A parable. Playoff implications. A new chant. A breakout performance. Thirteen big time college recruits. Two phenomenal D-I state ranked powers. One all-out “Holy War”. And another MVPHD Game of the Week.
Video by Alex Sator
HUNDLEY HELPS ST. XAVIER DOWN ST. EDWARD ON SENIOR DAY
By Tim Langevin
The third ranked team from Northeast Ohio traveled 253 miles to battle the fourth ranked team from Southwest Ohio in a heavyweight showdown. And undersized Cincinnati St. Xavier borrowed a page from I Samuel 17:40-51, stoning goliath Lakewood St. Edward 17-10 on a windy Saturday afternoon at Ballaban Field.
Senior RB Conor Hundley was the pillar with a season-high 160 yards and two TDs, including the decisive 48-yard romp in the fourth quarter. What an appropriate conclusion to a brilliant career on Senior Day. Hundley has gained 791 yards with 15 TDs on the season. More impressive, the 5’11, 206-pound dynamo has 3,280 career rushing yards and 38 TDs with two regular season games remaining.
No doubt, Hundley is a prime-time, step-up player. Before a national audience on ESPN in Week 2, he ran for 157 yards and four scores in a win over Pickerington Central.
Hundley tweaked his left ankle late in the fourth quarter and said afterwards on crutches, “I will be fine. Give credit to the offensive line. They did a great job up front. They gave me the lanes to get through and I got to the second level. That’s all I had to do.”
After a back and forth scoreless first quarter, Nick Roemer kicked a 40-yard field goal with 7:39 left in the second quarter to give St. Xavier a 3-0 lead. It culminated a hard-earned 14-play, 56-yard drive. Hundley carried the ball six times for 39 yards, mostly behind mammoth 292-pound center Brandyn Cook (Pittsburgh). That spurred the St. X student-body, “We are crazy.”
The Eagles answered quickly with a four play, 80-yard scoring march to take a 7-3 lead with 5:45 left until half. WR Anthony Young (200M state champ) took the hand off on an end-around play with nothing but green pastures out front and bolted 64 yards to pay dirt. Game On!
It was one of the few times the St. Edward’s skill position players were able to get to the edge. Just ask RB Dwayne Aaron. The 5’5 junior was swallowed up like Moby Dick, gaining one yard on 10 carries. He entered the game with 876 yards and a 6.1 ypc average. RB Kenny Butler didn’t fare much better with 15 yards on four carries.
Give credit to the St. Xavier defensive bunch, outweighed by 58 pounds per man up front, they executed the perfect game plan. Trust me, it’s too complicated to explain. Regardless, the results were evident. The Eagles were held to 241 total yards, 106 on the ground and 135 through the air. QB Ryan Fallon was sacked three times for -22 yards.
Speaking of sacks, LB Nathan Gerbus recorded two, giving the senior 11 on the season. He added eight tackles and a forced fumble with 6:29 left in the game to halt a crucial St. Edward’s 35-yard drive. On the season, Gerbus has 67 tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one interception.
St. Xavier coach Steve Specht praised Gerbus’ performance, “He is the best linebacker in the state. He makes everyone play better. He played defensive end the past two years out of necessity. He is playing his natural position this year and it shows…He could have gone to a bigger school, but other colleges waited too long so he took his first offer which was Miami, OH. There is something about the first person to be asked. Kind of like being asked to dance by that first girl. He is happy to be going to Miami and he will have a great career…He is the kind of kid you want your daughter to marry. Very faith-based, hard-working, a provider.”
Another defensive stud for the Bombers is DE Bryson Albright, who had nine tackles and one sack. That gives the 6’5, 210-pound senior 8 1/2 sacks and 55 tackles on the year. He is also headed to Miami, OH next season. Bryson’s older brother Alex, played on the 2005 state championship team and is a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Specht talked about Albright’s transformation from LB to DE, “He is still growing into his body and still growing into his new position. But he is getting better every game and gaining self-confidence. He is a carbon-copy of his brother.”
Safety Spencer Stroube led the St. X defense with nine tackles and junior weak-side LB Mark Jacob tallied six tackles, including 2 1/2 tackles for losses. AJ Parchment had four tackles and was primarily responsible for St. Edward’s inability to get to the outside.
St. Xavier took advantage of field position in the third quarter thanks to a brisk tailwind. The Bombers regained the lead 10-7 with 7:07 left in the quarter. After a bad punt, the Bombers covered 34 yards in four plays, capped by Hundley’s one-yard plunge. That spurred the St. X student-body, “We are sexy.”
The Eagles couldn’t generate any offense. Blame it on a fierce headwind. Blame it on an impenetrable defense. Whatever the blame, St. Edward netted 20 yards of offense on four possessions totaling 18 plays. The closest drive to mid-field was their own 24-yard-line.
Both coaches talked about that pivotal third quarter.
St. Edward coach Rick Finotti said, “Steve taking the wind in the third quarter instead of the fourth quarter was a smart move. We didn’t take advantage in the fourth quarter when it was our turn and they took advantage in the third quarter. That was the difference. We didn’t do our part to win it.”
Specht said, “The second half was the difference. They deferred so we took the wind in the third quarter instead of the fourth quarter because heck, we needed the wind in the third quarter just to get to the fourth quarter. It was a battle of field position and we didn’t know what would happen.”
It didn’t matter because St. Xavier added another score with 8:27 left in the game on Hundley’s second TD run. That pretty much sealed the deal. That spurred the St. X student-body, “We are crazy. We are sexy. We are St. X.”
Hundley said, “It was third and one and I was trying to get just one yard, but the O-Line did a great job and opened a big hole for me. This was a huge win. Senior Day. It doesn’t get much better…I thought CJ (Hilliard) did a nice job when I went out. We expect great things from him in the future. He is just a sophomore, but he is a great running back and a great kid.”
Hilliard carried the ball four times for 24 yards, including an 11-yard run on third and six with the game still in the balance.
The Eagles tacked on a 33-yard field goal by Jake Wilhelm to narrow the gap 17-10 with just seconds left in the game. The senior kicker has converted 9-of-10 field goals and 26-of-27 extra points.
“Everybody in the state of Ohio is happy about this one,” Finotti said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We need to get back to work and fix ourselves. It’s time to regroup. We are 6-2 with two tough opponents next. It’s not the end of the world. The returning State Champs are not winning the close games like last year.”
The Bombers lead the series between these two teams 6-1.
The Big Green Machine’s next two opponents are 7-1 Cincinnati Moeller and 7-1 Cleveland St. Ignatius. Not a pleasing menu. The Eagles are on the verge of elimination if they don’t win one or both of their final two games. This loss will probably drop St. Edward’s from sixth to seventh in the Region 1 computer rankings since Cleveland JFK won to go 7-1.
Meanwhile, 6-2 St. Xavier closes out its season with two road games. This week the Bombers play St. Ignatius and next week play St. Xavier (Louisville, KY). The Bombers will probably move up in the Region 4 computer rankings this week from fifth to third. St. X’s two losses were to Trinity (Louisville, KY) 17-14 and Moeller 27-24.
In his eighth season, Specht has compiled a 78-19 record with two state titles. Recently, the 43-year-old was named head coach for Team USA in the International Bowl February 1, 2012 in Austin, Texas.
Long after the game, Specht talked about St. Xavier football and its mission, “It’s about being a part of something bigger than your self. It’s not about wins and titles. It’s watching the kids grow up and get better. All the kids are great. Not all of them are great football players. But that isn’t important. What’s important is that young man is willing to come to 6 AM workouts six days a week. Be a part of something special and stick with it…I don’t cut. If they show up to practice, they make the team. That’s why we have over 55 seniors, 89 players on the JV team and another 100 on the freshman team…If I was in it for wins and money, I wouldn’t be at the high school level.”
His message in the football program sums it best, “The mission remains and the focus to get better every day still holds precedent in these young men’s lives…Every game ends with a final score, but we never discuss winning. For these young men it is the challenge to compete at the highest level, to better themselves every day, and to find a way to improve the team.”