An answered Hail Mary at the end of the first half gave the St. Xavier High School football team a boost, and the Tigers’ rushing attack and defense carried them in the second half of a statement victory Friday night.
Sam Taylor and Desmond Ridder each rushed for touchdowns in the final three minutes as the Tigers surprised host Male 31-21 in a key Class 6-A, District Three matchup.
St. X (6-2) – No. 7 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – snapped a four-game losing streak to No. 6 Male (6-2).
“They’re the defending state champion and had lost one game in two years,” St. X coach Will Wolford said. “They’re really good. It feels great to get a win for the boys, and we put ourselves in the driver’s seat for what we want to do.”
St. X improved to 3-0 in district play and can wrap up the district title – and three possible home games in the playoffs – with a victory at Butler next week.
“Male’s had the upper hand in this series for the last few years, so this feels really good,” said senior running back Sam Taylor, who carried 26 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns. “We worked really hard and had a lot of focus. This is a big advantage for us for the playoffs.”
With the Bulldogs leading 21-7 and seemingly in control, the game turned on the final drive of the second quarter.
The Tigers lined up to punt with less than a minute remaining, but a Male penalty kept the drive alive. On fourth-and-10 at the Bulldogs’ 39 and with 3.4 seconds left, St. X quarterback Ridder lofted a Hail Mary pass toward the end zone. After the ball was tipped, Michael Meredith caught the rebound for a touchdown to pull the Tigers within 21-14.
“We were stuck in the mud except for one drive on offense,” Wolford said. “It looked like we couldn’t do anything. It was a game difference for sure taking that kind of momentum into halftime.”
The Tigers’ defense limited the Bulldogs to just 101 yards in the second half, and the offense finally broke through late in the fourth quarter.
Owen Johnson’s 23-yard field goal pulled St. X within 21-17 with 8:47 left. After a Male punt, the Tigers drove 41 yards on 10 plays, getting a 5-yard touchdown run by Taylor for a 24-21 lead with 3:00 remaining.
Taylor and Ridder (18 carries, 85 yards) helped the Tigers rack up 198 yards on 47 carries.
“We knew we wanted to feed the studs,” Wolford said. “It wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective.”
St. X got the ball back after a Male punt with 2:02 remaining and needed just two plays to put the game away, getting a 15-yard touchdown by Ridder for a 31-21 lead.
Bulldogs coach Chris Wolfe said his team never bounced back after the Hail Mary to end the first half.
“I challenged the kids to see what kind of mental toughness we have, but we certainly didn’t have it,” Wolfe said of his halftime discussion. “It was pretty poor play in the second half.”
Male quarterback T.J. Thomas finished 15-of-27 passing for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Aaron Dean-Thomas rushed for 104 yards on 14 carries.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
M – B.K. Smith 24 pass from T.J. Thomas (Erik Sorensson kick); SX – Sam Taylor 6 run (Owen Johnson kick); M – Ethan Bibb 3 pass from Thomas (Sorensson kick); M – Thomas 4 run (Sorensson kick); SX – Michael Meredith 39 pass from Desmond Ridder (Johnson kick); SX – Johnson 23 FG; SX – Taylor 5 run (Johnson kick); SX – Ridder 15 run (Johnson kick).