By Mark Schmetzer, Enquirer contributor
Going into their matchup at Colerain on Friday night, the last three games between the Cardinals and St. Xavier had been decided by a combined 15 points.
Friday’s latest chapter was just as close. St. Xavier senior quarterback Chase Wolf scored on a one-yard plunge in the first overtime to give the Bombers a 20-17 win.
Colerain junior Chris Mangold’s third field goal of the game, a 30-yard line drive in the first overtime, gave Colerain a 17-14 lead.
Colerain’s defense and a persistent rain kept the Bombers’ prolific offense bottled up for most of the game, but Wolf and St. Xavier got on track just in time.
Wolf led St. Xavier on two late fourth-quarter scoring drives to set up a 14-14 tie.
“We just stopped thinking,’” Wolf said. “We started playing football, instead. We just started playing football. No panic at all. Everybody had the look in their eyes, saying, ‘We’re not gonna lose.’ Everybody believed it too. We could tell.”
Wolf hit junior wide receiver Cameron Specht with a 10-yard pass for St. Xavier’s first touchdown and senior running back Matthew Fox scored on a four-yard run with 1:52 left to send the game into overtime for the fourth consecutive time in the series between the two teams.
“It's so funny,” St Xavier coach Steve Specht said about not going for two points after the second touchdown. “When they went up 14 and then we went and scored, our defense was playing pretty well. and I'm thinking, ‘Somebody said you want to go for two after we scored?’ and I started laughing, and I'm thinking, ‘This is fun. Let's play some more football. Let’s go into overtime,’ but we did think about going for two just because of the weather. In the end, I’m too old school.”
“I told the kids ‘You have to find a way to finish,’” Colerain coach Tom Bolden said. “Hats off to their quarterback, Chase Wolf. He made the plays when he needed to make the plays and we didn’t.”
Mangold kicked two field goals and junior Ivan Pace Jr. scored a touchdown two seconds into the fourth quarter for a 14-0 Colerain lead
Walter “Superbubz” Herbert was on hand rooting for the Cardinals. The 6-year-old, who’s dealing with a form of pediatric cancer known as Stage 4 neuroblastoma, was sitting in the front row during the Reds 7-2 win over the Mets on Thursday. He collected a Joey Votto high five, home run bat and game-used jersey.
Friday night, wearing a white T-shirt with “Colerain Football” in red and a picture of a Cardinal football helmet on the front, Walter scored a touchdown during pre-game warmups and led the Colerain co-captains on to the field for the coin flip before the Cardinals game against St. Xavier, where shook hands with the players from both teams and the officials.
“How cool was that, taking something we take for granted and sharing it with someone who’s so special?” Bolden said.
“Superbubz,’s” father, Wally, is a 2000 Colerain graduate.
St. Xavier has won the last two games in the series with the Cardinals and is 12-7 in the last 19 games between the two teams.
The Cardinals were facing their second Greater Catholic League South Division opponent and defending state champion in the first two weeks of the season after losing a gritty, 7-3, game at Division II La Salle last week. They are 0-2 for the first time since 2014.
“I don’t know if that’s ever been done, facing state champions in back-to-back games,” Bolden said. “I told the kids we’re so much improved from last week. We’re in playoff mode now. We have to win out.”
Top-ranked St. Xavier, the 2016 Division I state champion, was coming off a convincing 43-14 win over Hinsdale (Ill.) Central.
The incessant rain made ball security a rumor as each team fumbled three times and lost one. The Cardinals capitalized on their recovery as Mangold, who missed a 30-yard attempt wide left just a few plays earlier, converted a 33-yard attempt with 1:16 left in the first half for a 3-0 lead.
The score was set up when senior defensive lineman Tre Harris recovered a St. Xavier fumble at the Bombers’ 23-yard line.
Mangold added a 42-yard field goal with 8:32 left in the third quarter, and Pace followed with a one-yard touchdown run.
Colerain is scheduled to open its Greater Miami Conference schedule next Friday at Middletown. St. Xavier is scheduled to return home to face Walnut Hills.