Three GCL South Teams Set To Kick Off FB Playoffs


Posted on 10/9/2020 at 5:08 p.m.

St. Xavier, Elder Host Opening Games; Moeller Takes To The Road

Three of the four Greater Catholic League South Division teams are set to kick off their postseason journeys when the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament begins tonight around the state.  La Salle, the fourth GCL South entrant, earned a first-round bye and will begin its state championship title defense next Friday.

Here is a look at the three games tonight:

St. Xavier – The Bombers, who won the coveted league championship outright, enter the Division I, Region 3 playoffs at the No. 3 seed behind only Lakota West and Princeton.  St. Xavier (4-2), winners of four of the last five games, hosts Walnut Hills (1-2) in the opening round at 7 tonight at Ballaban Field at St. Xavier Stadium.

Coach Steve Specht’s team is just six days removed from a record-setting offensive performance in a 62-37 victory against Cleveland St. Ignatius at home.  In that game, the Bombers trailed 17-7 at the end of the first quarter before scoring 55 points in the final three quarters to pull away.  St. Xavier finished with 28 first downs, 556 yards passing and 723 yards of total offense.  Senior receiver Liam Clifford, a Penn State University recruit, caught 12 passes for a school-record 300 yards and two touchdowns.

Elder – The Panthers, voted the region’s No. 7 seed, are looking to get back on track after suffering a 36-14 defeat to power Indianapolis Cathedral last week.  Elder (3-3) returns to The Pit in Price Hill to host Fairfield (1-5) in a first-round game at 7 tonight.  These two schools also met in the opening game of the 2015 state playoffs, a game Elder won, 50-42, behind its potent offense.

Coach Doug Ramsey’s team again has an explosive passing game, led by junior quarterback Ben Hambelton – who is second in the the GCL South in passing yards with 1,383 after completing 89-of-128 passes and tossing 16 touchdowns with only two interceptions, none in the first five games. Two of his primary weapons are senior receiver Scott Nieman and versatile junior Drew Ramsey.

Moeller – Don’t be deceived by the Crusaders’ record, which includes five straight losses entering the postseason and earning first-year coach Mark Elder’s team a No. 11 seed in the 16-team region.  Moeller (1-5) is coming off a strong performance in a last-second 27-25 loss at La Salle last week, a game in which the Crusaders rallied back to take a one-point lead in the final two minutes.  Moeller travels to Hamilton to face the Big Blue (3-3) at 7 tonight.  The two teams last met in the 2017 season opener, a 42-7 Crusaders’ win on this same field as part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.

Moeller’s schedule has been brutal, featuring losses to nationally ranked Louisville Trinity, one-loss East Central, Ind., and the three GCL South teams.  The Crusaders’ offense has gained momentum since junior Noah Geslbracht was inserted as the starting QB before the last two games, allowing senior TJ Rotello to return to the backfield – where he has been a dual threat both rushing and receiving.  Rotello rushed for 175  yards against La Salle.

La Salle, voted the No. 2 seed behind unbeaten Winton Woods in Division II, Region 8 earns one of the seven first-round byes awarded to the top seeds this week.  The Lancers await the winner of tonight’s matchup between Eastern Cincinnati Conference teams Lebanon and Little Miami.  La Salle and Winton Woods have been fixtures atop the region for the last six years, with La Salle winning four of the last six state titles – including a dominant run through the postseason a year ago.

The Lancers have won three of their last four games, with the lone setback during that stretch coming on the road at Indy Cathedral – Indiana’s top-ranked team in all classes by MaxPreps that is 3-0 against the GCL South this season, with Moeller being the only league team to not face the Fighting Irish.  La Salle is led by senior quarterback Zach Branam, who leads his team in both rushing yards, with 547, and has thrown for 967 yards and 5 TDs.