Elder, La Salle To Play For Regional FB Titles


Posted on 11/22/2019 at 11:38 a.m.

GCL South Teams One Win Away From State Final Four

Elder and La Salle, two teams that played three weeks ago to determine the Greater Catholic League South Division championship, are now just one win away from winning their respective regional titles and earning berths in the state semifinals of the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament.  But it won’t be easy for these league rivals, as both face difficult tests tonight.

Elder (10-2), which defeated GCL South member St. Xavier, 28-24, in an instant classic last Friday to keep its state title aspirations alive, meets Colerain (11-1) in the Division I, Region 4 final at 7 p.m. at Mason High School’s Dwire Field at Atrium Stadium.  This is the second straight time these two teams have met in the regional final and the third time in the last five years, with Colerain winning both meetings – 41-11 in 2015 and 42-0 last November, when the Cardinals advanced to the DI state final before falling to Lakewood St. Edward.  Elder is looking for its first regional title since 2009, when the Panthers defeated Colerain, 27-20, in overtime and made it to the state championship game before losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius, 28-20.

La Salle (10-2), which defeated Elder, 27-25, in the regular-season finale to win the school’s second outright league championship, is vying for its fourth regional crown in the last six years when it meets Harrison (11-1) in the DII, Region 8 title game at 7 p.m. at Lakota West High School’s Firebird Stadium.  The Lancers have been nothing short of dominating in their two postseason games, outscoring the opposition by a combined 77-7 score, including a 35-7 victory against previously unbeaten Columbus Walnut Ridge in last Friday’s semis at Bellbook High School in Greater Dayton.  Harrison, the Southwest Ohio Conference champion, has won 10 consecutive games – including an impressive 42-7 win against Columbus St. Francis DeSales last week.

Harrison’s only loss is to East Central, 10-7, in OT in early September.

Elder has won seven of its last eight games, but it needed a 70-yard TD run by senior quarterback Matthew Luebbe with just 1:20 remaining to erase a 24-21 deficit and give the Panthers their second win this season against St. Xavier.  Elder also won the regular-season meeting on October 4 at St. Xavier.  Luebbe and a Panthers’ offense averaging just over 37 points a game, will be tested by a Colerain defense that is allowing 12.3 points a game and has allowed only three opponents to score more than 14 points – Huber Heights Wayne in a 28-19 win in week one on the road, St. Xavier in the Cardinals’ only loss, 21-14, in week two, and  and Mason, which scored four TDs in a 33-28 Colerain victory on October 18.  The Cardinals have surrendered just 27 points in the last four games, holding a high-powered Fairfield offense to only 17 points in two victories the last three weeks.

Colerain, however, will be without its leading rusher in senior Jaylen Thomas, who was injured in an automobile accident last weekend.  Thomas carried 13 times for 171 yards and one TD, a 45-yard run, in the Cardinals’ 28-7 win last Friday against Fairfield.  He has rushed for 962 yards and nine scores this season, while also playing middle linebacker and defensive back on defense.  Colerain will rely on senior DeShaun Pace, a senior defensive back who has three interceptions but also has been used some on offense for the Cardinals.  A talented backfield of Freddie Johnson, Hanzah Abdul-Waheed and MJ Flowers, who have combined for more than 1,500 yards rushing and 16 TDs during the regular season, will challenge Elder’s defense.

La Salle is looking for its second win against Harrison in the postseason in three years.  The Lancers opened the 2017 DII state playoffs with a 45-10 win against Harrison at home.  But it doesn’t figure to come nearly as easy against this group of Wildcats.  Harrison is led by senior quarterback Connor Kinnett – who completed 17-of-24 passes for 227 yards and three TDs last week against DeSales.  Kinnett led the SWOC in passing this season, completing 220-of-340 passes for 3,532 yards, 36 TDs and just seven interceptions.  Kinnett has thrown at least one TD pass in 11 of 12 games, and five times has thrown five TD passes in a game (Vandalia Butler, Franklin County, Ind., Mt. Healthy and Northwest).  Kinnett has tossed 21 scoring passes in the last five games.

Harrison has the two leading receivers in the SWOC, with junior Levi Tidwell at the top after hauling in 83 passes for 1,525 yards and 17 TDs.  Senior CJ Young has caught 56 passes for 1,038 yards and nine scores, while junior running back Cam Hering has 46 receptions for 558 yards and four TDs for a Harrison offense that is averaging more than 35 points a game and outscoring the opposition by 25 points.  La Salle, though, will counter with a balanced offense led by senior running back Cam Porter – a Northwestern University verbal commit who has five rushing TDs in the last two games  – and a defense that is led by a talented secondary that has been difficult to throw against all season led by a trio of All-GCL South performers in juniors Jaymar Hargrove-Mundy (five interceptions), Devonta Smith (Three) and and Jaylen Johnson.

La Salle has won 19 of its last 20 state playoff games.  The Lancers won three straight DII state titles from 2014 to 2016 and then advanced to the regional final in 2017 before losing to Winton Woods, 16-14.