CINCINNATI -- St. Xavier football coach Steve Specht had a simple message for his team entering Greater Catholic League South division competition this week.
“I told the kids they have been blessed with the opportunity to play in one of the best conferences not only in the state of Ohio but in the country and that everything changes a little when you go into GCL South play,” Specht said. “The sky is a little bluer, the grass a little greener and on and on. Because of that approach to every snap in practice every repetition needs to have a little sharper focus.”
St. Xavier (4-0) and Moeller (3-1) enter GCL South play in a highly-anticipated matchup at 7 p.m. Friday at Roettger Stadium in Lockland. It is one of the nation’s top 10 games this week, according to MaxPreps.
“It should be a great night of high school football,” Specht said. St. X, ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Division I state poll, entered the USA Today Super 25 national rankings at No. 20 this week.
St. X is No. 14 nationally by the MaxPreps Xcellent 25.
“They’re just playing with a great swagger right now which they should be,” Moeller coach John Rodenberg said of the Bombers.
St. X is led offensively by senior quarterback Chase Wolf (Wisconsin commit) who has thrown 743 yards and nine touchdowns and completed 69 percent of his passes (69 of 100).
The Bombers have multiple talented receivers including senior Andrew Wittrock (294 yards receiving, five touchdowns) and senior Cameron Specht (183 yards receiving). Senior running back Matthew Fox had 172 yards rushing in the season opener against Hinsdale Central (Illinois).
Defensively, several players stepped up in the Bombers’ 31-7 win over visiting Indianapolis Cathedral last week. Senior linebacker Blake Bacevich (UC commit) has 17 tackles including three sacks and an interception this season. Senior linebacker Will Childs has 25 tackles including 11 he had in Week 2 at Colerain. Senior defensive lineman Bobby Jefferson II has 22 tackles including two sacks.
"I thought our defense played very well and our offense was explosive at times," Specht said of last week’s win. "This group plays hard."
Moeller defeated Lafayette (Kentucky) 55-6 last week after competing very well against Louisville Trinity -- one of the nation’s top teams -- in Week 2.
Moeller has received excellent production from junior quarterback Miles McBride, who has thrown for 912 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s completed 76.4 percent of his passes (55 of 72). He’s also rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown through four games.
“Moeller is a very talented football team,” Specht said. “Their lone loss was arguably to one of the best teams in the country in Louisville Trinity. Their offense is explosive and they have multiple weapons so it’s difficult to focus on one aspect. I really like the play of their quarterback. He is a true dual-threat athlete that can create when the defense takes things away.”
McBride told WCPO.com last week his offensive line and some of the other skill players on offense make his job easier. Senior wide receiver Eric Wills (Air Force commit) has nine receptions for 256 yards and four touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Jack McCracken has 11 receptions for 249 yards and five touchdowns. Junior RJ Khayo has 19 receptions for 226 yards and three touchdowns. He’s also a lethal threat as a special teams returner.
Tight ends -- sophomore Caden Clark and senior Brenden Bates (Kentucky commit) -- also give Moeller solid playmakers in the air.
Defensively, junior linebacker Luke Szabados has 33 tackles, including 12 against Trinity.
The skill level overall is very similar on both teams so this game could very well be determined by field position and who does a better job at the line of scrimmage.
“Our young team is starting to grow,” Rodenberg said. “This will be a great test for us.”
Moeller leads the all-time series against St. Xavier 41-19-1 with counting the first game between the GCL rivals as 1963, according to Moeller archivist Dick Beerman.
According to St. X, it is recorded as Moeller leading the series 41-20-1. St. Xavier counts the 1962 game as part of its records, according to St. Xavier Assistant Athletic Director Nick Van Zile.
Moeller does not count the ’62 game since in that season the school did not yet have a senior class, according to Beerman.
Also of note, former Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche is expected to be at Roettger Stadium Friday night for the game. His grandson, Sam, is a senior linebacker for Moeller. The elder Wyche, who lives in South Carolina, also attended Moeller's season opener at Hamilton in late August.
La Salle (4-0) plays host to Winton Woods (4-0) Friday night in one of the more interesting games of the Week 5.
La Salle, the three-time reigning Division II state champions, are No. 1 in the Division II, Region 8 computer points standings. Winton Woods is No. 3.
“We are expecting a tough game,” La Salle coach Pat McLaughlin told WLSN. “I told the guys there is no carryover from week to week.”
McLaughlin expects the Warriors will throw the ball a lot more than what the Lancers saw the first four games. La Salle has worked on more 7-on-7 skill competitions in practice and believe its secondary will be tested.
Winton Woods is led by several key players including senior quarterback Kenny Mayberry and senior linebacker Christopher Oats, who is considered to be one of the state’s top players in the 2018 class.
"I expect a playoff type atmosphere and experience for this game," Winton Woods coach Andre Parker said. "This is the reason you sacrifice so much for opportunities like this one. I've told my team the same thing every week - take care of the football, do your job (and) play as hard as humanly possible."
Edgewood (3-1, 1-0 Southwest Ohio Conference) plays host to Harrison (3-1, 1-0) in a game that could very well determine the conference champion and playoff positioning in Region 8 later this season.
Harrison senior quarterback Frankie Young has thrown for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns. He was 16 of 19 passing for 287 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-0 win over Ross last week.
Edgewood junior running back Wade Phillips has rushed for 604 yards and eight touchdowns. He had 21 carries for 276 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-12 win at Northwest last week. The five rushing touchdowns was a single-game school record for most rushing touchdowns, according to Edgewood coach Scott Clemmons. It's also been about nine years since Edgewood has had a running back with more than 250 yards rushing in a game.
Homecoming for Princeton
Princeton returns home for the first time this season when the Vikings (1-3, 1-1 Greater Miami Conference) play host to Fairfield (2-2, 2-0 GMC) Friday night during Homecoming weekend. Princeton coach and alum Mike Daniels won his first game as Vikings head coach last week.
Return to The Pit
Elder plays host to Cleveland St. Ignatius at 2 p.m. Saturday as it will mark the first time the Wildcats have visited The Pit since Elder’s 23-7 win in 2001.
St. Ignatius (4-0), the 2016 Division I state runner-up, is ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press state poll. Elder (3-1) returns home for the first time since a 41-12 win over Oak Hills Sept. 2.
"Another tough game," Elder coach Doug Ramsey said. "Defending state runner-up team with some experienced players. They are a very big team especially on the offensive line. They play a physical style on both sides of the ball."