SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio — St. Xavier football coach Steve Specht said the Bombers are still in the process of figuring out their identity as a team.
If Friday night was any indication, the Bombers are giving a strong first impression to the 2021 season, a year after winning the Division I state championship.
St. X scored 28 unanswered points in a 31-14 win over visiting Lakota West in front of 5,300 fans at Ballaban Field at RDI Stadium.
"Look at our cheering section," Specht said. "We've got 400 kids, 500 kids coming out to support their school's team. The band is playing tonight. This is living. What happened last year – these kids didn't get to live. They're living now. I think that's a bigger victory than anybody winning or losing on the field tonight is the fact that these kids get to compete again. That's exciting."
St. Xavier senior linebacker Grant Lyons, a Miami University verbal commitment, was named the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown MVP after two key interceptions, including a pick-six in the third quarter to give the Bombers (1-0) the lead for good.
"It was awesome," Lyons said. "I love playing out here with my guys. We work so hard all offseason and it showed up tonight. It was a lot of fun."
St. X, ranked No. 22 nationally by MaxPreps, took an early 3-0 lead when senior kicker Mason Rohmiller made a 27-yard field goal to complete a 13-play, 44-yard drive that took 3:47.
Lakota West struck twice in the second quarter and took a 14-3 lead midway through the quarter.
Junior quarterback Mitch Bolden found sophomore Brennan Remy for a 4-yard touchdown pass and senior Tyler Sparnall added the extra point at the 8:52 mark to give Lakota West a 7-0 lead.
The Firebirds took advantage of a St. X special teams turnover and capitalized.
Bolden found senior wide receiver Alex Afari in the corner of the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown pass connection to help give the Firebirds a 14-3 lead.
The Bombers closed the gap to 14-10 at halftime after senior running back Charles Kellom scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 2:24 left in the first half.
Lyons gave the Bombers the lead for good on his 27-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
Senior quarterback Brogan McCaughey found senior Max Klare for a 25-yard touchdown pass connection five minutes later to give St. X a 24-14 advantage.
Kellom scored on his second touchdown carry late in the fourth quarter to help give the Bombers a 31-14 lead.
McCaughey was 11 of 21 passing for 113 yards and a touchdown. Kellom rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Senior linebacker Max Bonner had a team-high eight tackles.
St. X plays at Colerain (0-1) Aug. 27.
Lakota West, which plays host to West Clermont (0-1) Aug. 27, couldn't find consistency on the offensive side in the second half.
Lakota West coach Tom Bolden said the Firebirds lost junior wide receiver Trent Lloyd to an injury in the first quarter and that impacted the offense.
Mitch Bolden, Tom's son, had 81 yards rushing and 103 yards passing. Senior linebacker Aden Miller had a game-high 10 tackles.
Bolden said he was proud of the Firebirds' effort, especially on the defensive side. He said several younger players gained experience, too.