Nation’s No. 1 team debuts with convincing win in Skyline Showdown


St. Xavier 35, Winton Woods 7

Cincinnati St. Xavier opened the 2007 season Saturday with a convincing 35-7 win over of Winton Woods in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown at UC's Nippert Stadium. The Bombers, who entered the game ranked No. 1 in the country by, flexed their depth and defense in improving to 9-0 in Showdown games. And they did it without standout running back Darius Ashley.

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati St. Xavier opened the 2007 high school football season Saturday with a convincing 35-7 throttling of Winton Woods in the 10th annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.

The Bombers, who entered the game ranked No. 1 in the country by and No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, by Sports Illustrated and USA Today, flexed their depth and defense in improving to 9-0 in Showdown games.

And St. Xavier did it all without star running back Darius Ashley who left the game with an ankle injury after being bent back awkwardly on his second carry. Ashley, who rushed for 3,084 yards and 46 touchdowns the past two years, played six plays. The early diagnosis is a sprain.

“I could walk on it which is good,” Ashley said. “For sure (I’ll be back next week). It’s feeling a lot better right now than it did in the first half. We’re just going to treat it and take it day by day.”

“If this would have been a GCL title game we would have brought him back in, but it just made no sense to – we need him for the long haul,” St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht said. “We’ll see how he does this week. Hopefully he can bounce back, but I’m not a fool. Some people in those stands might think I am but we’re going to see how it goes and if he’s not in any condition to play – I don’t care who we’re playing – I am not going risk a young man.”

With Ashley out of the game, the Bombers turned to senior Patrick Berning who capped the game’s first series with an 8-yard touchdown. Berning ended with 53 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries before exiting the game with cramps in the third quarter. Enter senior Luca Romeo who tallied 108 yards on nine carries and scored the Bombers final touchdown on a 65-yard sprint up the gut. Romeo also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass.

St. Xavier had 400 total yards.

“Luca is doing everything we expected of him,” Specht said. “I thought he was going to be a pretty special player for us. He’s been overshadowed by Darius but he’s a talent in his own right.

“And I thought Patrick did a tremendous job stepping in for Darius. I’ve been telling people all year, any other year Luca Romeo and Patrick Berning are our starting tailback. We’re just talented in the backfield and I think it showed today.”

Senior quarterback John Hurley complimented the Bombers ground game with a solid performance in his first varsity start. After opening the game 1-for-6, Hurley finished 7-for-15 with 131 yards and two touchdowns, including a 59-yard strike to senior Stephon Ball on the Bombers first play of the second half. He was intercepted once.

“I’m going to guess that tonight we threw the ball more than I’ve ever thrown a football in my career as a head coach,” Specht said. “We’ve got some weapons.”

Defensively the Bombers were even better.

Holding Winton Woods to 122 total yards through three quarters, St. Xavier limited the Warriors to 50 yards and one first down on six first half possessions. A crucial fourth down stop inside Winton Woods territory with 40 seconds to go in the second quarter led to St. Xavier’s second touchdown in the final 1:08 of the first half and a 21-0 lead at the break. In the third quarter the Bombers had scoring drives of one and two plays.

“They’re good,” Winton Woods coach Troy Everhart said. “We better get better.”

“We have a long way to go,” Specht echoed. “I think we can be a pretty good football team this year but we’ve got to get better.”

Same goes for Ashley’s ankle.

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