Saturday afternoon’s 45-0 white-washing of Lakewood St. Edward at DeSales may have come at a high price for the state’s top-ranked Division I team.
On St. Xavier's first possession of the game Hurley injured his left knee on a third down run from the St. Ed’s 10-yard line. He appeared to twist the knee fighting for extra yards near the goal line.
Hurley is expected to undergo an MRI Monday and St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht had no additional information following the game, but team doctors told Hurley’s family that their initial diagnosis was a torn ACL.
“Injuries are part of the game,” Specht said. “That’s why football is the ultimate team game.”
Even without Hurley, St. Xavier looked every bit of its No. 1 national ranking in a non league game played in Columbus to limit the two schools’ travel.
The loss dropped St. Ed’s to 4-3 and snapped a four-game win streak.
Led by a strong game from Ashley, the Bombers scored six first half touchdowns to end the competitive aspect of the game early and improve to 8-0.
Ashley rushed 11 times for 114 yards and three scores, and like most St. Xavier starters sat for the entirety of the second half. Ashley scored on runs of 2, 18 and 52 yards, and safety Fred Craig returned an interception 47 yards to help the Bombers post a 42-0 halftime advantage.
St. Xavier out-gained St. Ed’s 411-139 in total offense.
“We knew we had a new quarterback in there,” Ashley said. “So I knew I would have to be more vocal in the huddle.”
But if an observer had arrived to the game late and had never seen St. Xavier play, it would have been difficult to observe that the offense was being led by a newbie.
The injury to Hurley pressed Luke Massa into service and the Bombers did not skip a beat with the 6-foot-4, 175-pound sophomore under center. Massa completed all five of his pass attempts, finishing with 122 yards and one touchdown.
Massa showed mobility, touch and the ability to throw the deep ball effectively. At the end of the half he found Jon Scheidler in the back corner of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown with just four seconds on the clock.
Having switched back and forth between second and third string, Massa was almost sent to Indiana for St. Xavier’s JV game Saturday. The fact that he wasn’t may go down in program lore should the Bomber capture their second state title in December.
“I just took a deep breath,” said Massa, who admitted being nervous. “The coaches always talk about us being a family. I knew I had to step up.”
Both Specht and Ashley said that they had no doubt the team could still accomplish all of its goals this season if it is without Hurley.
“Even if John’s out,” Ashley said, “this is a talented team and we have weapons everywhere. That would not deter us at all.”