CINCINNATI - Moeller's defense forced six turnovers in a 24-0 win over Elder on Saturday night and sent the defending Division I state champions to the regional championship against Colerain.
The Crusaders' 6-1 takeaway advantage included a pick-six by senior linebacker Will Mercurio. Quarterback Sam Ragland ran for two touchdowns.
The Crusaders' defense didn't look very tough when Elder marched straight down the Nippert Stadium field on the opening drive, but it quickly came to life.
With the Panthers deep in Moeller territory, the Crusaders registered two huge sacks on back-to-back plays to push Elder out of field goal range.
Senior lineman Chalmer Frueauf took down Panthers sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey on first down and junior lineman Elijah Taylor followed on second down.
“It’s nice having Elijah on the inside, he takes on blockers and leaves me with one guy to beat,” said Frueauf. “And Robbie (Pohlman) comes in and takes on blockers and it helps me. I love playing with those guys.”
Elder (9-3) didn’t allow the momentum swing to last. Its defense counter-punched and at the end of the first quarter neither team had scored.
Moeller (11-1) eventually got the scoring under way when Ragland ran off the left side of his line for an 8-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.
The Crusaders got another huge play from their defense on the Panthers' next possession when Sam Hubbard, a senior defensive back, stepped in front of a Ramsey pass and bulled his way for 12 yards on the return.
“They were throwing that hitch on me. I read it and jumped it and got a little bit of a return,” said Hubbard.
Once again the Elder defense responded, and after three plays Moeller was forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Matt Coghlin.
At halftime the Crusaders held an uneasy 10-0 lead.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Moeller got another big play at the start of the fourth quarter when Ragland ran 69 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game. Ragland avoided several tacklers in the middle of the field before busting out to his right sideline
Both teams finished with around 300 yards of offense.