Tigers reach state semifinals for first time since 2009
Buoyed by a potent rushing attack and a stingy defense, the St. Xavier High School football team ended a seven-year drought that must have felt like 70 years for some of its die-hard supporters.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Sam Taylor rushed for a combined 280 yards as the host Tigers beat defending Class 6-A state champion Male 31-21 in Friday’s Region One final.
St. X will move on to the state semifinals for the first time since winning the last of its 12 state titles in 2009. The Tigers had been 0-4 in regional finals since then.
PHOTO GALLERY | Male at St. Xavier
“It feels great,” Tigers coach Will Wolford said. “We just beat last year’s state champion, and they played like champions tonight. We made a couple of more plays than they did and got out in front of them. We’re going to celebrate this one tonight.”
No. 4 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, St. X (10-3) will meet No. 1 Trinity (13-0) at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The winner will advance to the Class 6-A state final on Dec. 3 in Bowling Green.
Trinity beat St. X 35-13 on Sept. 30, but the Tigers are confident they can get revenge in the rematch.
“It means a lot to be a part of history like this,” Ridder said, “but our final goal is two more games from now and that’s what we want to get to.”
Ridder rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, and Taylor carried 27 times for 154 yards. The Tigers finished with 279 rushing yards on 49 attempts (5.7 yards per carry).
Ridder also completed 5 of 9 passes for 45 yards.
“We knew we were going to run the ball because they play a lot of (defensive backs) back,” Ridder said. “We knew our pass game wasn’t going to be much, so to run the ball was huge tonight.”
Conversely, Male could not run the ball, managing just 31 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Quarterback T.J. Thomas completed 22 of 41 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted three times – all in the first half – as the Bulldogs finished with four turnovers.
“We couldn’t put two halves together against them, and it was the opposite this time,” said Male coach Chris Wolfe, whose team led St. X 21-7 in the regular-season meeting before being outscored 17-0 in the fourth quarter of a 31-21 loss. “In the first half we played really bad, and in the second half I thought the guys showed a lot of fight.”
The Tigers scored on four straight possessions in the first half to take control, getting a pair of touchdown runs from Ridder and one apiece from Ben Seger and Austin Eisert. Ridder’s second score made it 25-7 with 4:06 left in the first half, and Owen Johnson’s 21-yard field goal gave the Tigers a 28-7 halftime lead.
St. X went conservative on offense in the second half and managed just one first down, but Male couldn’t get its offense in gear until the fourth quarter.
Down 31-14 with less than 5 minutes left, Male lined up for a 25-yard field goal try. After holder Cam Chesher bobbled the snap, he recovered and found Dayveon Higgs for an 8-yard touchdown pass to pull the Bulldogs within 31-21.
Male drove to the St. X 30-yard line on its next possession but ultimately turned the ball over on downs after a Jack Daly sack of Thomas and a holding penalty stalled the drive. St. X then ran out the remainder of the clock.
Wolford was pleased with his offense, especially in the first half.
“We were feeding our studs with Sam Taylor and Desmond and a pretty good offensive line,” he said. “They executed really well in the first half, for sure.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
MALE 7 0 0 14 – 21
- XAVIER 12 16 3 0 – 31
SX – Desmond Ridder 9 run (kick failed); SX – Ben Seger 3 run (pass failed); M – B.K. Smith 14 pass from T.J. Thomas (Erik Sorensson kick); SX – Austin Eisert 2 run (run failed); SX – Ridder 1 run (Owen Johnson kick); SX – Johnson 21 FG; SX – Johnson 27 FG; M – Smith 13 pass from Thomas (Sorensson kick); M – Dayveon Higgs 8 pass from Cam Chesher (Sorensson kick).
First downs 17 12
Total yards 269 324
Rushes-yards 26-31 49-279
Comp-Att-Int 23-43-3 5-9-0
Passing yards 238 45
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Punts-avg 4-38.5 7-28.4
Penalties-yards 7-70 7-32