In The Arena: St. Xavier-Colerain renew Ohio’s “biggest” rivalry

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Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cincinnati Colerain meet Friday in the season opener at Nippert Stadium.

A recent poll on JJhuddle.com declared Canton McKinley and Massillon Washington Ohio’s best rivalry. Other match-ups that got pub were Troy-Piqua, St. Edward-St. Ignatius, Portsmouth-Ironton and Martins Ferry-Bellaire.

Traditionally, those games and some others can be debated. In real-time, though, none of them are the state’s biggest rivalry. No, that distinction goes to Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cincinnati Colerain.


A recent poll on JJhuddle.com declared Canton McKinley and Massillon Washington Ohio’s best rivalry. Other match-ups that got pub were Troy-Piqua, St. Edward-St. Ignatius, Portsmouth-Ironton and Martins Ferry-Bellaire.

Traditionally, those games and some others can be debated. In real-time, though, none of them are the state’s biggest rivalry. No, that distinction goes to Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cincinnati Colerain.

The two Cincinnati and national powerhouses, who have accounted for three of the last four Ohio big school state titles, meet again Friday night at Nippert Stadium in the 11th annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.

And “Showdown” is an appropriate title. This game has become “Must See TV.”

Despite some other solid match-ups that dot the opening weekend schedule (including Cincinnati Moeller-Princeton and Cleveland Glenville-St. Ignatius), St. X and Colerain is the state’s biggest tilt.

Literally.

It’s doubtful that any game this opening weekend will command as much attention or drive as much attendance.

Up until last year when the University of Cincinnati Bearcats became a competitive college football program, St. X and Colerain were the two biggest draws at Nippert Stadium. They’ve also proven to be the Queen City’s top two football teams over the last four years – minus the Cincinnati Bengals squad that reached the playoffs in 2005.

Since 2004, Colerain has 50 wins and one state title. St. Xavier has 51 victories and two trophies.

The Bombers have also had Colerain’s number.

Of the Cardinals four losses in the last four years, three have come against St. X.

The Bombers beat Colerain 7-0 in the 2005 season opener and then again in the regional semifinals that year (12-9 in overtime). In 2006 Colerain returned the favor, beating St. Xavier 24-7 in the regional final. In last year’s regional final, the Bombers downed the Cards 29-14.

Round Five is slated for 8:15 p.m. Friday.

“It’s a great way to start the season,” said St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht, whose team plays arguably the nation’s toughest schedule this season. “You look back to 2005, and it was a great way to find out where we stood. It’s really exciting because we get to measure ourselves against one of the premier programs in the city.

“We’ll find out right away where we are and what we need to work on.”

Both teams enter this season with questions.

The Bombers, coming off a 15-0 season and second state title in three years, have plenty of holes to fill. Of course a senior class with 78 kids and 220 players total in grades 10-12 is a nice buffer.

A foot injury to starting junior quarterback Luke Massa has him listed as a “game-time decision” according to Specht. Seniors Joe O’Toole (6-2, 190) and Sam Male (6-1, 187) are in a battle for the backup QB position, with neither the clear favorite should Massa (6-4, 195) not play. Junior left tackle Matt James (ankle) has also been battling injuries and is questionable.

Despite the unknown, St. X debuted at No. 18 in the USA Today Super 25 poll this week to go along with a No. 9 ranking in the ESPN national poll. The Bombers are ranked No. 2 in the state in the ONN/Ohio High Power Poll preseason rankings.

Colerain is ranked No. 9 in the ONN/Ohio High preseason poll. The Cardinals also own a 29-game regular season win streak. The last loss? To X in the ’05 opener.

Last year St. X and Colerain were Nos. 1-2, respectively, in the final ONN/Ohio High poll. This year they debut as Nos. 1-2 in the Cincinnati Enquirer poll.

Are you ready for some football?

“The match up represents everything that is great about high school football in Cincinnati,” Colerain head coach Tom Bolden said. “It’s two top teams on a Friday night, under the lights. It’s giving the fans what they want to see.

“It’s going to be something special.”

It always is.

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