St. Xavier, Moeller Suffer Late Losses Saturday

10/21/2018

Posted on 10/21/2018

GCL South Teams Winless Against Perennial NE Ohio Powers

Just a few hours a part Saturday, St. Xavier and Moeller surrendered second-half leads and lost close games to Northeast Ohio football powers Cleveland St. Ignatius and Lakewood St. Edward, respectively, in games that resembled the type of pay and finishes that exemplify the Ohio High School Athletic Association state football playoffs that kick off in two weeks.

St. Ignatius rallied from a 20-10 deficit midway through the third quarter to score the game’s final 17 points in a 27-20 win at St. Xavier Stadium, while St. Edward scored on a long pass play with just 1:19 remaining to defeat Moeller, 29-22, early Saturday evening at Lockland’s Roettger Stadium.

The victories gave the two Greater Cleveland schools at perfect 5-0 record against the Greater Catholic South Division this season in what has become an annual gridiron series between perennial Division I contenders located in opposite corners of the state.  St. Ignatius is 3-0 against the league, having already defeated Elder, 17-7, and Moeller, 32-7, both at home, before the comeback win at St. Xavier.  St. Edward came to Cincinnati and rallied from a 28-14 halftime deficit to outscore Elder, 22-2, in the final two quarters to post a 36-30 victory back in week four.  

For over 30 minutes on a sunny but very windy afternoon, it looked like St. Xavier might be ready to notch a key win in its quest to earn a spot in the state playoffs.   With 8:34 remaining in the third quarter, junior quarterback Wyatt Hudepohl connected with sophomore Liam Clifford for a 34-yard touchdown and a 20-10 lead for the Bombers.  But, less than two minutes later, St. Ignatius senior quarterback Peter Delahunty connected with junior Connor Cmiel on a 54-yardd scoring strike to make it 20-17.

A 37-yard field goal just nine seconds into the fourth quarter by the Wildcats’ Rory McConville tied it at 20, where it remained until Delahunty tossed his third TD pass of the game, this one four yards to tight end Aidan Wells to give his team a 27-20 lead – which turned out to be the final score.  Delahunty had a big day, completing 20-of-28 passes for 311 yards, three scores and two interceptions.  Cmiel was his favorite target, hauling in seven passes for 187 yards and a pair of TDs.  The Wildcats finished with 448 total yards, but were guilty of four turnovers – one less than St. Xavier on a day plagued by brutal winds at Ballaban Field.

The rally by St. Ignatius (7-2) was good for its seventh straight victory after opening the season with consecutive losses to Archbishop Hoban and Mentor.  The defeat snapped a two-game winning streak for St. Xavier (4-5), but was the fourth loss in the last six games for the Bombers.

Senior Chris Payne led St. Xavier, rushing 14 times for 126 yards and a TD, a 93-yarder in the first quarter that gave the Bombers an early 6-0 lead.  Payne has run for 100-plus yards in two of the last three games (the other one gaining 97), carrying 38 times for 367 yards and five TDs during that stretch.  Hudepohl finished 20-of-36 passing for 216 yards and two TDs, but was intercepted four times.

Moeller, the GCL South outright champion, was looking to solidify one of the top four spots in the regional rankings to secure a first-round home game.  The Crusaders appeared headed to doing just that, after scoring twice in the fourth quarter to erase a 21-12 deficit and take a 22-21 lead against St. Edward – No. 9 in the Associated Press DI state poll this week.  The Crusaders made it 21-19 on a 15-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Mitch McKenzie to junior Max Land with 8:28 left, and then took their first lead. 22-21, since the first quarter when junior kicker Kevin Thibodeaux nailed an 18-yard field goal, his third of the game, with 3:27 remaining.

But St. Edward wasn’t finished, as the Eagles mounted what turned out to be the game-winning drive – scoring on a 39-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Garrett Dzuro to senior speedster Quintel Kent – a University of Michigan commit – with 1:19 left.  Chris Elliott caught a pass from Dzuro for the two-point conversion to give St. Edward a 29-22 lead.  Moeller attempted to rally, but a McKenzie pass was intercepted in the end zone with one second remaining.

McKenzie threw for 146 yards for Moeller (6-3), including two TD passes.  Khayo had four catches for 100 yards, including a 50-yard reception and score that helped cut the St. Edward lead to 14-12 midway through the third quarter.  Thibodeux continued his outstanding kicking, going 3-of-4 on field goals (also hitting from 31 and 46 yards).  He is now 13-of-17 this season and has made all 18 extra points.

Dzuro was held to just 61 yards passing by the Moeller defense, which also forced four turnovers.  But the Eagles’ QB made it up on the ground, carrying 21 times for a game-high 173 yards and three scores – on runs of 64, 10 and 24 yards, respectively.  Back Jordan Castleberry also went over 100 yards for St. Edward (7-2), finishing with 121 yards on the ground.

According to joeeitel.com, which unofficially projects the Harbin computer ratings that are released each Tuesday by the OHSAA, St. Xavier remains at No. 11 in Region 4 after all of the week nine games.  The Bombers will need a win over Louisville St. Xavier (7-2) at home this Friday to keep their state playoff hopes alive.  It was just two seasons ago that coach Steve Specht’s team became the first Ohio high school to earn a state playoff berth with a 5-5 record and then go on to win a state championship – defeating St. Ignatius, 27-20, in double overtime in the DI state final at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

Moeller now sits at No. 5 according to Joe Eitel, falling out of the top four spots and the chance to host a first-round game.  But the Crusaders could pick up plenty of points if they can defeat Winton Woods (8-1), winner of eight straight games, in the regular-season finale in Lockland this Friday.  Elder (5-4) is in the fourth position, behind Colerain, Fairfield and Mason, heading into Friday’s game at home against La Salle.  The Lancers (4-4), who have won three of the last four DII state titles, will need a road win to have any chance of qualifying for postseason play this year.  La Salle is projected by Joe Eitel to be at N0. 10 when this week’s ratings are released.