St. Xavier RB Darius Ashley and the Bombers defense were the difference against Mentor in the Division I state title game Saturday as St. Xavier blanked the Cardinals 27-0 with Ashley setting a new Division I state title game rushing record Saturday at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.
Matt Natali was on hand and has the details from the game.
CANTON, Ohio – Following Mentor’s double-overtime loss in the Division I state championship last year, the team motto for this season was ‘New Team, Same Dream.’
But St. Xavier RB Darius Ashley and the Bombers defense were Mentor’s nightmare in the state title game Saturday as St. Xavier blanked the Cardinals 27-0 with Ashley setting a new D-I state title game rushing record in front of 12,442 fans at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.
Ashley tallied 271 yards on 36 carries and scored on runs of 27 and 1-yards in the snow and freezing rain breaking former Colerain QB Dominick Goodman’s record of 259 yards set in the 2004 title game.
“Any time a running back ends up with that many yards it is a result of great blocking,” Ashley said. “The offensive line did exactly what they have been doing all year opening up huge holes and all I had to do was find them.”
For St. Xavier (15-0), it is the second D-I state title in three seasons and second in school history. Ashley, a Louisville recruit, registered 153 yards and a TD as a sophomore in the 2005 championship game against Massillon.
“He is a talent,” said St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht. “He does things you can’t teach.”
The Bombers defense held Mentor (11-3) in check on offense shutting the Cardinals out for the first time since the 2005 season-opener.
It was only the second shutout in D-I title game history since Canton McKinley defeated Cincinnati Moeller 13-0 in 1981.
“We thought we were going to have to mix and match coverages and keep them off balance with our coverage schemes and we figured if we could get pressure from a four man rush from different angles we could be very effective,” Specht said.
Mr. Football award winning QB Bart Tanski, who set a D-I state title game record for completions last year, was 19-of-38 passing for 179 yards and an INT.
Mentor struggled to get its spread offense into a rhythm with the inclement weather producing only 197 yards of offense to St. Xavier’s 411, respectively.
“They were getting good pressure on us the whole game and they were only bringing four people so they could drop seven players into coverage and it made it virtually impossible for our receivers to get open,” Tanski said.
The Cardinals had only 18 yards rushing.
“I’ve got to believe (the weather) hurt Mentor because they didn’t have much of a running game,” said Specht. “When you run the spread, it is tough to get a running game going and when it sleets like that it makes it tough on a non-running team.”
Said Mentor head coach Steve Trivisonno: “(The weather) is always the worry when you run that kind of offense in northeast Ohio. We could have used about two hours of drier weather but you have to give (St. Xavier) credit. They played well and you have to be able to handle those situations.”
D-I offensive co-player of the year Danny Milligan caught a 4-yard TD lateral from sophomore QB Luke Massa midway through the first quarter for the Bombers first score and kicked 23 and 24-yard field goals.
“Whenever we needed a big play this season, Danny always stepped up,” said St. Xavier LB and Stanford recruit Fred Craig. “We are all just so proud of him. He has always been one of those guys who has great heart and determination and he just goes out there and makes plays.”
Craig was named D-I defensive player of the year and had four tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break up in the game.
St. Xavier topped the D-I ONN-Ohio High Power Poll wire-to-wire and is currently ranked No. 5 in the country by USA Today.
Several national polls had the Bombers ranked No. 1 in the country coming into the season.
“These guys really kept focused and the true humility they showed was able to help carry us to this point,” said Specht. “We’re going to look back on this season for years and years to come and this was a special group.”
Said Trivisonno: “What a great football team they are – in all phases of the game. The can run they ball, they can pass the ball and they should be proud of themselves.”