(photos courtesy of Alex Vehr, Cincinnati Enquirer - @AlexVehr)
The St. Xavier Varsity football Bombers finished the regular season at 9-1 and finished with the #1 seed in the Division I Region 4 computer rankings. They hosted Fairfield HS in the 1st round and easily won 40-12 in a rematch of last year's first round game. St. Xavier faced another playoff rematch in round two when they traveled to Mason HS on Friday night to take on Sycamore HS. The Bombers and Aviators played each other last season in the Regional Finalsin a game that St. Xavier came back from a 14 point deficit late in the final quarter to win in overtime. This year, the teams met in the Regional Semi Finals as Sycamore finished the regular season at 8-2 and won in the first round over Milford by a score of 41-35 in double overtime to advance.
The Aviators opened the game with the ball and picked up a first down quickly. The Bombers' defense came up with their first big play of the night on 3rd down and 10 when senior DL Bobby Jefferson forced a fumble when he sacked Sycamore's quarterback and classmate Andrew Wittrock jumped on the loose ball. The St. Xavier offense took over at the Aviators' 47 yard line but were forced to punt after only picking up one first down. Three plays later, Sycamore connected on a 56 yard touchdown pass and converted the extra point to take a 7-0 lead with 6:48 left in the opening quarter. The Bombers' offense responded quickly as senior QB Chase Wolf found senior WR Cameron Specht for a 9 yard completion and then one play later junior RB Chris Payne took a handoff and scampered 58 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. Senior PK Donny Stock converted the PAT to tie the game at 7 with 5:26 left in the 1st quarter. Each team then traded punts to end the 1st quarter.
The 2nd quarter started the way the 1st quarter ended as Sycamore and St. Xavier both punted on each team's 1st possession of the quarter. The Bombers' defense stayed strong even though they gave up a 56 yard pass play and forced a punt after the Aviators reached the St. Xavier 38 yard line. St. Xavier's offense then put together a 14 play, 80 yard drive that took 3:43 that ended with Payne scoring his second rushing touchdown on a 14 yard run and a Stock PAT to make it 14-7 with 3:26 left in the 1st half. On the drive, Wolf completed 7 of 8 pass attempts for 57 yards while Payne had 3 carries for 18 yards. The Bombers converted two third downs with a Shamsi 11 yard reception and a Kreimer 15 yard reception to keep the drive going. Payne's scoring play came on a 4th down and 2 play. St. Xavier's defense forced yet another Sycamore punt on the ensuing drive as senior LB Will Childs and junior LB Nathan Arthur came up with a sack on a 2nd and 10 play. St. Xavier took a 14-7 lead to the locker room for halftime.
The Bombers opened the 2nd half with the ball and Wolf found senior WR Andrew Wittrock for 12 yards on the second play. Wolf then scrambled for 16 yards two plays later for another first down. After Payne carried the ball for 3 yards, Wolf connected with Kreimer on a 34 yard touchdown pass to put St. Xavier ahead 20-7 as the PAT failed with 9:47 left in the 3rd quarter. The Bombers' defense stayed solid as Childs came up with another sack on 3rd down and 8 to force another Sycamore punt. On the ensuing drive, the St. Xavier offense scored in just four plays on a drive that went 54 yards. Senior RB Matthew Fox scored on a 32 yard touchdown run as he gained 46 of the 54 yards on the drive on 3 carries. Wolf completed a pass to Kreimer to convert the two point conversion to make it a 28-7 lead with 7:01 left in the 3rd quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, the Bombers pinned the Aviators at their own 2 yard line and did not allow any yards to force a punt. The St. Xavier offense took over on the Sycamore 22 yard line after the punt but Wolf threw an interception at the Aviators 2 yard line. On the ensuing play, Childs stopped Sycamore's quarterback for a 2 yard loss to force a safety and make it a 30-7 lead for St. Xavier. The Bombers offense could not pick up a first down on the next possession and punted the ball back to Sycamore. The St. Xavier defense stayed dominant and forced another three and out and Aviator punt. The Sycamore offense gained -2 yards in the 3rd quarter as the Bombers held a 30-7 lead. St. Xavier put the game out of reach as they put together an 8 play, 38 yard drive that ended when sophomore RB Kellen Newman scored from 8 yards out on a touchdown rush. Stock converted the PAT to make it a 37-7 lead. With a running clock, each team could not get much going and the game ended with the 37-7 St. Xavier victory.
The Bombers' defense was dominant all night as they only allowed 45 yards in the 2nd half and forced Sycamore to punt it a total of 8 times during the game. They forced one turnover and held the Aviators to 2 for 11 on third down conversions. Childs led the attack with 10 tackles (3.5 TFL), 2.5 sacks and 1 quarterback hurry. Junior LB Trevor Potts had 7 tackles while junior WS Nathan Stockman record 6 tackles. Arthur finished with 5 tackles (1.5 TFL) and 1.5 sacks. Senior LB Blake Bacevich recorded 4 tackles while Jefferson finished with 4 tackles (1 TFL), 1 sack and a forced fumble.
The St. Xavier offense used the momentum gained from the defense dominating to put 23 points on the board in the 2nd half for a total of 37 points. They had 370 yards and had 17 first downs on the night. They were led by Payne who finished with 13 carries for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was running behind the offensive line of sophomore Paris Johnson, senior Jack Dirksing, senior Evan Deters, junior Matthew Mohn and senior Michael Kronenberger who controlled the line of scrimmage all night. Wolf finished the night 17 for 28 passing with 151 yards and 1 TD with 1 INT. Fox finished the night with 54 yards on 8 carries and a TD while Newman had 6 carries for 19 yards and a TD. Specht finished with 8 catches for 50 yards while Kreimer had 2 catches for 53 yards and a TD.
With the win, St. Xavier improves to 11-1 overall on the season and advances to the OHSAA Div. I Regional Final game for the second straight season. They will take on Colerain HS in another rematch from a game in the playoffs last year. The Bombers beat the Cardinals in the 2nd round last season in double overtime after coming from behind late in the game. St. Xavier also beat Colerain in Week 2 of the 2017 regular season at Colerain after coming from behind from a 14-0 deficit in the final quarter to tie the game. The Bombers won in overtime by a score of 20-17 on a rainy, windy night. It will be the 4th straight season in which St. Xavier and Colerain will meet in the OHSAA Div. I Playoffs. The game will be on Friday, November 17 with kickoff at 7:30 pm. The site will be announced by the OHSAA on Sunday afternoon and ticket information will follow shortly after that announcement. Click here for Ticket Information when it becomes available.