GCL South Opening Weekend Varsity Football Roundup


Posted on 8/31/2020 at 9:49 a.m.

La Salle Nips Elder In 2 OT; Moeller Posts Road Win; St. X Falls In OT
It was an action-packed opening weekend of the Ohio High School Athletic Association 2020 varsity football season that featured a season’s worth of drama from the Greater Catholic League South Division schools.  The much-anticipated start to the modified regular season, which includes six games and every team advancing to postseason play, got underway Friday with protocol amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.
It all started with an historic week one league matchup between Elder and La Salle at The Pit on Elder’s Price Hill campus.  The game featured 105 total points and needed two overtimes to decide this instant classic, while Moeller traveled to Columbus to begin the Mark Elder coaching era with a win, and St. Xavier hit the road Saturday afternoon to Indianapolis to take part in a nationally televised game against an Indiana power that went to OT.
Here is a look at week one games involving GCL South schools:
La Salle 53, Elder 52 (2 OT) – Usually played the final week of the normal 10-week regular season, the game was moved after the regular season was shortened to six weeks, marking the first time in the historic GCL history that league football teams met in an opener.  And it certainly did not disappoint those fans in attendance and plenty of others watching or listening to broadcasts offered by both schools.
The game, also featured as part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown presented by Mercy Health Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine and Meijer, saw Elder jump to an early 14-0 advantage. Behind a pair of scoring runs by junior Drew Ramsey  La Salle, however, rallied to tie it a 14-14 in the second quarter when senior quarterback Zach Branam scored on a 20-yard scamper.  Elder jumped ahead again, 21-14, before Branam connected with senior Cole Schneider on a 8-yard TD pass with 38 seconds left in the half.
La Salle took its first lead of the game on a 25-yard TD run by Branam early in the third quarter, but the Panthers came right back on a 4-yard pass from junior quarterback Ben Hambelton to Ramsey to tie it at 28.  La Salle junior Gi’Bran Payne’s 19-yard scoring run 11 seconds into the fourth quarter gave La Salle the advantage, 35-28, and the teams then traded TDs and field goals – including a game-tying 22 yarder by Elder’s Andrew Mueller as time expired in regulation to make it 38-38.
Payne started OT with a 20-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage, and the extra point made it 45-38 La Salle.  Ramsey followed with a 3-yard run and Mueller’s extra point tied it at 45.  Elder then had the first possession of the second OT and Hambelton hit Scott Nieman with a 16-yard scoring strike.  Mueller converted again, and it was 52-45.  La Salle came right back on a 19-yard scoring pass from Branam to Payne, and Lancers’ coach Pat McLaughlin elected to go for the two-point conversion and win.
Branam ran it just across the goal line to give La Salle a thrilling 53-52 win as the Lancers begin title defense of the GCL South championship with a road victory.
Branam finished by connecting on 10-of-18 passes for 177 yards and three TDs, while also rushing 25 times for 166 yards and a pair of scores.  He also kicked a 28-yard field goal and was named the Mercy Health Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine Most Valuable Player by the Showdown.  Payne finished with 12 carries for 113 yards and two scores, while also hauling in four passes for 98 yards and a pair of TDs.
Hambelton was outstanding in his first varsity start, completing 18-of-25 passes for 245 yards, three TDs and no interceptions.   The versatile Ramsey rushed 19 times for 82 yards and three TDs, while also catching eight passes for 70 yards and a score.
La Salle returns to its North Bend Road campus this Friday to host St. Xavier.  The Lancers have now won four league games in a row.  Elder steps out of GCL South play to host Floyd Central from Floyds Knobs, Ind.  Bot h games kick off at 7 p.m.
Moeller 34, Bishop Harley 17 – The Crusaders fell behind 10-0 minutes into the second quarter, before coming alive to score 20 unanswered points and grab a 20-10 lead at halftime and give Elder his first win at Moeller in his first varsity game.  Hartley, a perennial Division III Ohio power, narrowed the deficit to 20-17 with the game’s lone score in the third quarter, but a pair of TD runs from Moeller senior quarterback TJ Rotello in the final quarter iced the victory.
Rotello finished with 14 carries for 120 yards and three scores, while also passing for 195 yards and a TD – a 65-yard scoring strike to senior running back Daniel Dunlop – who finished with nine carries for 89 yards and caught two passes for 85 yards and the TD.   Junior Brandon White caught three passes for a team-high 94 yards. Moeller was guilty of five turnovers in the game, but the Crusaders’ defense had two takeaways and held Harley to just 2-of-11 conversions on third down and stopped all three fourth-down attempts.
Up next for Moeller is a road game in St. Leon, Ind. against perennial Hoosier state power East Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday.  The interstate matchup is part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.

East Central and Moeller have only played on the varsity level twice previously, with Moeller winning a pair of games in 2002 and 2003.  East Central is 1-1 in its first two games, including a victory in its opener nine days ago against rival Lawrenceburg, 34-7, and a loss last Friday in Indianapolis against Bishop Chatard, 10-0.  East Central finished 11-1 last season competing at the Class 4A level.
Brownsburg, Ind. 30, St. Xavier 24 (OT) – The game certainly did not disappoint a national TV audience as part of the Geico ESPN High School Football Kickoff, the fifth game of seven being televised on the ESPN family of networks from Friday through Sunday.  The Bombers were in control for the majority of the game before a late turnover allowed Brownsburg to score and send the game to OT, and then another turnover in the extra period gave the ball to Brownsburg and set up the eventual game-winning score.
The Bombers led 10-0 after one quarter, 17-3 at halftime and then again led by two TDs early in the fourth quarter, 24-10, after junior defensive back Alex Kemper returned a fumble 20 yards for a defensive TD.  Brownsburg, however, rallied behind a pair of TD catches by senior Luke Lacey, the final one covering four yards with 32 seconds remaining to tie the score, 24-24.  
After a St. Xavier turnover on its first OT possession, Brandon Burks of Brownsburg scored from 1-yard out to give the Bulldogs a six-point  victory and split in the two-game series.  St. Xavier won last year at home, scoring 22 unanswered points in the second half to erase a 1-point halftime deficit, 17-16, for a 38-17 win.  This season, Brownsburg is expected to be on the top Class 6A teams in Indiana after winning its first two games.
Junior Brogan McCaughey was strong in his first varsity start – connecting on 28-of-36 passes for 252 yards, two TDs and two interceptions.  His favorite target is Penn State University recruit Liam Clifford, who caught a team-high nine receptions for 125 yards and a score.  Senior Jalen Patterson hauled in seven passes for 54 yards.  Defensively, senior linebacker Matthew Devine had 13 total tackles, while junior Eli Kirk adds 12 for the Bombers.
Both teams committed four turnovers each, including some key miscues during the latter stages of the games.  St. Xavier struggled to establish the running game, carrying 29 times for just 10 yards.  Junior Charles Kellom was the Bombers’ leading rusher with 26 yards on 18 carries.