Final score: St. Xavier 30, Trinity 6
Game MVP: Rolandan “Deuce” Finch (19 carries, 154 yards, 1 TD).
Key stat: Trinity 3 turnovers, St. Xavier 0
Key play: 13-yard TD pass from Matt Brutscher to Stephen Goodwin on third down late in the third quarter to answer Trinity touchdown.
Series total: St. Xavier 34, Trinity 30, 2 ties.
Record crowd: 38,872
Previous top crowd: 37,252 (1998).
Fun Fact: Bob Beatty lost his first-ever game in October for Trinity after winning 31 straight.
Road to Papa John: Click Stephens column.
Keeping Their Wits: See game preview.
Game highlights: See Weekend Drill with Steve Montoya.
By Mitch Stephens
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The clear and comfortable weather led to the largest crowd in the storied 66-game history of the St. Xavier and Trinity rivalry on Friday.
But make no mistake, a lightning bolt was the key to St. Xavier’s convincing and highly satisfying 30-6 victory before 38,872 fans at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville.
The Tigers broke open what very much looked like another classic finish between the Louisville and national powers by striking for three touchdowns in a three minute, eight second-span starting late in the third quarter to help avenge last year’s stinging 34-28 overtime loss to the Shamrocks in the State 6A title game.
Senior quarterback Matt Brutscher threaded the needle on a pair of intermediate touchdown passes and the game’s Most Valuable Player, Rolandan “Deuce” Finch (19 rushes, 154 yards, 1 TD) scored on a 4-yard as the Tigers, ranked 17th nationally by MaxPreps, improved to 5-0.
No. 16 Trinity, which made three costly turnovers, two during the decisive run, dropped to 4-1.
St. Xavier, which held the Rocks to just 68 yards rushing on 31 carries, now has a 34-30-2 lead in the series that dates back to 1956. Afterward the Tigers, with more than 100 players, sprinted to their cheering section and many jumped into the crowd.
Many rivalry games aren’t won by the best team, but on this night the Tigers were superior.
“We came out and had something to prove,” Brutscher said. “Last year definitely stung. Tonight we wanted to prove that we’re the best team in the state and I think that’s what we did.”
Said St. Xavier 6-foot-8, 248-pound defensive end Trevor Foy, who has committed to Purdue. “This is definitely payback. They made my life miserable since last December. Now they can feel it for a while.”
Considering recent history, the Rocks may not be stinging as sharply as Foy wishes. Two of the last three years Trinity has lost in the regular season only to upset St. Xavier in the state finals.
“It was a good win for us, a great win, but we have to keep moving forward,” warned Finch, a 5-10, 200-pound senior who has interest in Illinois, Stanford, Louisville and Northwestern.
The Tigers moved well in all facets of the game, mixing a strong running game (32 carries, 261 yards) with timely passing.
Besides Finch, gifted 5-9, 176-pound junior Jermiah Neal added 91 yards on just eight carries including a 59-yard burst late in the first quarter to set up his own 5-yard TD run that led to a 10-0 halftime lead.
On defense, they definitely bent as nimble Trinity quarterback Cameron Smyth was able to get out of the pocket and complete a high percentage of passes (24 of 36, for 265 yards).
“But we tackled him and we tackled him hard,” St. Xavier coach Mike Glaser said. “We’re a good tackling team and a physical team though we’re not real big. That (physical) is the way we want to play.”
Indeed the Tigers, who got an interception from D.J. Hall, fumble recoveries by Nick Sears and Jermaine Dorsey, and fine all-around efforts all around, bent all night but never broke. They stiffened whenever Trinity threatened and the three turnovers proved pivotal.
“Our defense was awesome,” Brutscher said. “They pressured (Smyth) all night. I don’t think he ever felt comfortable.”
The Tigers were a little after their comfort zone when Smyth led Trinity on 57-yard march to start the second half, capped by a 15-yard scoring strike to Rob Melilo, who was crunched as he caught the ball and appeared to go out at the one.
The line judge ruled he made it to the end zone and after John Taylor blocked the extra point, Trinity had climbed to 10-6 with 5:26 left in the third quarter.
“Our coach told us that great teams respond to great challenges,” Finch said. “And that’s just what we did.”
The Tigers traveled 69-yard in 11 plays, finished off with a pretty 13-yard scoring toss from Brutscher to Goodwin on a third down and 5 to go. The Tigers led 16-6 with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
“When I looked up I saw (Trinity’s) Brock Messina running with Stephen,” Brutscher said. “But then Stephen just outran him. The seam was right there and (Goodwin) ran a perfect route.”
Brutscher’s toss on the post pattern was perfect, however his first pass of the drive was almost a disaster. He threw it right in the hands of a defender who dropped it.
Later in the drive, Brutscher threw a beautiful 50-yard bomb that was dropped by a teammate.
“You just got to keep going,” Brutscher said. “You just have to keep moving forward.”
After a Trinity first down, Smyth fumbled and Sears recovered at midfield. It took St. Xavier just three plays to get back in the end zone as Brutscher scrambled for 13 yards, Finch rushed for 19 more and on the second play of the fourth quarter, Brian Bauscher ran an almost identical route as Goodwin and hauled in an 18-yard TD pass.
“They jumped a screen pass and that left the seam open,” Brutscher said.
Smyth, who spread the ball to eight different receivers, forced his only throw on the next series and Hall, a 5-11, 191-pound senior, intercepted at the Trinity 25.
The Tigers then opened a huge hole for Finch who rambled for 16 yards and after an offside penalty, he cashed in with the game’s final points, a 4-yard TD run over the left side with 10:20 remaining.
Again, the hole was wide and Finch was barely touched as he went.
“Our line really did a nice job,” Glaser said. “That was a good one. We couldn’t have drawn it up much better.”
Trinity coach Bob Beatty told the Louisville Courier-Journal: "We didn't win on either side of the line. We got beat up there."
E-mail Mitch Stephens at email@example.com.
St. Xavier 30, Trinity 6
Trinity 0 0 6 0 - 6
St. Xaiver 0 10 6 14 – 30
SX – Jermiah Neal 5 run (Wyatt Gray kick), 11:35
SX – FG, Gray 20
T – Rob Melilo 15 pass from Cameron Smyth (kick blocked), 5:26
SX – Stephen Goodwin 13 pass from Matt Brutscher (kick failed), 1:28
SX – Brian Bauscher 18 pass from Brutscher (Gray kick), 11:49
SX – Finch 4 run (Gray kick), 10:20
First downs: Trinity 21, SX 18
Rushes-yards, Trinity 31-68, SX 32-261
Passing, Trinity 24-36-1-265, SX 9-17-0-105
Total yards: Trinity 333, SX 366
Turnovers, Trinity 3, SX 0
Penalties, Trinity 8-50, SX 1-15
Trinity, Cameron Smyth 11-44, Tim Phillips 19-20, Jordan Whiting 1-4. SX, Rolandan Finch 19-154, Jermiah Neal 8-91, Matt Brutscher 4-16.
Trinity, Smyth 24-36-1-265. SX, Brutscher 9-17-0-105.
Trinity, Rob Melilo 7-52, William Leach 4-66, Sean Carrico 4-30, Scott Radcliff 3-40, Jeff Kraemer 2-20, Phillips 2-17, Scott Radcliff 1-23, Evan Morris 1-17. SX, Stephen Goodman 2-33, Daniel Nall 2-17, Brent Sweeney 2-16, Brian Bauscher 1-18, Austin Jones 1-16, Aaron Bottner 1-5.
1) Our first taste of Kentucky football was as savory as the local fried chicken: crisp play, great tackling, fantastic play-calling. Everyone involved between the two schools couldn’t have been more hospitable or genuine.
2) At least with these two specific teams, not enough blinding breakaway speed or big physical kids to be considered national championship quality. Conditioning, coaching, attitude and preparation is all national champion caliber.
3) For more than 38,000 high school fans, the crowd was remarkably well-behaved. We’re not saying folks were sitting on their hands. The opposite. The cheering sections were wild, zany and fun. This was a true slice of Americana at its very best. It’s what I’ll take back to California and remember most.
4) St. Xavier running back Deuce Finch is an absolute gamer. He limped noticeably with a right knee brace during walk through on Thursday, but ran with abandon on Friday. “Adrenalin,” he said with a wide smile after this one.
5) Considering how many passes Trinity quarterback Cameron Smyth completed (24) and how beautifully he spread them out (eight different receivers) and how many would-be tacklers he evaded, it’s hard to believe the Rocks scored only six points.
6) Trinity coach Bob Beatty told us on Thursday that the Rocks were missing a couple offensive linemen to injury. It was obvious – especially the loss of starting center Brett Kapfhammer – that their running game, or lack thereof (31 attempts, 68 yards) wasn’t 100 percent.
7) There were many memorable moments on the three-day trip, but witnessing the pep-rally rants of a cross-country kid (doing the most entertaining Knute Rockne speech we’ve ever seen) and football grunt John Taylor (who later blocked an extra point) were jewels only captured in high school sports. We feel fortunate to capture such a ripe and unbridled age. (See video of the rants next week).
8) If there’s a media favorite in town it must be another unapologetic, wear-his-emotion-on-his-sleeve sort in 6-8, 248-pound Trevor Foy, of St. Xavier. He says what he feels and judging from his words he feels a lot. I’m going to root for this guy.
9) Truly, as hokey as it sounds, it’s hard not to root for any of these kids. They were all polite and impassioned and hard working. Never noted a prima donna attitude or bad body language. Somehow I don’t think these no-nonsense staffs would put up with it.
10) NFL Films was on hand in Louisville to examine and report on one of, if not, the nation’s top football rivalries. Their documentary of the week is scheduled to air Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. on CBS. Considering the quality NFL Films has maintained for four decades to seeing how hard their guys worked to how much access they received, it’s a can’t miss segment. Don’t miss.