St. Xavier Rallies To Win League Opener, Remain Unbeaten


Posted on 10/3/2019 at 7:56 p.m.

Luebbe, Royer Have Career Nights For Elder; La Salle Take Its D On Road

Senior quarterback Matthew Rueve  connected on 31-of-46 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns, including a 9-yard strike to junior receiver Liam Clifford with 25 seconds left in the first half that proved to be the game-winner, as St. Xavier rallied from a nine-point deficit to defeat Moeller, 27-24, in the Greater Catholic League South Division opener for both teams Friday night at University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.

Elder and La Salle, the other two GCL South teams, both posted impressive non-conference victories last night.   Panthers’ quarterback Matthew Luebbe and tight end Joe Royer, an Ohio State University commit, had career nights in a 49-7 win against Northern Kentucky Class 6A school Ryle at The Pit in Price Hill.  Luebbe was a perfect 10-of-10 passing for 174 yards and four TDs, all going to Royer – who hauled in six passes for 161 yards.  He now leads the GCL South in receiving TDS, with eight.  La Salle took its stalwart defense to Buffalo, N.Y. to hold another opponent to single digits and records its second shutout in five weeks with a 48-0 victory against St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute to stay undefeated.

Here is a look at Friday’s GCL South games:

St. X Rallies Yet Again – The Bombers have made a habit of staging impressive comebacks the first half of the season, and they did it again against league rival Moeller – who held a 21-12 lead after senior quarterback Drew Altemuehle hooked up with senior Anthony Sledge on a 70-yard TD pass with 10:58 remaining in the second quarter.  The Crusaders, defending league champions, extended the lead to 24-12 with 5:53 left before halftime on a 43-yard field goal by senior Kevin Thibodeaux.

But St. Xavier (5-0, 1-0 GCL South) came right back to score two times in the final 3:35 of the first half, the first TD coming on a 27-yard run by senior Kellen Newman, before Rueve found Clifford with just 35 seconds remaining to give St. Xavier a 27-24 lead at intermission.  After combining to score 51 points in the first two quarters, neither team scored in the second half.  Moeller had a couple chances to regain the lead, but a penalty on an apparent TD run by sophomore Brandon White negated one score and, after recovering a fumble inside its reds zone late, the Crusaders attempted one final drive but Altemuehle was sacked and the ball went back to St. Xavier.

It was the third time this season that St. Xavier rallied back to win, starting with a slim 17-16 halftime deficit in the season opener against Brownsburg, Ind., only to see the Bombers score 22 unanswered points in the second half for a 38-17 victory.  Last week, coach Steve Specht’s team trailed Indianapolis Cathedral, 31-17, early in the third quarter before rallying to post a 41-37 home victory against the perennial Hoosier state power.  Some did not expect such a close game against Moeller (1-4, 0-1), which had failed to score in three of its first four games.  But these are two great GCL South rivals.

The Crusaders took advantage of big plays – including a 99-yard return on the opening kickoff by senior Carrington Valentine to take a 7-0 lead.  St. Xavier led 12-7 before Moeller scored 17 consecutive points, including a 66-yard TD connection from Altemuehle to White o give Moeller a 14-12 advantage in the lastminute of the first quarter.  Altemuehle finished with six completions for 155 yards and two scores without an interception.  White caught three passes for 81 yards and a score.

St. Xavier was able to dominate the game statistically, with 25 first downs to seven and 460 total yards to 251, while also having an 11-minute edge in time of possession.  Moeller, too, was held to just 2-of-10 in third-down conversions, but the Crusaders were able to make the most of big plays.  Besides another big game from Rueve, who has now thrown 13 TDs and no interception, the Bombers had three receivers with seven or more catches.  Rueve has thrown at least two TDs in every game, three times tossing three in a game.

Clifford, who leads the GCL South in receiving yards with 628, hauled in a season-high 13 passes for 173 yards.  Senior tight end Marshall Lang, a Northwestern commit, had seven catches for 74 yards and one score, while junior receiver Drew Britt had seven receptions for 41 yards.    Newman led the Bombers, with 20 carries for 97 yards and the one TD.    Defensively, junior linebacker Matthew Devine had 2.5 of the five sacks that St. Xavier recorded, while junior linebacker Deuce Shaw II had eight total tackles for Moeller, with senior linebacker Joe Toepfer recorded seven tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Big Nights For Luebbe, Royer – Friday will certainly be a night that Elder’s Luebbe and Royer will remember, as the Panthers’ potent pass-catching combination hooked up seven times for 161 yards and four TDs as Elder built a 35-0 halftime advantage to bounce back after suffering their first defeat last Saturday to defending Ohio Division I state champion Lakewood St. Edward, 52-25, in Northeast Ohio.  It also was a good night for the Elder defense, which only allowed a fourth-quarter TD after giving 38, 54 and 42 points, respectively, the last three games.

Luebbe did not throw an incompletion in 10 attempts, with Royer on the receiving end of seven tosses – finishing with four scores, three in the first quarter on TD receptions of 23, 25 and 29 yards, respectively.  His fourth and final TD catch came with just 24 seconds left in the first half, a 2-yerder that gave Elder (4-1) a commanding lead.  Royer now has 550 receiving yards, which ranks second in the league, and leads Clifford of St. X in receiving TDs, eight to six.

The Panthers finished with 22 first downs and 517 total yards.  Junior Cooper Johnson led Elder’s rushing attack, carrying 11 times for 101 yards and  two TDs, while senior Joseph Catania had 11 rushes for 98 yards and a score.  Ryle (3-3) was held to 64 yards rushing in 21 attempts, with talented senior Kyle England carrying 15 times for 50 yards and the Raiders’ lone score.  England entered the game with 11 TDs this season.

La Salle’s Defense Will Travel – The Lancers made a lengthy commute Friday in an attempt to remain unbeaten at the halfway point of the regular season, and that is exactly what the Lancers managed to do in Buffalo with a dominating win against St. Joseph’s (2-2).  Buoyed by arguably the best defensive backfield in Greater Cincinnati, La Salle has held four of five opponents to single digits and posted its second shutout since blanking Mason, 31-0 in week two.    The only opponent to score more than seven points against La Salle is Mansfield, Ma. In a 38-16 Lancers’ victory two weeks ago at home.

The second-half schedule won’t be easy for La Salle, beginning with road games the next three weeks again Moeller, undefeated Covington Catholic and St. Xavier.  The Lancers close the regular season at home by facing Winton Woods as part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown in a game most believe could be a preview of the Division II, Region 8 final, and then close with their customary regular-season GCL South finale against Elder.  La Salle (5-0) is ranked No. 3 in this week’s DII, Region 8 Harbin computer ratings.