Tigers won regular-season meeting 31-21
Perhaps no football coach in Louisville relies on metrics and statistics more than Male High School’s Chris Wolfe to explain his team’s progress, but for Wolfe there was little explanation for what happened to his team five weeks ago.
Despite having an advantage in all the categories he holds dear – explosive plays, passing efficiency, third-down conversions and red-zone efficiency – the Bulldogs dropped a 31-21 decision to St. Xavier in a game that decided the Class 6-A, District Three regular-season title.
Wolfe said he was taking nothing away from St. X but added “it was one of the strangest games from a winning metric I’ve ever had. It was such an anomaly of a game.”
The Bulldogs (10-2) – No. 7 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – will get a chance to avenge that loss at 7:30 p.m. Friday when they travel to No. 4 St. X (9-3) to decide the Class 6-A, Region One title. The winner will hit the road next week to face the Ballard-Trinity winner in a state semifinal.
The Male-St. X regular-season meeting was a tale of two halves, with the Bulldogs dominating on their way to a 21-7 second-quarter lead. But the game turned on the final play of the first half, when St. X quarterback Desmond Ridder completed a 39-yard Hail Mary to Michael Meredith to pull the Tigers within 21-14.
St. X went on to outscore Male 17-0 in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
“We took all of the momentum into halftime from the Hail Mary pass that was successful, and that success started to multiply for us,” Tigers coach Will Wolford said. “There’s no doubt Male is very talented and there’s a little luck that comes along to defeat a team like that. Our kids’ confidence just grew and grew.”
Wolfe credited the Tigers’ defense to limiting his offense to 2.2 yards per carry in the second half after averaging 5 yards per carry in the first half. But Wolfe said field position was the deciding factor.
Eight of St. Xavier’s drives started on the Male side of the 50-yard line. Male starting punter Cam Chesher was sidelined for the game, and backup Erik Sorensson averaged just 28.6 yards on seven punts.
Chesher is healthy now and has regained his punting duties, Wolfe said.
“How are we going to flip the field position is the No. 1 thing for me,” Wolfe said. “It’s kind of a boring thing to talk about, but if we can work with a shorter field I feel pretty good about our offense. … And we need to figure out a way to make them go 80 yards and put them on a longer field.”
Regardless of field position, both teams have quarterbacks capable of moving their teams with swiftness.
Male quarterback T.J. Thomas has passed for 2,153 yards and 32 touchdowns with just six interceptions this season. He is completing 64.3 percent of his passes.
St. X quarterback Desmond Ridder has passed for 825 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 744 yards and 15 scores this season while averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
“Their offense is perfect for that quarterback,” Wolfe said of St. X. “He’s a big kid with long strides, and he’ll run through tackles. In their read-option you’ll see him pull more than he gives it, and that’s what you want in that offense. They get a lot of third-down conversions with him scrambling and coming up with big-time plays.”
While Male is looking to repeat as state champion, St. X is looking to reach the state semifinals for the first time since winning its last state title in 2009.
Wolford said his defense must contain Male’s speed.
“We have to keep them in front of us, first and foremost,” he said. “They have a lot of guys who can break a long one on you at any time.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
GAME OF THE WEEK
* Who: Male (10-2) at St. Xavier (9-3).
* When: 7:30 p.m.
* Jason’s pick: St. X 28-24.