By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
Defending state champions La Salle and St. Xavier each posted impressive victories in the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament last night but, if the two schools are going to advance to their respective state semifinals, the Greater Catholic League South Division members are going to have to get past their toughest postseason opponents to date. For La Salle, it must avenge one of only two losses this season (St. Xavier being the other) when it meets Winton Woods in the Division II, Region 8 title game next Friday. For St. Xavier, it once again must find a way to get by annual state playoff opponent and talent-laden Colerain in the Division I, Region 4 title game.
Both La Salle and St. Xavier, the last two GCL South champions, respectively, extended their seasons with victories in the regional semifinals on a chilly Friday evening at neutral sites. La Salle, the top seed in its region, built at 34-0 halftime lead and rolled to a 41-6 win over Sidney (10-2) at Miamisburg High School just outside Dayton. St. Xavier, also the top seed in its region, answered an early Sycamore touchdown with 37 unanswered points in a 37-7 victory over the Aviators at Mason High School. St. Xavier rallied from a 14-point deficit to defeat Sycamore (9-3), 35-28, in overtime in last year’s regional final.
La Salle (10-2) advances to meet No. 2 seed Winton Woods (11-1) in the Region 8 final at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at a site to be announced this weekend by the OHSAA. Winton Woods built a 52-15 halftime lead against No. 3 Anderson and won by that same score in Friday’s other regional semifinal. The Warriors are 2-1 against the GCL South this season, having defeated La Salle at Lancer Stadium, 18-15, on September 22, and then posting a 35-14 win two weeks ago against Moeller. Elder is the lone team to beat Winton Woods this season, emerging with a 35-34 OT win at Winton Woods in week eight after a Warriors’ missed extra point.
St. Xavier (11-1) moves on to its annual game against No. 2 Colerain (10-2) in the Region 4 final at 7:30 p.m. Friday at a neutral site. Colerain advanced with a 49-21 win over No. 3 Mason Friday, its second victory against the Greater Miami Conference rival Comets this season. Colerain and St. Xavier have met twice in each of the last three seasons, once during the regular season and again in the playoffs. After St. Xavier’s 20-17 OT win at Colerain back in week two in early September, a game the Bombers rallied back from a 14-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to win, St. Xavier coach Steve Specht told Colerain’s Tom Bolden that he would see the Cardinals again. He was right.
Four of the last five meetings have gone to OT, including the last thee – one being St. Xavier’s come-from-behind 29-23 win in the regional semifinals last season that helped catapult the Bombers to becoming the first team in OHSAA history to lose five regular-season games and go on to win a state championship. Three of the Bombers’ postseason wins a year away needed OT or double OT, the last being a 27-20 win over Cleveland St. Ignatius in two overtimes in the state final to win the school’s third state football crown – also earning titles in 2005 and 2007. This season, Colerain has not lost since its setback to St. Xavier – reeling off 10 consecutive victories.
Here is a quick glance at La Salle and St. Xavier’s wins Friday:
Lancers Streak At 17 – La Salle, looking for a four-peat in Division II this season, has now won 17 straight postseason games after its convincing victory against Sidney. Senior quarterback Griffin Merritt led the Lancers’ offense, connecting on 13-of-20 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, while the Lancers’ defense turned in another winning performance – allowing just seven first downs, 153 total yards and forcing two turnovers. Receivers Jake Seibert and Jake Roberts each caught a pair of scoring passes, while sophomore Cameron Porter rushed 12 times for 88 yards and a TD. Defensively, Luke Thiemann had five tackles and an interception.
Bombers On The Run – A week after picking up just 27 yards rushing in a win against Fairfield, with senior quarterback Chase Wolf throwing for a career-best 374 yards and four TDs, St. Xavier was determined to get its ground game untacked against Sycamore. And it did, rushing 30 times for 214 yards (a 7.1-yard average), led by 13 attempts for 125 yards and two TDs by junior Chris Payne (who had 169 yards and two TDs in the first 11 games). Senior Mathew Fox and sophomore Kellen Newman also scored on the ground for St. Xavier, which got another outstanding performance from its defense – limiting Sycamore to nine first downs and 2-of-11 on third-down conversations.