State Spotlight: St. Xavier puts home win streak on line against St. Ignatius


St. Xavier has won 26 straight home games. Bombers get big test Saturday.

Like the wild rides on Wall Street lately, it’s been a very unpredictable season week-to-week for Cincinnati St. Xavier. The defending Division I state champs are 4-4 and facing what might be an elimination game this weekend. Their opponent? Celveland St. Ignatius. Ouch.

Like the wild rides on Wall Street lately, it’s been a very unpredictable season week-to-week for Cincinnati St. Xavier.

That’s a far cry from the undefeated season (15-0) of 2007 when the Bombers won the Division I state title.

But, St. X graduated 76 seniors, including 18 of 22 starters from last season’s team.

Because of injuries and some inexperience this fall, the Bombers need to win their last two games to have an opportunity at the postseason.

St. X, which owns a 26-game home winning streak, will face a significant challenge Saturday afternoon when the Bombers host Cleveland St. Ignatius (7-1) at 2 p.m. at Ballaban Field.

“(St. Ignatius) is a legitimate state championship-caliber team,” St. X coach Steve Specht said.

St. Ignatius, ranked No. 5 in the ONN/Ohio High Division I Power Poll, is second in the Region I Harbin ratings. The Wildcats, which have won seven consecutive games, are ranked No. 5 in the Ohio High-ONN Power Poll.

While St. Ignatius is the clear favorite Saturday, recent scores of games between Cleveland and Cincinnati parochial schools, might make it seem overwhelming.

St. Ignatius defeated Cincinnati La Salle 50-0 last week after the Lancers defeated St. X 10-7 the week before.

But, St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle said he doesn’t think the comparison has merit.

“St. Xavier’s defense is very, very good,” Kyle told the St. Ignatius school Web site. “They are a very good defensive team, as anybody will tell you.”

The Wildcats, which haven’t defeated St. X since the 2001 state title game, are led by senior QB Andrew Holland. The 6-2, 190-pound quarterback has thrown for 1,598 yards and 17 touchdowns.

“Offensively, we have to be patient,” Kyle told the school Web site. “All year, St. X has been tough to run against. I believe we can get some things going there, but our passing sure has helped.”

Holland’s favorite targets are senior WRs Connor Ryan (Ball State recruit) and Joey Parris.

“The key for us defensively will be to eliminate the big play and contain the quarterback,” Specht said. “They have lived on explosive plays all year long and can score a bunch of points in a hurry.”

Defensively, the Wildcats are led by senior strong safety Dan Fox (6-4, 220), who is a Notre Dame recruit. Junior LB Scott McVey (6-0, 215) and senior DB Pat Hinkel (6-1, 200) are also the defensive leaders.

“They play fast and make things happen,” Specht said. “You combine their big-play capability on offense with an opportunistic defense and end up with scores that look like last week’s 50-0 win over La Salle.”

St. X, which is 8-5 all-time against St. Ignatius, has ironically scored fewer points in the series history (277 to 316).

The defense, led by senior LB Luke Kuechly and DL Pat Muldoon, will be key. Both players are highly-recruited Division I prospects and are the Bombers’ main playmakers.

Junior DL Nigel Muhammad leads the team with 7.5 sacks.

“I really like the way we are playing defensively right now,” Specht said. “Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence and are excited about the opportunity.”

St. X, which snapped a three-game losing streak when it defeated host Lakewood St. Edward 13-3 last week, was more effective on offense.

St. X senior QB Joe O’Toole was 12 of 22 passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Senior WR Trever Hoelker had three receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

“Joe really played well last week,” Specht said. “I thought our offensive staff did a nice job of tailoring the game plan to fit what Joe does well. He’s getting more comfortable in the pocket and has really done a great job of keeping that unit together and focused.”

Senior RB Nevin Heard, who is the last remaining original starter in the backfield because of injuries, carried the ball 33 times for 144 yards.

“Nevin gave us everything he has which is what he’s been doing since Day One,” Specht said.

St. X plays host to Moeller at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24, while St. Ignatius plays host to St. Ed at 7 p.m. Oct. 25.

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