La Salle Holds Off Elder, Wins League FB Title


Posted on 11/2/2019 at 9:22 a.m.

Rueve, Clifford Combine To Lead St. Xavier To Interstate Victory

After two quarters of Friday night’s much anticipated Elder at La Salle football game, it appeared there would be very little drama as to which team would emerge victorious and capture the coveted Greater Catholic League South Division outright championship in the process.   Not when La Salle had managed to score three first-quarter touchdowns to take a 21-0 lead and, after senior kicker Jake Seibert had nailed his second field goal, a 42-yarder, of the second quarter as time expired to give the Lancers a seemingly insurmountable 27-6 lead into the locker room.

But nothing comes easy in the highly competitive and respected GCL South, especially when a team has to stop an Elder offense that entered the game averaging nearly 40 points a game after reeling off six consecutive victories.  The Panthers didn’t disappoint, shutting down La Salle on offense after halftime and beginning to chip away at the lead with a TD reception by senior tight end Joe Royer in the final seconds of the third quarter to cut the margin to 15, 27-12.  The score remained the same until there was just 5:25 left in the game, but that was enough time for Elder to come all the way back – thanks to the second and third rushing TDs of the night from senior Joseph Catania to make it 27-25.

Elder, with just 1:03 left in the game, was a two-point conversion away from tying the score and perhaps forcing overtime to decide the league champion.  But La Salle’s defense came up big, and forced an option pitch to the Panthers’ running back – who was swarmed under and stopped short of the end zone to allow La Salle to hold on for the victory and earn its second outright championship in the school’s history.  The Lancers also won the title with a 3-0 record in 2016, when they would go on to win the third of three straight Division II state football crowns.  La Salle (8-2, 3-0 GCL South) also got a big defensive stand two weeks earlier, stopping St. Xavier on a late possession inside the Lancers’ 10-yard line to preserve a 22-15 road victory.

Junior quarterback Zach Branam had a big game for La Salle, completing 10-of-19 passes for 153 yards and one TD, while also leading the Lancers in rushing with 22 carries for 120 yards.  Elder senior quarterback Matthew Luebbe had his usual productive game, too, connecting on 23-of-35 passes for 260 yards and a TD, while carrying 17 times for 102 yards to finish with a GCL South-leading 1,099 yards on the ground for Elder (8-2, 2-1).  Catania rushed 10 times for 64 yards and the three TDs.

St. Xavier (8-2) closed the regular season last evening with a 35-30 win against Louisville St. Xavier on the road, getting ready for the state playoffs with its second close win away from home.  The Bombers defeated Cleveland St. Ignatius, 13-10, last Saturday in torrential rains in Northeast Ohio.  This time, the passing duo of senior quarterback Matthew Rueve and junior wide receiver Liam Clifford hooked up for three passing scores with each also scoring a TD on the ground to help their team enter the postseason with momentum.  Rueve was 20-of-30 passing for 312 yards and three scores, all to Clifford – who caught six passes for 151 yards and TDs of 26, 43 and 64 yards, respectively.  The last TD gave St. Xavier a 35-23 lead with 7:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Elder, La Salle and St. Xavier each finished with identical 8-2 overall records against difficult schedules, with all three GCL South members advancing to the state playoffs and each hosting a first-round game on campus this next Friday.  Elder’s only losses are to La Salle and defending Division I state champion Lakewood St. Edward; La Salle’s other defeat is to unbeaten Covington Catholic; and St. Xavier’s only setbacks are in the league, to Elder, 31-28, and La Salle.

According to Joe Eitel, the Bombers now finish the regular season atop in the DI, Region 4 Harbin ratings and, as a result, will host a first-round playoff game next Friday.  St. Xavier moved to the top spot after its win, coupled with Fairfield’s first loss of the season, coming against Colerain, 16-10, in OT.  Eitel’s website, which unofficially projects where teams will finish in the computer ratings used by the Ohio High School Athletic Association to qualify teams for its state football tournament, predicts the Region 4 rankings will be as follows:  1. St. Xavier, 8-2; 2. Fairfield, 9-1; 3. Colerain, 9-1; 4. Elder, 8-2; 5. Lakota West, 7-3; 6. Princeton, 6-4; 7. Hamilton, 5-5; and 8. Mason, 5-5.  The official playoff pairing will be announced by the OHSAA at approximately 4 p.m. Sunday, with the top eight teams qualifying the top four in each region hosting first-round games.  Fairfield retains the spot, according to Eitel, despite suffering its first loss last night, 16-10, in OT to Colerain for the Greater Miami Conference championship.

La Salle, by virtue of its win over Elder, is expected to leap this week’s top two seeds Harrison and Turpin in the final DII, Region 8 rantings and claim the top spot, according to Eitel – who projects Region 8 t be as follows:  1.  La Salle, 8-2; 2. Turpin, 10-0; 3. Harrison, 9-1; 4. Xenia, 9-1; 5. Columbus Walnut Ridge, 10-0; 6. Canal Winchester, 9-1; 7. Columbus St. Francis DeSales, 8-2; and 8. Little Miami, 8-2.

Moeller, the fourth GCL South team, ends its season on campus today.  The Crusaders (1-8) will attempt to snap a six-game losing streak when they host Canada Football Academy from Ontario at noon at the Gerry Faust Athletic Complex located on the school’s Kenwood campus.  Moeller won the GCL South title in 3028, finishing with a perfect 3-0 record against league opponents.