CINCINNATI - After only leading 7-0 in the first half, the St. Xavier Bombers used second half adjustments to beat the Elder Panthers soundly by a score of 31-7.
A 41-yard touchdown run from quarterback Sean Clifford was the beginning of 24 unanswered points scored by the Bombers in the second half.
"Our D knew this game was on us, if we shut them out then we’d win, but our offense picked it up and played an awesome second half," said junior defensive end Blake Bacevich. “We had let teams back in the game earlier in the year and we knew we couldn’t do that with Elder."
St. Xavier went on to score 10 more points in the quarter, 17 overall, and did not allow Elder to find the end zone until 3:20 remained in the game.
"Tonight our defense played lights out, in the second half they jump-started the offense with a short field a couple of times," said St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht. “It’s a game of momentum, and when it starts rolling it keeps rolling.”
The Bomber defense dominated Elder, forcing quarterback Danny Nieman into four interceptions and holding him to 92 passing yards on eight of 23 passing.
St. Xavier’s Eugene Stallworth caught two of the team’s four picks.
“I tell Eugene all the time ‘There’s a reason you’re playing in the secondary and not receiver,’" Specht said. “I’m excited for him, he’s a great kid."
Elder could not get anything going on the ground either. Luke Masminster had the most rushing yards, 74, but it was all on one run and the lone Panther touchdown.
Michael Bittner was given majority of the workload for Elder out of the backfield, running it 11 times and only gaining 26 yards.
“A lot of credit goes to our front, a lot of times we only brought three because Elder was doing a good job at keeping seven, eight guys in,” Specht said. “Those guys did do a nice job up front…they just really play hard, our kids play hard, we always play smart."
Pete Rumpke led St. Xavier defensively with 10 total tackles on the night, Will Childs was right behind him with seven tackles and one sack.
Bacevich found himself being blocked by three Panthers at once throughout the night, but he was still able to succeed getting back and earning a sack on Nieman.
“It’s just a challenge. It’s obviously an accomplishment to know they’re trying to triple team you, but you just got to keep working, whatever they’re going to throw at you, you got to find a way to beat it, and that’s what we did tonight," Bacevich said.
Clifford found success on the offensive side for the Bombers ― picking Elder apart with his legs as well as his arm.
He found the end zone three times on the ground, while picking up 65 yards on 15 attempts, and scored one more time through the air as Clifford threw for 109 yards on 10 of 14 passing.
This matchup has a history of being competitive, as the past two times these teams played each other the games went into overtime ― Elder took the win last year 24-17.
An easy win against this team was a nice relief for Specht.
“It helps on my heart, I can say that much," Specht said. “It’s a testament to the coaching staff. They put together a great game plan. The kids executed it."
This win could prove to be big for the Bombers, as they picked up their second win of the season in the Greater Catholic League.
“When you’re in the GCL and you’re playing Elder High School at the pit, that’s a daunting task to say the least," Specht said.
St. Xavier travels to La Salle for their next game 7 p.m. Oct. 7. Elder travels to Moeller at the same date and time.