La Salle Caps Season With Football Three-Peat


Posted on 12/2/2016 at 1:00 p.m.

St. Xavier Looks To Win DI State Title Tonight In Columbus

La Salle capped a memorable season Thursday night, rallying from a rare halftime deficit to defeat Massillon Perry, 14-7, in the Division II state championship game of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Football Tournament.  The victory earns La Salle its third straight state title, becoming the first Cincinnati school since Moeller to three-peat.  Moeller won Class AAA (big school) state crowns from 1975 to 1977.

St. Xavier will attempt to give the Greater Catholic League South Division its second state championship in two days when the Bombers (9-5) play Cleveland St. Ignatius (13-1) in the Division I final at 8 tonight at Ohio Stadium.  St. Xavier is vying to win its third state football crown, having captured state titles in 2005 and 2007.  St. Ignatius has won more state football championships (11) than any other Division I school in Ohio.

For La Salle, it was an unusual circumstance to be shut out in the first half and to have to rally for a win.  The Lancers., who ended the season with 11 consecutive wins and extended their postseason winning streak to 15, had outscored its three previous state playoff opponents, 114-17.  And, coach Jim Hilvert’s team beat Perry, 42-0, in last year’s DII state final.  That was not the case this time.

La Salle, which became the first team in Ohio to win three DII titles in a row, could not get untracked offensively.  The Lancers completed just one pass for no yards, so Hilvert and his team relied on running the ball and playing sound defense.  Senior TreSean Smith took over at quarterback and wound up scoring both Lancer touchdowns, a 3-yard run to cap a 12,-play, 84-yard drive in the third quarter to tie the game, and then the eventual game-winner.

Smith, a University of Louisville commit, finished with 127 yards rushing on 17 carries.  He ended his team’s 65-yard, game-winning drive with a 12-yard run with just under four minutes remaining.  La Salle’s defense was solid down the stretch, forcing Perry to turn the ball over on downs, and then creating two turnovers on the final two possessions.

Now, it’s St. Xavier’s turn.  The Bombers are riding a five-game winning streak that started the final week of the regular season.  The last three wins by coach Steve Specht’s team have been in come-from-behind fashion, knocking off Colerain, Sycamore and Pickerington Central late  - two in overtime – to earn another shot at St. Ignatius.  St. Xavier lost to St. Ignatius, 31-14, in week nine of the regular season.

Senior quarterback Sean Clifford has been solid in the last three games, completing 45-of-77 passes for 526 yards and five TDS, while rushing 65 times for 360 yards and five more scores.  Clifford, a Penn State commit, has led St. Xavier to 93 points in the three games.   St. Xavier struggled offense the first meeting with St. Ignatius, finishing with 230 yards of total offense – including 26 rushing attempts for 51 yards.  The Bombers also committed two turnovers.