Tiger Football Drops the Defenders, 28-13
Saint Xavier Football played its first full game Friday night. It was certainly an exciting full game, to say the least.
Tiger Football defeated Bryan Station by a final score of 28-13 on the strength of senior running back TaiJon Smith. Smith had 31 totes for 159 yards, picking up big chunks of yardage all night long and consistently wearing down the Defender’s defense.
“Just the way their defense is, we had to put the ball on the ground a lot,” Smith said. “I think they still played it pretty well.”
Smith and junior tailback John Martinez were both able to have a big impact on this game, as Martinez rushed for 82 yards on 10 carries. The Tiger rushing game was deadly; St. X racked up 259 yards on the ground to Bryan Station’s 32.
The story of the night was junior linebacker Logan Butler. He finished the game with three interceptions, 0.5 sacks, and was named the Bluegrass Bowl MVP. He returned the first interception to the end zone on a wild play, spinning through multiple Defenders on his way to paydirt.
“I saw it on NCAA 14, the video game, once,” Butler explained. “I cut it all the way back, saw one guy, and I knew he was going to arm-tackle me, and I ran through it.”
Senior safety Jackie Arnold also added an interception, but Butler was the star of the show. Being named MVP of the Bluegrass Bowl is a great honor to him.
“It means so much,” Butler said. “I didn’t even know we were going to have an MVP. I was just playing football, and then they called my name. I was kind of shocked.”
Bryan Station scored the first touchdown of the game, but the 7-0 lead would be its last. Senior Tiger quarterback Noah Houk sneaked the ball one yard into the end zone from the goal line to tie it up, and then Butler’s pick-six on the ensuing Defender possession gave St. X a lead they would not relinquish.
Martinez added a scintillating 46-yard touchdown run, in which he bowled over two Bryan Station defensive backs and then dragged another Defender the final 15 yards to paydirt. At halftime, St. X sported a 21-7 lead.
The second half is when the Tiger defense began to settle in. Specifically, the front seven really stepped up.
“We were just trying to keep contain on this fast quarterback,” said senior defensive end Will Edwards, who had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery all in one play. “I think the key was making huge plays on third and fourth down. It was a big motivation-booster when we got stops on fourth down.”
Indeed, stopping the Defenders when it mattered most was a strength for St. X on this night. Bryan Station converted only one of five fourth down attempts, and St. X made two monumental stops late in the game. The first came when the Defenders were inside the Tiger 10-yard line and threatening in the third quarter. On fourth down and goal, senior cornerback Brandon Blaser batted away Bryan Station quarterback Dallas Bruton’s pass to the end zone to preserve a 21-13 score.
Then at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Tiger secondary came up big again, swatting another Bruton pass to the turf on fourth-and-four inside St. X territory. Butler’s third interception on the night with 2:48 left in the game all but sealed the final outcome.
Bryan Station managed to produce only a special teams touchdown in the second half, when they blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt by St. X senior kicker Michael Bennett and ran the ball all the way back for a touchdown. However, Edwards again made a big play by blocking the PAT attempt to make the score 21-13.
Houk then put the finishing touches on the game in the fourth quarter when he found senior wide receiver Michael Ackerman all alone on the right sideline for a 65 yard touchdown. Ackerman led St. X in receiving with 3 catches for 78 yards.
Houk did not have a sterling performance, however, as he went 8-18 with the one touchdown to Ackerman and three interceptions. Turnovers and penalties were issues for both teams, as St. X and Bryan Station each coughed the ball up 5 times; St. X had three interceptions and two lost fumbles, while Bryan Station had four picks and one lost fumble. Each team finished with six flags as well.
St. X will be on the road again next week, and this time they will clash with Bowling Green in a huge game. Bowling Green is eyeing Trinity’s consecutive wins streak, and they stormed Brother Thomas More Stadium in last year’s match-up. Game time is set for 8:00 p.m.