St. Xavier-DeMatha game highlights Herbstreit Challenge; game pits two of country’s top three teams

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St. Xavier RB Darius Ashley

Amid all the powers that will compete against each other in the third annual Herbstreit Challenge this weekend, one game sticks out – Cincinnati St. Xavier against Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic. This game, scheduled for noon Sunday at UC’s Nippert Stadium, pits the country’s No. 1 (St. X) and No. 3 (DeMatha) teams according to Prepnation.com. The game will be televised on ESPN. Buckle up.



Amid all the national and Ohio powers that will compete against each other in the third annual Herbstreit Challenge this weekend, one game in particular sticks out – Cincinnati St. Xavier against Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic.

This game, scheduled for noon Sunday at UC’s Nippert Stadium, pits the country’s No. 1 (St. X) and No. 3 (DeMatha) teams according to Prepnation.com. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Buckle up.

St. X enters the contest with a 38-3 record in coach Steve Specht’s fourth season. The Bombers were D-I state champions in 2005 and lost in the regional final last season.

Last weekend the Bombers debuted with a convincing 35-7 throttling of Winton Woods in the 10th annual Skyline Chili Showdown at Nippert.

Despite the loss of standout running back Darius Ashley to an ankle injury on the game’s first series, the Bombers displayed their depth and stable of running backs. Fellow seniors Luca Romeo and Patrick Berning filled in to the tune of 108 and 53 yards, respectively. Both scored two touchdowns.

Ashley is expected back this week.

“We thought we had five solid backs going into the season,” Specht said. “We have a good core of running backs but it starts up front. Those guys don’t do a thing if our OL doesn’t get the job done.”

Senior quarterback John Hurley got the job done against Winton Woods, throwing for 131 yards and two TDs in his first varsity start. Hurley completed six of his final nine attempts after starting 1-for-6.

Senior receiver Stephon Ball was the recipient of one of Hurley’s TD throws, while Romeo snared the other.

The Bombers tallied over 400 yards of offense.

“We’ve got some weapons,” Specht said. “We’ve worked hard in the preseason to spread it around and open things up and I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job with that.”

Winton Woods would agree.

The Warriors would also endorse St. Xavier’s defense.

Holding Winton Woods to just 122 yards of total offense in the first three quarters, the Bombers limited the Warriors to 50 yards and one first down on six first half possessions.

Stopping DeMatha will be tougher.

The Stags are coached by longtime mentor Bill McGregor (25 years) and are riding a school-record 22-game win streak. DeMatha finished last season 12-0 and won its fourth straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title. The Stags, who have won the WCAC 12 of the last 16 years, have won 46 of their last 48 games.

DeMatha returns 15 starters (eight on offense) and has an extremely strong senior class, which could produce up to 10 Division I recruits.

The headliner is Kenny Tate.

A 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver/safety, Tate has scholarship offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Florida, Penn State and Virginia Tech to name a few.

In addition, senior running back Ashby Christian (6-2, 210) returns after rushing for over 1,000 yards last year. Senior receiver Rodney McLeod (5-10, 180) has committed to Virginia.

The only concern for Dematha could be junior quarterback Tom Chroniger who will make his first varsity start in an electric atmosphere.

The game is also the Stags season opener.

As for St. Xavier, Specht said there was plenty to work on following his team’s opener last week.

“Everything,” Specht said. “I can go down the list. I was taking notes the whole game and we have a long way to go. I think we can be a pretty good football team this year but we’ve got to get better.”

 

The next measuring stick – albeit a big one – is Sunday.

 

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