"King of the Road" St. Xavier Emphatically Wins GCL South Football Title; Bittner Leads Elder To Win At The Pit

Photo courtesy Alex Vehr, Cincinnati Enquirer

Photo courtesy Alex Vehr, Cincinnati Enquirer

By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner

St. Xavier scored touchdowns on its first five possessions, including four TD passes from senior quarterback Chase Wolf, to roll to a 35-point halftime lead and go on to record its third league victory in as many weeks to claim its first outright Greater Catholic League South Division championship since 2012 with a 42-7 victory over La Salle Friday night at St. Xavier Stadium.  The league title was the fourth in the last six years for St. Xavier, which also shared GCL crowns in 2014 and 2015.  La Salle was the outright GCL South champion last season.

In Friday’s other GCL South game, Elder junior quarterback Michael Bittner accounted for 300 yards of total offense and five touchdowns as the Panthers built a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and went on to post a 42-14 win over Moeller at The Pit in Price Hill.  The win snaps a three-game losing streak for Elder (4-3, 1-1 GCL South), which was coming off losses to the state’s top-three ranked Division I  teams in No. 3 Lakewood St. Edward, No. 1 Cleveland St. Ignatius and No. 2 St. Xavier.  The loss was the third in a row for Moeller (3-4, 0-3), which was playing the first of four consecutive road games.

The last four meetings between La Salle and St. Xavier had been decided by 10 points or less, but this meeting was never in doubt as St. Xavier (7-0, 3-0) took a 28-0 lead after one quarter, blocked a punt and scored early in the second on Wolf’s fourth scoring pass, his second to senior Andrew Wittrock, to make it 35-0.  The St. Xavier defense did the rest, limiting La Salle (5-2, 1-1) to 181 total yards, just 1-of-11 on third-down conversions and forcing the Lancers into two turnovers.  The Bombers’ defense has allowed seven or fewer points in five straight games, and the offense has not committed a turnover in two games.

It was another impressive performance for Wolf, the University of Wisconsin commit who leads the GCL South in passing yards, with 1,288, having completed  67 percent (118 of176) of his passes while throwing 16 TDs and just one interception.  Against a La Salle defense that entered the game having allowed just 49 points in its first six games, Wolf started 9-of-9 for 144 yards and three scores before throwing his first incompletion.  He finished 16-of-21 for 194 yards and the four TDs.  Backs Matthew Fox and Kellen Newman gained 49 and 42 yards, respectively, on the ground, with Newman scoring twice.

St. Xavier earns back the “King of the Road” trophy that goes to the winner of this game each year, with the two schools located just more than five miles from each other on North Bend Road.  La Salle won last year’s meeting, 17-14, and this was the first time the two schools met in the regular season with both having won state titles the previous year – St. Xavier in Division I and La Salle notching a three-peat in Division II.  St. Xavier has been ranked No. 1 in The Enquirer’s Division I weekly area coaches’ poll all season, and the Bombers are No. 2 behind St. Ignatius in the Associated Press DI state poll.

It was a big Friday night for GCL South winning quarterbacks, as Elder’s Bittner turned in a career performance against Moeller – completing 18-of-23 passes for 219 yards and three TDs, while rushing 19 times for 81 yards, including a long run of 38 yards, and two additional scores.  His favorite target was junior Kyle Trischler, who hauled in 12 passes for 163 yards and one TD, a 39-yarder in the first quarter that gave Elder a 14-0 lead.  Senior Jack Mazza carried 13 times for 115 yards and a TD for Elder.  The Panthers finished with 25 first downs, 468 total yards and held the ball for 32:31, more than twice as long as Moeller.