A 17-point fourth-quarter explosion propelled the St. Xavier High School football team to a 31-21 victory at Male on Friday, but the Tigers’ defense also warranted credit for the rally.
Male had rushed for 97 yards on 20 carries in the first half but was limited to 21 yards on 13 carries over the final two quarters.
St. X coach Will Wolford said his defense may have focused too much on Male’s passing attack in the first half.
“You can get so passive because they can throw the ball so well that they can really kill you with the running game,” Wolford said. “So we wanted to make sure we took that away. The kids just played better. They’re great kids, and they’ve worked really hard.”
MORE COVERAGE | Hail Mary turns momentum for St. X against Male
Male’s Aaron Dean-Thomas rushed for 87 yards on seven carries in the first half – breaking long runs of 32 and 31 yards – but managed just 17 yards on seven attempts in the second half.
Among the Tigers’ defensive leaders were Max Willinger and Kyle Robinson, both of whom recorded sacks to thwart Male drives.
“They just played better and played a little smarter,” Wolford said. “It takes a while to catch up to how good Male is. After a while, ‘I have to take a different angle because that kid’s really fast.’ You can’t emulate their speed in practice. You just have to face it.”
With the victory, St. X (6-2, 3-0) clinched the regular-season title in Class 6-A, District Three, no matter the outcome of next Friday’s game at Butler. The Tigers would be able to host their first three playoff games as long as they advance.
The Tigers also snapped a four-game losing streak to Male.
“We made a couple more plays than they did,” Wolford said. “The last couple of years against Male there have been some really good games. They’ve always come out on top by making one or two more plays than us. It feels really good to finally turn that around.”
MANUAL HOPING FOR HOME PLAYOFF GAME
At this time of year, politics isn’t the only thing that can make for strange bedfellows.
While Manual was at home Friday night beating Pleasure Ridge Park 34-28, the Crimsons coaches, players and fans also were rooting for their archrivals from Male to pull out a victory as well.
When Male lost to St. Xavier, it meant this Friday’s chapter in the Old Rivalry won’t be for the Class 6-A District Three title. However, there’s still plenty at stake in the 135th chapter of the Old Rivalry.
The winner of the contest is assured of finishing second in the district, guaranteeing a first-round playoff game at home.
MORE COVERAGE | Teague scores five TDs to lead Manual past PRP
“We haven’t hosted a playoff game since I’ve been here,” said senior defensive back Bryce Cosby, who picked off two passes in Friday’s win. “This is a big game for us. We respect those guys over there (at Male), but then again we don’t fear anybody.”
The last time Manual hosted a playoff game came in 2010, when it beat Eastern 40-14 in a first-round contest.
Manual coach Scott Carmony has talked all season with his team about what it takes to win championships, and while a district title isn’t in the cards this year, it doesn’t mean the Crimsons can’t make progress.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” he said, regarding an additional home game.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
* Spencer Blackburn completed 10 of 11 passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for two scores to lead host Trinity (9-0) to a 58-0 rout of Seneca (1-7).
MORE COVERAGE | Central clinches district title with win at Bardstown
Trinity will host Ballard (6-2) on Friday in a game that will decide the Class 6-A, District Four title.
* J.R. Lucas completed 15 of 23 passes for a school-record 460 yards and five touchdowns to lead Collins (5-3) to a 54-22 victory at North Oldham (0-9). Lucas broke the previous record of 440 yards set by Branden Cresap in 2013.
NaSean Roseberry (five catches, 176 yards, three TDs) and Payton Hawk (five catches, 180 yards, one TD) were Lucas’ top targets.
Collins will host Shelby County (6-2) on Friday in a game that will decide the Class 4-A, District Four champion.
* Larry Harper III completed 14 of 20 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns to lead Waggener (5-3) to a 55-6 victory over Thomas Nelson (4-4).
MORE COVERAGE | Bullitt East tops North Bullitt on final play of game
* Covington Catholic (6-2) piled up 543 rushing yards on its way to a 63-26 victory at Highlands (1-7). It was the Colonels’ first victory over the Bluebirds since 2006, snapping a 14-game skid. Sophomore Casey McGinness rushed for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries to lead Covington Catholic.
Each week Jason Frakes will provide his ranking of the top five teams in the state, regardless of class:
* No. 5 – Simon Kenton (8-0). Rolled past Campbell County 50-20 to set up a huge showdown with undefeated Ryle next week. Up next: At Ryle (8-0) on Friday.
* No. 4 – Male (6-2). Manhandled in the second half of a 31-21 loss to St. Xavier. Up next: Hosts Manual (7-1) on Friday.
* No. 3 – St. Xavier (6-2). Got big games from Desmond Ridder and Sam Taylor in a 31-21 victory over Male, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Bulldogs. Up next: At Butler (4-5) on Friday.
* No. 2 – Bowling Green (8-0). Purples posted fourth shutout in their past five games with a 50-0 rout of Barren County. Up next: Hosts Greenwood (7-1) on Friday.
* No. 1 – Trinity (9-0). Quarterback Spencer Blackburn passed for three touchdowns and rushed for two more in a 58-0 victory over Seneca. Up next: Hosts Ballard (6-2) on Friday.
J.R. Lucas, Collins
The junior quarterback completed 15 of 23 passes for a school-record 460 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Titans to a 54-22 victory at North Oldham.
Andre Teague, Manual
The senior rushed for 112 yards and five touchdowns on 22 carries to lead the Crimsons to a 34-28 victory over Pleasure Ridge Park.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.