Football fans in Louisville have always flocked to a stadium to see the St. Xavier High School football team take on arch-rivals Trinity.
But in 1998, the annual series that began in 1956, changed for good as the game moved from the Kentucky State Fairgrounds to the University of Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Since then, the series has seen attendance increase to an average of 30-35,000 fans heading through the turnstiles for the regular-season matchup.
Interestingly, although the Tigers have lost 10 of their last 11 matchups with the Shamrocks, the Tigers have won each of the top five most-attended games.
Let’s take a closer look at the top five most-attended St. Xavier-Trinity games in series history:
5. Sept. 25, 1998 – St. Xavier 13, Trinity 9 – 37,252
It was a memorable night at PJCS as the two local football powerhouses hit the brand new college football field for the first time.
St. Xavier delighted their portion of the 37,252 fans with a win, as running back Benny Butler scored a 24-yard touchdown with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Butler finished with 75 yards on 13 carries, and the game story from that night notes Butler held the ball with two hands all evening to avoid fumbling.
On Trinity’s next possession after the touchdown, quarterback Dennis Edge led his team down the field but was threw an interception to Brice Edeburn, who was downed on the two-yard line with 2:06 left in the game. The Tigers were unable to get a first down on its possession, and instead of punting, coach Mike Glaser elected to take the safety and try and make Trinity drive a longer distance with less time on the clock to score.
At the time it was the largest crowd ever in series history, breaking the mark of 35,262 that was set in 1992 at Old Cardinal Stadium.
4. Sept. 24, 2004 – St. Xavier 38, Trinity 16 – 37,500
After preparing all week for St. Xavier’s running game, Trinity looked unprepared to shut down the Tigers assaults through the air.
The Tigers routed the Shamrocks, 38-16, on the back of a strong performance from quarterback Brent Curley, who was 21 of 23 for 181 yards, as well as nine carries for 26 yards and two touchdowns. Trinity scored first to open the game, but then gave up touchdowns on the Tigers next five possessions as it took a commanding first half lead.
The win was St. Xavier’s third of the season and a rebound game after losing to Cincinnati Moeller two weeks earlier. The Tigers went on to win the Class 4-A state title.
3. Sept. 28, 2007 – St. Xavier 24, Trinity 15 – 37,550
Unlike some of the other St. X-Trinity matchups, defense played a big role in this Tigers win.
The Tigers held off the Shamrocks, taking a 14-3 lead into halftime on its way to snapping Trinity’s then 26-game winning streak against Kentucky teams, as well as being back-to-back state champion. Trinity came into the game averaging 41.8 points per game.
St. Xavier won the game even after starting quarterback Ben Zoeller left the game with an injury after throwing a touchdown pass to Kevin Brinkman.
Trinity’s opening drive of the game lasted 9:02 and took 20 plays, aided by a St. X penalty on fourth-and-one. But the Shamrocks had to settle for a Zlatan Petrovic field goal for its first points of the game. Just two plays into the Tigers’ first possession, Zoeller handed off to running back Ben Finch, who scampered 58 yards for a touchdown to give St. X a 7-3 lead.
2. Sept. 23, 2005 – St. Xavier 48, Trinity 16 – 38,500
St. Xavier followed up its impressive 2004 showing with another rout of the rival Shamrocks.
The Tigers put up 456 yards of offense, including 364 yards on the ground as it pounded Trinity, 48-16.
“I thought there were going to be a lot of points; I just didn’t know we were going to be the only ones scoring,” St. Xavier junior running back Victor Anderson told the Courier-Journal following the game.
Anderson led St. X with 158 yards of rushing on 16 carries with a touchdown and he also had a touchdown reception from quarterback Brent Curley. Senior running back Michael Mattingly also had a great evening between the tackles, gaining 107 yards on 18 carries with four touchdowns.
The Tigers tied the most-points scored in the rivalry series, having also scored 48 points in 1956 and 1960.
Trinity got its revenge when it counted though; The Shamrocks defeated St. X in a rematch in the Class 4-A championship game, winning 14-6, at PJCS.
1. Oct. 3 2008 – St. Xavier 30, Trinity 6 – 38,872
St. Xavier lived up to its No. 1 ranking in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Rankings to that point in the season.
The Tigers thrashed the Shamrocks, 30-6, gaining 360 yards off offense against a team in Trinity that had held opponents to 4.5 points per game.
Four Tigers scored touchdowns, including running back Deuce Finch, who finished with 152 yards on the ground on 20 carries with a score. Quarterback Matt Brutscher was 9 of 17 for 104 and a pair of touchdowns.
The game was played in front of the largest crowd in series history and it was filmed by a crew from NFL Films. The Tigers also debuted yellow uniforms.
Once again, though, Trinity won when it mattered. The Shamrocks prevailed for the second consecutive year, knocking off St. X 28-21 in the Class 6-A semifinals, before routing Simon Kenton to give Trinity its fourth consecutive state title.