By James Adams
CINCINNATI – Moeller beat conference rival St. Xavier on the leg of its sophomore kicker on Friday.
The Crusaders’ Matt Coghlin kicked a field goal at the end of regulation and another in overtime to edge the Bombers, 20-17 in a hard-fought GCL South game at Nippert Stadium.
The Crusaders came into the game without senior quarterback Gus Ragland, and figured they would need an outstanding effort from their defense to win.
Moeller (5-0) held the Bombers to 249 yards of offense, and even scored a defensive touchdown when senior linebacker Will Mercurio picked off a Nick Tensing pass and returned it 20 yards.
“I threw my hands up and was thinking, ‘oh my God, I’ve got the ball’, so I started running and I coasted into the end zone,” Mercurio said.
The plan for St. Xavier (3-2) was to run the ball, since last week junior running back Ben Glines had 251 yards rushing, and also the Crusaders’ defense yielded 299 yards on the ground.
But on Friday, Glines was held to 32 yards rushing and the Bombers gained just 40 ground yards as a team.
“We dominated the line of scrimmage the whole game,” Mercurio said. “Our two defensive tackles are unreal, Elijah (Taylor) and Chalmer (Frueauf).”
The Crusaders had to turn to junior Matt Crable at quarterback due to the Ragland injury, and Moeller ran the ball 52 times to keep the pressure off the backup.
Seniors Jack Gruber and Dean Meyer both saw time at running back for Moeller. Gruber finished with 88 yards on the ground while Meyer added 72 yards.
Crable threw for only 126 yards, but on a fourth and goal from the 1 yard line he showed he could handle the pressure.
After both coaches called time outs prior to the play, Crable was given the option to run or pass. He drew the defense to him before pulling up short of the line of scrimmage, and he hit sophomore tight end Jake Housmann for the only Crusaders offensive touchdown of the game.
The Bombers only had two sustained drives on the evening, but both resulted in touchdowns, and as time was winding down they led, 17-14.
Moeller was able to get into field goal range in the closing minutes, giving Coghlin a chance to tie the game and force overtime, but not before Bombers head coach Steve Specht called three time outs.
“I was pretty nervous, but the time outs actually calmed me down a little,” Coghlin said. “The second time out was just wasting time – I was fine.”
St. Xavier went on offense first in overtime and elected to go for the touchdown on fourth and goal from the 2, but Crusaders junior defensive back Mitch Brauning batted away a Tensing pass.
After Moeller gained just two yards, coach John Rodenberg went back to Coghlin for a game-winning 35-yard kick.
“I was thinking: If I make it, we win, if I don’t make it we still have a shot, and I trust in (Coach) Crable,” Coghlin said.
Moeller looks to stay undefeated next Saturday as it takes on La Salle (3-2) at Roettger stadium. St. Xavier will host Elder (4-1) on Friday.