Late Field Goal Lifts La Salle Over Moeller In Finale


Posted on 10/3/2020 at 6:30 a.m.

Elder Falls To Top-Ranked Indy Cathedral; St. X To Host Ignatius Today

Sophomore Mason Luensman kicked a 29-yard field goal with just 12 seconds remaining, set up by a 41-yard connection from senior quarterback Zach Branam to senior Devonte Smith with 34 seconds remaining that moved the Lancers in position to emerge with a thrilling 27-25 victory against Moeller in the final game of the Greater Catholic League South Division season Friday night at La Salle’s Lancer Stadium.  Luensman's game-winning kick came after Moeller had rallied back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to take a one-point lead with just over a minute and a half remaining in the game.

The win gives La Salle (4-2, 2-1 GCL South) sole possession of second place in the GCL South behind champion St. Xavier.  La Salle, the defending Division II state champion, will enter the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament as the No. 2 seed in Region 8 behind undefeated Winton Woods.  La Salle earned a bye in next week’s first round, and will meet the winner of Little Miami-Loveland at home on Friday, October 9 in the second round at La Salle.

Smith, a University of Alabama recruit projected as a defensive back, came into the game with only one catch for seven yards this season.  But in the regular-season finale, he had two catches for 80 yards to help the Lancers win for the third time in four weeks.
Branam had a big night for La Salle, completing 11-of-18 passes for 193 yards and one TD, while rushing 18 times for 125 yards.

Moeller (1-5, 0-3) trailed 17-13 at halftime and then fell behind 24-13 with just 3:55 left in regulation.  But, after senior Tyrell Davis returned the kickoff to the La Salle 49 and then caught a 35-yard pass, Crusaders’ senior TJ Rotello scored on a 1-yard run with 3:12 left to pull Moeller closer.  After coming up with a defensive stop, junior quarterback Noah Geselbracht engineered a drive with three key pass completions – the last one covering 23 yards to junior tight end Josh Kattus to put the Crusaders ahead, 25-24, with 1:37 left.

La Salle came up with a key stop on the ensuing two-point conversion, setting the stage for the Lancers’ game-winning drive.  Geselbracht, in only his third varsity start, threw for 200 yards and a score, while Kattus hauled in a TD pass for the third straight game.  Rotello rushed for 158 yards on 28 carries.  Moeller goes on the road to face Hamilton (3-3) in the first round of the state playoffs at 7 p.m. next Friday.  The Crusaders last played Hamilton in the 2017 season opener, a 42-7 Moeller win in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.
In Friday’s other game involving a GCL South school, Elder (3-3) traveled to Indianapolis in search of the league’s first victory against Cathedral – the top-ranked team in the Hoosier state in all classes by MaxPreps.  But the Fighting Irish posted their third win in as many weeks against the GCL South, grabbing a 15-0 lead after the first quarter, increasing it to 29-6 advantage in the third quarter and ultimately recording a 36-14 win at Arlington Community School.  Cathedral defeated St. Xavier and La Salle, respectively, the last two weeks.

Elder junior quarterback Ben Hambelton had his toughest game of the season, connecting on 9-of-23 passes for 108 yards, one touchdown and his first two interceptions of the season. Hambelton entered the game having completed 80-of-105 passes for league highs of 1,275 yards and 15 TDs without tossing an interception.  Elder’s high-powered offense was held to just eight first downs, rushing 20 times for 36 net yards, and had the ball for just over 17 minutes – nearly half of the time of possession for Cathedral (7-0).   Elder junior Drew Ramsey scored both of his team’s TDs, one on an 11-yard reception and the other a 1-yard run.

The Panthers, who advanced to the DI state final last season, open the postseason by hosting Fairfield (1-5) at 7 p.m. next Friday at The Pit in Price Hill.  Fairfield closed the regular season with a 40-23 loss to Princeton last night.  Elder and Fairfield last met in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, a 50-42 Panthers’ victory at home.

St. Xavier (3-2) will play the league’s final regular-season game when it hosts perennial state power Cleveland St. Ignatius (0-2) at 5 p.m. today at Ballaban Field at St. Xavier Stadium.  The Bombers, voted the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Division I, Region 4 state playoffs, look to finish the regular season 4-0 against Ohio schools and take momentum into the postseason.  St. Xavier won last year’s meeting in the annual series, 13-10, in Northeast Ohio.

The Bombers’ only losses this season are to Cathedral and Brownsburg (6-1), another highly-ranked Indiana team, by a combined total of nine points.  After hosting St. Ignatius, St. Xavier will get ready for its state playoff opener against Walnut Hills (1-2) a in the opening round next Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m. on the school’s North Bend Road campus.  Walnut Hills closed its abbreviated regular season with a 33-26 loss to Middletown last night.