By Scott Springer, firstname.lastname@example.org
As rain poured on the statue of Gerry Faust outside of the Moeller High School athletic complex on the Monday before their final game, there was still optimism among the Crusaders as they lined up for practice. After a 3-1 start, Moeller has won just one of their last five games. With Winton Woods on the menu Friday, that could turn into a 1-5 finish and a second straight losing season.
However, the win over then-No. 1 Cleveland St. Ignatius was a 41-20 statement on a neutral site at Otterbein. Then there's the fact that most schools in other conferences wouldn't wish Moeller's schedule on their worst enemy.
A win against Winton Woods would put Moeller at 5-5 and in the final eight for the playoffs. That's the same record St. Xavier came in with last year before winning five more games and the Division I title.
"We need to do some damage and get a win," Moeller coach John Rodenberg said. "We want to go into the playoffs on a good note. We want to get on a good roll so we feel good when we get in there."
The quirky math is, Moeller might still slip in the back door at 4-6 based on their murderer's row menu of games. The site of Drew Pasteur's Ohio Fantastic 50 gives the Crusaders a 47 percent chance of making the Division I playoffs with a losing record. Even at 4-5 prior to Winton Woods, Moeller was seventh by the OHSAA's computer ratings having played arguably the best of the best, including current No. 1 Lakewood St. Edward who has beaten Moeller and Elder decisively.
"I look at X (St. Xavier) and Ignatius and Eds (St. Edward) all three of them are really good," Rodenberg said. "I think a team that's playing great football right now is Elder. I think we played the best teams in the state. Winton Woods is ranked 1-3 in the state in Division II, we've already played La Salle and Trinity the number one team in the state of Kentucky, we've seen it all."
In the "woulda, shoulda, coulda" department, Moeller lost their starting quarterback in game five when they hosted St. Xavier and were 3-1. The Bombers dominated the game but losing Miles McBride who had been incredibly efficient running and passing the ball was at the very least an emotional obstacle.
They have since had to rely on junior backups Mitch McKenzie and Austin Bradfish, who previously was a wide receiver. McBride, now off of crutches from a foot injury, is tooling around the Montgomery Road campus with a boot and a scooter device. He's also serving as an unofficial assistant to the healthy quarterbacks.
"The guys are working hard and I think we can definitely pull it off," McBride said. "I went down but we have great backups. Mitch is playing well and Bradfish is starting to play well. It's just about confidence. I think we're going to gain it the more time we're with one another. I'm just trying to give them pointers, things I see on the sideline."
The one they call "Deuce" (wears No. 2) was being recruited in both football and basketball. Locally, the University of Cincinnati had started to show interest in McBride at quarterback. Apparently, his suitors are still interested.
"Everybody's reached out to me," McBride said. "They said just to get through it and everyone's trying to keep me positive. Everything's still the same."
McBride is officially on rest and starts physical therapy soon. Moeller basketball coach Carl Kremer would like to have him on the floor late in basketball season in March, but the Crusaders should be pretty talented minus McBride and the high-flying guard also likes Moeller's roundball chances.
"I've been watching them work out and they look sharp," McBride said. "Jaxson (Hayes, Texas commit) is going to have a great season. Jeremiah (Davenport) and Alec (Pfriem, Roger Bacon transfer) are going to step up and have a great season with us, Sleepy (Isaiah Payton), Carlos (Garcia) we're going to be fine. Coach Kremer knows what he's doing."
Moeller was recently voted Enquirer Team of the Week following their most recent football win over Cleveland St. Ignatius.