Elder, La Salle Advance To Football Regional Finals


Posted on 11/16/2019 at 12:24 p.m.

Luebbe’s Late TD Lifts Panthers; Porter, Payne Lead La Salle

Elder and La Salle, which just two weeks earlier played a winner-take-all game to determine the Greater Catholic League South Division championship, are now both only one win away from earning a berth in their respective state semifinals of the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament after posting impressive victories in the regional semifinals Friday night in Greater Cincinnati and Greater Dayton.

For Elder to advance, the Panthers needed to defeat GCL South rival and No. 1 seed St. Xavier for the second time this season.  Elder, which built a 24-7 lead and held on for a 31-28 win in the first meeting between rivals on October 4 at St. Xavier, trailed 24-21 late in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Matthew Luebbe ran 70 yards up the middle for a touchdown on a critical fourth-down play to give Elder a 28-24 victory in the Division I, Region 4 semifinal last night at Mason High School’s Dwire Field at Atrium Stadium .  Elder (10-2), which has won seven of its last eight games, advances to meet Colerain (11-1) in next Friday’s regional final at 7 p.m. at Mason.  Colerain earned the right to defend its regional title with a 28-7 win against its league rival Fairfield Friday at Princeton High School.  The Cardinals, who beat Elder in last year’s regional final, knocked off Fairfield, 16-10, in overtime two weeks ago to extend its Greater Miami Conference championship streak to 20 straight years.

Colerain defeated Elder in the 2018 regional final.

La Salle didn’t need a late rally in its Region 8 semifinal, as the Lancers built a 35-7 lead at halftime and went on to a 35-7 victory over previously undefeated Columbus Walnut Ridge at Bellbrook High School.  Senior Cam Porter scored two rushing TDs and a added a third score on a reception from junior quarterback Zach Branam, and sophomore Gi’Bran Payne scored twice on the ground to lead the Lancers to the win.  La Salle (10-2), which defeated Elder, 27-25 in the final game of the regular season to win the school’s second outright league title, advanced to meet Harrison (11-1) in its regional final at 7 p.m. next Friday at a site to be announced Sunday.  Harrison defeated Columbus St. Francis DeSales, 42-7, in its semifinal Friday at Miami Trace High School.

Elder got a huge game from Luebbe – the GCL South Co-Player of the Year – who completed 20-of-29 passes for 286 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, while also rushing 18 times for 120 yards and the eventual game-winning score.  Senior receiver Evan Vollmer was Luebbe’s favorite target, hauling in 10 passes for 137 yards and one TD, while senior receiver/tight end and Ohio State University verbal commit Joe Royer caught four passes for 112 yards and two TDs covering distances of 7 and 34 yards, respectively.

St. Xavier (9-3), which entered the game with three straight victories and whose only losses this season were to Elder and La Salle, took a 24-21 lead with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter when senior quarterback Matthew Rueve hooked up with junior Liam Clifford, the GCL South’s leading receiver, for a 54-yard TD strike.  Clifford wound up with four receptions for 87 yards and the one TD, while senior tight end and Northwestern University commit Marshall Lang caught seven passes for 89 yards.  The Bombers had good balance on offense, too, with senior running back Kellen Newman  carrying 27 times for 140 yards and a TD.  Newman rushed for a career-high 172 yards and two scores a week earlier in a 49-20 win over Mason.

But the Elder defense came up with a final stop after the Panthers had taken a 28-24 lead on the Luebbe TD run.  St. Xavier put together a 60-yard drive that took the ball to the Elder 15 and set up a final play with a chance to win the game.  Rueve scrambled  to his right, tossing a pass that was just out of the reach or receiver Owen Smith as time expired – giving Elder its second victory this season over the Bombers.

Elder has lost its last three meetings with Colerain the state playoffs.  Prior to last November’s defeat, Colerain knocked off the Panthers, 41-11, in the 2015 regional final after beating Elder, 35-34, in the 2012 regional semifinals.  Elder’s last win over Colerain in the postseason was back in 2008, a 27-20 OT win that helped Elder get its last DI state title game, a 28-20 loss to Cleveland St. Ignatius.  Elder also won the regional title in 2009, but lost the following week to Hilliard Davidson, 24-20, in the state semifinals.
  Elder won consecutive DI state championships in 2002 and 2003.

La Salle is looking for a return to the state semifinals for the first time since 2016 – when the Lancers went on to complete a three-peat at the DII level after winning its first two state crowns in 2014 and 2015.  This will be the third meeting between La Salle and Harrison in the state playoff in six years, with the Lancers coming out on top in the two previous games – winning 45-24 in 2014 in the second round and then 45-10 in the first round in 2017, when La Salle advanced to the Lancers advanced to the regional final before falling to Winton Woods, 16-14.