either team is victorious, give the four-team league a state title winner for the fifth consecutive year after both schools won their respective state semifinal matchups Friday night in the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament.

La Salle (12-2) moved one win away from winning its third straight Division II state title with a dominating 35-0 win over Whitehouse Anthony Wayne in the semifinals at Sidney High School’s Memorial Stadium.  Senior TreSean Smith scored three rushing touchdowns and the Lancers’ defense limited Anthony Wayne to less than 75 yards total offense to extend their winning streak to 10 straight games this season and 14 in a row in the postseason the last two-plus seasons.

La Salle will meet Massillon Perry (12-2) for the second straight year in the Division II state final at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.  Perry beat Hudson, 14-3, in the other semifinal at Uniontown Lake.  La Salle, which defeated Perry last December, 42-0, is vying to become the first Cincinnati team to win three state championships since GCL South colleague Moeller captured Class AAA crowns from 1975 to 1977

St. Xavier (9-5) is now one win away from its third state football title, having also won Division I crowns in 2005 and 2007 under coach Steve Specht.  The Bombers did it again in comeback fashion for the third straight week, rallying to defeat Pickerington Central, 29-27, in the semifinals at Piqua High School’s Alexander Stadium.  Senior Kevin Rockwood’s 32-yard field goal with 2:38 left erased a one-point deficit, and the Bombers’ defense stopped Pickerington Central on its final possession.

St. Xavier will play Cleveland St. Ignatius (13-1) in the Division I state final at 8 p.m. next Friday at Ohio Stadium.  St. Ignatius, making its first state title game appearance since winning in 2011, handed Olentangy Liberty its first loss, 24-14, in the other semifinal at Mansfield.   St. Ignatius defeated St. Xavier, 31-14, in week nine of the regular season at St. Xavier.  Friday’s win over Pickerington Central avenged a 14-7 loss to the Tigers in the 2011 Division I state semis, St. Xavier’s last appearance in the DI Final Four.

St. Ignatius has won the most state football titles, 11, in OHSAA history.

If either La Salle or St. Xavier win state titles, it will be the fifth consecutive year that a GCL South school has won a state championship in football.  Moeller started the streak by winning back-to-back Division I state crowns in 2012 and 2013, and then La Salle followed the Crusaders by capturing Division II crowns the last two years.  Elder and St. Xavier won four state championships in six years during the last decade, with the Panthers winning in 2002 and 2003, and then St. Xavier earning its first two in 2005 and 2007, in which the Bombers finished a perfect 15-0.  The GCL South has won eight state football championships since 2000.

Since opening the postseason with a 23-21 win over Edgewood at Lancer Stadium, La Salle has won its last three games by a combined 114-17 score.  Against Anthony Wayne (10-4), making its first state semifinal appearance, the Lancers got 149 yards and one TD on 15 carries from senior Jarell White, who teamed with Smith to give La Salle more than enough offense.  The Lancers’ defense did the rest, giving up just 24 yards rushing and 71 yards of total offense. La Salle led 21-0 at halftime.

To say that things haven’t been as easy for St. Xavier the last three games might be the understatement of the season. Two weeks ago, the Bombers rallied from 16 points down late in the third quarter to defeat No. 1-ranked Colerain, 29-23, in overtime and, then eight days ago, St. Xavier trailed Sycamore, 28-14, with just over two minutes remaining before rallying to score two late TDs and force OT, eventually winning, 35-28.

At halftime against Pickerington Central, it didn’t appear that the Bombers would need another incredible comeback – with St. Xavier holding a 17-7 advantage after shutting down the Tigers’ offense for two quarters.  The Bombers increased the advantage to 20-7 and then led 20-14 in the third quarter before Pickerington Central (12-2) rallied to take its first lead at 21-20 with under six minutes remaining in the third when Grey Brancifort returned an interception 97 yards for a score.

There would be three lead changes in the final quarter, the first coming when St. Xavier put together a nice drive that covered 57 yards in 10 plays and culminated with a 10-yard TD run by senior quarterback Sean Clifford with 9:03 left to make it 26-21 after a failed two-point conversion.  It took Pickerington Central just two plays to regain the lead as senior running back Morgan Ellison ran 60 yards for a score to put the Tigers ahead, 27-26, after a failed two-point conversion.

But, a fourth-quarter deficit again proved to be no problem for St. Xavier – which put together its game-winning drive behind the leadership of Clifford and the running of senior Quinn Earley.  It led to an eventual game-winning kick for the senior Rockwood, who also nailed a 40-yarder as time expired in the first half and added a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter.

Clifford, who accounted for 400 yards of total offense (229 passing and 171 rushing) and four TDs a week earlier, completed 16-of-29 passes for 166 yards and one TD, while rushing 22 times for 102 yards and another score.  Clifford, who started Friday after coming off the bench the last two games, has run for 360 yards and five TDs in the last three games.  Earley led St. Xavier in rushing, carrying 18 times for 120 yards.  Junior Cameron Specht had a team-high nine catches for 80 yards and one TD.

FINAL TICKETS:  Tickets to the state championship games will be available next week at the participating schools. Tickets are $10 in advance, and can also be purchased at the Ohio Stadium Ticket Office for $15 (club level, with indoor access) or $12 (reserved) on the day of the games.  Specific school sales hours will be posted here by Monday morning.

All-session ticket books to the state finals can be purchased at http://go.osu.edu/OHSAAFBTix