Coming into Friday's Ohio Division I state championship game, Jalen Patterson
had caught five touchdown passes the entire season. He nearly matched that in the first quarter as the St. Xavier (Cincinnati)
wide receiver caught four scoring strikes from Brogan McCaughey
and the Bombers rolled to a 44-3 win over nationally-ranked No. 1 seed Pickerington Central (Pickerington)
at Fortress Obetz.
McCaughey threw for nearly 300 first-half yards on 22 of 33 passing and the four scores in a game that featured a running clock after intermission. He added another TD on a 1-yard scamper — ironically one play after Patterson's 38-yard reception saw him fall just short of the end zone.
The Bombers quarterback found Patterson for a for 14-yard post-route TD on their first possession. St. Xavier went up 9-0 on a safety forced by Grant Lyons
, who had a monster game on defense.
Two plays after the free kick, McCaughey started to scramble and found a wide-open Patterson for a 35-yard TD hookup after the cornerback came up to defend the run. The duo also connected on 14-yard and 9-yard slants as Patterson tied an Ohio state championship receiving record.
Friday's game was the first meeting between St. X and Pickerington Central since 2016, a
29-27 semifinal win for the Bombers that propelled them to a double-overtime state title victory
over St. Ignatius (Cleveland). The 2020 victory over Pickerington Central was not nearly as close, but just as sweet for coach Steve Specht.
"The fact these kids were able to overcome all this craziness (in 2020) ... God love 'em," he said in a streaming postgame interview. "They're state champions."
Meanwhile, the Tigers, who came in averaging 257 yards rushing, failed to get any traction on offense. Ranked No. 11 nationally by MaxPreps, Pickerington Central went three-and-out on three of its first five possessions while the other two resulted in a turnover and safety. The Tigers didn't pick up a first down until the waning moments of the first quarter.
Pickerington Central had under 20 yards rushing in the first half, something Specht credited to guys like Lyons and nose guard Giovanni Albanese
Pickerington Central got on the board with a 27-yard field goal just inside the start of the second quarter, but St. X answered with two more touchdowns, including a 60-yard punt return from Gabriel Dubois
The loss ended Pickerington Central's unbeaten season, quest for back-to-back titles and a third crown in four years