Adam Turer, Enquirer contributor
Defense wins championships, and the St. Xavier Bombers proved on Friday night why they are built to repeat as Division I champions.
They frustrated the Moeller Crusaders offense all night, forcing nine three-and-outs. Moeller took an early 7-0 lead, but it was all Bombers after that. St. Xavier scored 30 straight points en route to a 30-7 victory.
"All through this year, we’ve fought through adversity. We came in knowing it was going to be a challenge. To shut them out to seven points is a great accomplishment," said senior linebacker Blake Bacevich. "We’re going to keep building from here. We hold each other very accountable. We play very sound defense, we play assignment defense, and we just build a wall.”
Forget the polls, the computer rankings, and the hype of Monday through Thursday.
In between the white lines on Friday night, the Bombers solidified their position as the Division I team to beat in Cincinnati and, arguably, the state.
The first half was a chess match between two experienced and talented defenses pitted against two of the most efficient offenses and quarterbacks in the state.
It was the defenses set the tone early. Chase Wolf threw his first interception of the season. The Crusaders capitalized on Luke Szabado’s pick and took the early lead on Jack McCracken’s 28-yard touchdown reception from Miles McBride.
The Bombers responded, instantly. Jared Kreimer returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, and momentum swung back to the visitors.
From there, Wolf continued to move the chains with his arms and his legs. He found Matthew Fox for an eight-yard score, then ran one in from a yard out.
Moeller’s offense could not muster much of anything. The Bombers forced five three-and-outs in the first half. Moeller’s most promising drive of the half ended in a fumble recovered by the Bombers.
"My defensive staff did a really good job this week," said Bombers coach Steve Specht. "The kids executed the game plan and played really well. They play hard. We’ve got some talented kids."
On Moeller's final possession of the half, which resulted in another three-and-out, McBride went down with a left lower leg injury. He had to be carried off the field and did not return in the second half.
The Bombers defense continued its dominance in the second half. After a scoreless third quarter, Fox added a touchdown run in the fourth. Moeller’s offense was suffocated. The most promising drive of the game resulted in a fumble.
“We’re just a really close group," said defensive end Jonathan Gretz. "That helps us come together and get stuff done.”
Both fan bases showed out for a conference rivalry that was in the national spotlight this week. The student sections exchanged chants nonstop. A sellout crowd was on hand for the first regular season meeting between the programs at Roettger Stadium since 2002.
The Bombers extended their winning streak to 11 games, dating back to the 2016 state championship season.
"These kids play hard, they play very fast," said Specht. "I thought this Moeller offense had as many weapons as we’ve seen all year long. We took a big step and we’ve got to get better for next week now to play Elder.”