For a game formally designated as a Great American Rivalry – so said the massive inflated football beyond the north end zone of Papa John’s’ Cardinal Stadium — Trinity-St. Xavier is starting to feel a bit lopsided.
The Shamrocks’ 35-13 victory Friday night made it 11 out of 12 for the boys from Shelbyville Rd., a stretch of sustained dominance more indicative of competitive imbalance than compelling drama. Such things can be cyclical in sports, but inasmuch as this particular cycle predates the breakup of Destiny’s Child, it has become more than a little monotonous.
“They’re a highly ranked team and they certainly deserve their ranking the way they played tonight. . .” St. X coach Will Wolford said Friday night. “They were just much more physical than we were. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of season left. Tonight, they were obviously the better team.”
This much was clear from the outset, as St. X was slow to gather momentum on offense and repeatedly unable to slow Trinity’s methodical scoring drives. And yet, with less than one minute left in a game that was long since lost, St. X quarterback Desmond Ridder climbed atop a metal bench for a better look at the field and senior linebacker Braidon Washburn shouted from the sidelines as Trinity prepared to take a knee, “Let’s go defense.”
Yet to watch the Trinity players, both during and after the game, was to see a high school team operating with striking cohesion and singular purpose. Though the Shamrocks generally moved the ball in short bursts and long, grinding drives, they would pick up the pace without losing a step, dictating tempo and wearing down the defense.
“They scored on each set of possessions,” Wolford said, wistfully. “I’d like to see them stop them.”
Good luck with that. Trinity quarterback Spencer Blackburn, named the game’s outstanding player, completed 15 of his 21 passes – two of them for touchdowns – and scored himself while accumulating 115 yards rushing. Faced 13 times with third-down situations, Trinity converted 10 times.
“We were just executing,” Blackburn said. “We had a good game plan going into this and stuck to it, playing at a fast pace and just executing.”
At times, it almost seemed as if Trinity was toying with St. X, advancing the ball just far enough to earn a fresh set of downs. This was football as trench warfare, where superior physicality was most obvious.
“We feel like we’re one of the best-conditioned teams in the state and we use that to our advantage,” Blackburn said. “Make the opponent fatigued.”
Trinity’s conditioning is not only physical, but mental. To watch coach Bob Beatty de-brief his team after the trophy presentations was like watching a drill sergeant address his troops after three weeks of boot camp.
With his players kneeling near midfield, Beatty stood in the center of their semi-circle, posing a series of rhetorical questions.
“What we did Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, good things will happen,” Beatty said. “Understood?”
The reply, in unison, was, “Yes sir.”
“Maybe you’ll have a better idea when I talk about when we learn how to practice, you will be successful,” Beatty continued. “We’re not there yet. Don’t want to be there yet until Bowling Green. Am I clear?”
“It’s about we,” Beatty said. “It’s not about coming from one place or another. It’s about we. Understood?”
“I’ve said it a million times. Don’t care if you’re black, white green or white, I don’t care. When you come to Trinity, it’s about we. Am I clear?”
Here, Beatty closed his show with an announcement, declaring that upon cleaning the locker room, the players would be allowed to take Saturday off.
There were cheers. Nothing like beating your rival.
Tim Sullivan can be reached at (502) 582-4650, email@example.com or @TimSullivan714 on Twitter.