Cincinnati St. Xavier avenged last year's loss to Colerain in the Division I, Region 4 championship Friday night with a convincing 29-14 win over the Cardinals to advance to the state semifinals.
Matt Natali was on hand and has the details.
CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati St. Xavier football team was reminded of last season’s 24-7 loss to Colerain in the Division 1, Region 4 finals every day this year with a photo of the scoreboard hanging in the Bombers locker room displaying the final score of the game that ended the 2006 campaign.
The daily reminder was motivation enough for St. Xavier as the Bombers avenged last year’s loss Friday night with a convincing 29-14 win over Colerain in front of 20,108 fans at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.
“I wanted (our players) to remember how it felt to lose,” St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht said in reference to the locker room photo. “We came out tonight and we played great football.”
Friday’s win marks St. Xavier’s second Region 1 championship in three years.
“I think this is the best region in the state and we’ll do our best to represent this region and bring the (state championship) trophy back home,” Specht said. “I am proud of our kids and our coaching staff and we are going back to the final four.”
It was the third straight year St. Xavier and Colerain have tangled in the regional championship.
“We’ve got to take our hats off to Colerain because that is a great football team,” said Specht.
The Bombers (13-0) were paced by senior RB Darius Ashley with 115 yards rushing on 31 carries and two TDs.
“There is no better feeling than getting back what we lost last year. Our team was really focused this week,” Ashley said. “It is great to get a win over Colerain but ultimately it is just another step towards where we want our season to go and that is towards a state championship.”
It took Ashley a half to settle in and hit stride for the Bombers as Colerain (12-1) defended the run well in the first half. Ashley tallied 52 yards before the break.
“Colerain has a good defense but (St. Xavier QB) Luke Massa played really well,” Ashley said. “He stepped up and completed some huge passes and when you throw the ball like that it really helps setting things up with the run.”
Sophomore Massa took over under center in Week 8 after senior John Hurley went down with a season-ending knee injury. Massa finished 5-of-10 passing for 165 yards and two TDs.
He connected with WR John Scheidler midway through the first quarter for a 77-yard TD to get the Bombers on the board first and hit WR Danny Milligan in the back of the end zone late in the second quarter for his second TD toss.
“I knew I had to step up and I knew they were going to key in on (Ashley) and we just had to trust in the system that we have and in the coaches,” Massa said. “I thought I’d be the clipboard boy and just do whatever helps the team but now that (Hurley) is down I am going to do everything I can to help on the field.”
St. Xavier held a 20-0 advantage in the final minutes of the first half before Milligan fumbled a punt return and Colerain’s Nick Baker pounced on the ball at the Bombers 48. Three plays later, stand-in Colerain QB Quentin Sims aired it out to Ravelle Sadler for a 38-yard TD strike cutting the Bombers lead to 20-7 heading into the locker room.
The Cardinals continued the scoring output on the opening possession of the second half with a nine play, 73-yard TD drive capped off by Sims hooking up with Dominique Sherrer for a 22-yard scoring strike pulling Colerain closer, 20-14.
But St. Xavier answered on the ensuing drive with Ashley’s second TD of the night putting a bow on an 80-yard drive that chewed 5:59 off the clock and gave the Bombers a 26-14 lead after the failed 2-point conversion attempt.
The St. Xavier defense forced two turnovers late in the game with a Tim Bayer INT and a Greg Scruggs fumble recovery to end Colerain’s hopes of getting in the end zone again.
Milligan added a 38-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to ice the 29-14 win.
“It was a game of big plays and I have to give (St. Xavier) all the credit in the world,” Colerain head coach Tom Bolden said. “We just had a few communication breakdowns in the second half and they made more big plays than we did tonight.”
Sims, who has been taking the snaps for Colerain since Doug Reynolds was sidelined with an injury following Week 10, led Colerain’s option attack with 59 yards rushing on 19 carries. He was 3-of-12 passing for 61 yards, two TDs and an INT.
The winner of the Dublin Coffman (12-0) and Hilliard Darby (11-1) Region 3 final set for Saturday will take on St. Xavier Saturday, Nov. 24 at Dayton's Welcome Stadium at 7:00 p.m.
“Next week we have the state semifinals and I am sure whoever we pay it is going to be a great team,” said Ashley.
St. Xavier won the state title in 2005 with Ashley toting the ball for the Bombers as a sophomore and is aiming for another title before heading to Louisville to play his college ball.
“I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. I’ve won a state championship and I’ve had my season ended early and I know which one I prefer,” he said. “Beating a team like Colerain 29-14 is a huge confidence builder and I think it just goes to show our team can play with anyone in the state.”
The Cincinnati Bearcats men’s basketball team cruised past Coastal Carolina 74-59 at UC’s Fifth Third Arena Friday night in front of 7,700 fans – nearly 12,500 fans less than the draw for the St. Xavier-Colerain game.
Remembering an Icon
A moment of silence was observed prior to Friday’s regional championship game for legendary Cincinnati Reds player and broadcaster Joe Nuxhall, who passed away Thursday from complications resulting from pneumonia at the age of 79.