Centre College had an undefeated regular season with a 10-1 overall record including a Southern Athletic Association Conference Championship, which resulted in the Colonels receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. This was only their second appearance in school history, but their second in the last four years. They fell to John Carroll in the First Round of the Playoffs, but needless to say it was a big year for Centre.
How do you improve upon that? You go out and get more great players to add to the impressive group of talent that is already on campus in Danville. When you scroll through that list of talented players on the Centre roster, one thing sticks out and is repeated over and over. Hometown/High School: Louisville, Ky. / St. Xavier.
Four Former Tigers were on the 10-1 Colonel Football team last season and two of those were major contributors. Wide Receiver Jake Johnson ’12 and Defensive Back Alex Mattingly ’12 made huge plays throughout the season to keep that unblemished record for ten straight weeks. Ryan Askin ’14 and Sam Gray ’14 were new members of the team and will compete for playing time this fall.
That number of Former Tigers is about to double as FIVE of the Tiger Football Class of 2015 is headed to be Colonels this year. Jaylon Hibbs, Kyle Oliver, Michael Ackerman, Lowell Brown and Ben Logsdon have all committed to play for Centre. One other Tiger is also still deciding on where he wants to play and his choices include Centre and Kentucky. Lexington Catholic and Manual also have a handful of former players in Black and Gold, but not NINE. Head Coach Andy Frye must like what he sees coming out of Louisville, specifically Poplar Level Road. It’s like he’s trying to be Chip Kelly from the Eagles and take a whole bunch of kids from a Green and Gold school.
To get all of these guys headed in the same direction, there wasn’t a big meeting called by one of the five pledges to Centre, but instead they all came to the same conclusion on their own for the most part.
“Actually, I didn’t talk to anyone.” was the response Ackerman gave to the question of whether or not they teamed up and made the decision together. “I just love the atmosphere on the campus and on the field and the coaches accept you like family.” That family just gained five really good players.
The now Former Tigers all looked at their options on where they wanted to play at the next level and it just so happened that they all had roster spot offers from Centre and that was where each individual thought they would have the best opportunity to play at the next level.
For Oliver, it also had to do with the coaches, but mainly the academics. “A big part was how good of school it was,” he commented. “I really like the coaching staff especially Coach (Carter) Conley who is the defensive coordinator.” The Tiger Football linebacker also added, “We get to play football with each other for four more years and be a part of a great program.”
While Ackerman didn’t do much talking to the others about his decision, Oliver was helping recruit the guys to play with him at the next level. He said that it was a big deal for them to all get to play together again because they loved playing with each other. Kyle was even encouraging the others to take overnight visits down to Danville with him.
Once they were at Centre, they had plenty of familiar faces to welcome them. Oliver’s older brother, Ryan, played with Mattingly and Johnson, so they were always encouraging their friends little brother to come see what Centre had to offer. Ackerman said Johnson was a big help in his decision to go there.
The recent success of the Colonels obviously has stood out to these guys as they’ve made their college decisions. There is no doubt that Centre will have another big year and that will probably be thanks to some of our guys that will surely make an immediate impact, the minute they step on campus this fall. The college version of St. Xavier may be forming down the highway in Danville, Ky. They might as well go ahead and rename the 220 year old College, Tiger Tech.
Friday night in enemy territory was not a night that Saint Xavier Football will want to dwell on for too long.
The Tigers lost to district-rival Male by a final line of 30-13. It was raining for most of the night, which made for less-than-desirable conditions on the field. After the game, players were covered with dirt and mud.
This was a tough game. In the first half, both the offense and defense were simply whipped by the Bulldogs. Male led 24-0 at halftime.
St. X Head Coach Will Wolford was adamant during the break that the team could not continue to play the same way. St. X is better than what they showed in that first half, and both Wolford and the players know it.
So, in the second half, the Tigers showed they were better.
“I think part of it was Kyle Oliver,” senior outside linebacker Clark Campbell said of his fellow senior linebacker. “He always gets us motivated every game. He said something that just ticked us off, and we needed that motivation in the second half.”
The Tigers took the second half by storm, as senior quarterback Noah Houk engineered a touchdown drive right out of the gate. His 1-yard sneak into the endzone made it 24-7, and then all momentum completely shifted to St. X’s side.
Senior cornerback Davey Sermersheim blocked a Bulldog field goal attempt on the ensuing Male possession, and Campbell scooped up the ball and returned it into Male territory. Although the Tigers didn’t get any points off of the stop, it reversed field position, which St. X later capitalized on.
After Male running back Ellis Cain fumbled inside his own ten-yard line, senior St. X running back TaiJon Smith cashed in with a 5-yard touchdown tote to make the score 24-13, after a failed PAT.
From there, though, the Tigers could not muster up any more points. Houk threw three fourth quarter interceptions, and the Bulldogs picked up an impressive victory.
But this loss isn’t really anything St. X should worry about. In fact, the Tigers should feel better about their chances of earning the school’s first football State Championship since 2009 after their effort against the top-ranked team in Kentucky.
Male features the most potent offense in the state. Bulldog quarterback Davis Mattingly is special, and he has two elite weapons with him, in Cain and senior wide receiver Keion Wakefield. But St. X intercepted Mattingly once in the first half, and allowed exactly zero points to the Male offense in the second half (Male’s second half touchdown was courtesy of a pick-six in the first quarter. The Bulldogs’ two-point conversion failed.).
The St. X defense played well, but the effort wasn’t up to the players’ standard.
“I definitely think we can play better than that,” said Campbell.
For the St. X offense, we have seen that the one key that supersedes all the rest: turnovers.
When the offense doesn’t turn the ball over, great things happen; the best offensive performance of the season came against Trinity, which just so happened to be a game where the Tigers did not turn the ball over at all.
It does sound oversimplified, but it’s true. Bottom line, when St. X’s offense doesn’t turn the ball over, it’s a great unit. Houk, Smith, the receivers and the line just have to show it against more than one good opponent.
Although nobody can blame the weather conditions for the loss, the Tigers will obviously fare much better when the field is dry.
Fortunately for the Tigers, they have two big games to end the regular season; St. X takes on Manual at home next week, and after a bye week, the Tigers will travel up to Cincinnati to take on Cincy St. X.
I know this offense has the talent to match the defense. It just isn’t quite there yet. If the squad can have two more Trinity-esque performances to end the regular season, St. X will be that team that nobody wants to play in December.