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St. X vs. Trinity Positional Breakdown: Defensive Line

Sophomore defensive end Max Willinger has had a huge season on the varsity squad. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Sophomore defensive end Max Willinger has had a huge season on the varsity squad. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

The battle in the trenches often goes unnoticed, but tonight’s game is different.  Besides it being the biggest high school football rivalry, St. X versus Trinity features two massive units that you will want to watch: the defensive line.  This position very well maybe the strength of both defenses.  Whichever line wins the war at the line of scrimmage will probably cop the victory after the fourth quarter horn sounds.  Let’s take a look at the behemoths on the Tiger and Shamrock defensive front.

St. Xavier Depth Chart

-#94 Will Edwards-DE 6’0″ | 215 lbs. | Senior

-#79 Ethan Adams-DE 6’2″ | 210 lbs. | Junior

-#95 Max Willinger-DE 6’2″ | 221 lbs. | Sophomore

-#77 Christian Fell-DT 6’2″ | 270 lbs. | Senior

-#92 Carson Kehres-DT 5’11” |315 lbs. | Senior

-#54 Kaleb South-DE 5’11” | 215 lbs. | Junior

-#76 Tucker Donlon-DT 6’0″ | 271 lbs. | Junior

 

St. Xavier Overview

Saint Xavier’s defensive line is ferocious, and it is headed by senior Will Edwards, an absolute monster.  That is literally the best way to describe him.  He is just mean, and fortunately, that is a good thing.  He is quick, smart and physical; he can beat a tackle off the edge or bull rush through him.  He digs his hand into the turf each down with a mission, and he completes that mission more times than not.

There are plenty of guys behind him as well.  Ethan Adams, Max Willinger, Christian Fell, and Carson Kehres know how to use their size to their advantage, and it’s interesting to watch how they get it done.

They never wow you, outside of Edwards making plays, but they are just so solid.  They don’t get a lot of sacks or tackles for loss, but they hold their ground.  They pressure opposing quarterbacks just enough to make them uncomfortable; they don’t get a ton of penetration, but they plug holes so effectively.

A lot of times, you can’t even tell they are winning down there, but they are grinding, and all of a sudden, they string two or three huge plays together.  Then you’re just like, “Wait.  Those guys are pretty good.”

This unit is special.  They not only disrupt the flow of opposing offenses, but they free up space for the linebackers to shoot in and clean up whatever slips by the line.

Trinity has played some very good teams, but I’m not sure they have met a defensive line like the Tigers’.

Trinity Depth Chart

-#56 Connor Foos-DE 6’4″ | 250 lbs. | Senior

-#91 Landon Corolla-DE 6’3″ | 232 lbs. | Senior

-#47 Adam King-DT 6’0″ | 260 lbs. | Senior

 

Trinity Overview

When I take a look at the Shamrock defensive line, the size stands out.  Connor Foos is rather large.  Landon Carolla is a big boy.  Adam King is just massive.

St. X has decent size; Trinity has outstanding size.

King is a stud.  He has had multiple impressive performances already this season, including a contest against Philadelphia Imhotep Charter High School, where King totaled four tackles for loss and completely stifled Imhotep’s star running back, Tyliek Raynor.  He is very versatile, as he can play inside or outside and be effective.  He will command a double team.

Trinity’s defensive line is the anchor of the defense.  Linebacker Zach Berger told me it is the backbone of the unit.

“It all starts with the defensive line,” Berger explained.

“They are very good at stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback,” said safety Alex Reisert.

These guys have the ability to overwhelm an offensive line, so St. X better be ready.

EDGE: Both of these groups are just menacing.  It is going to be a war of attrition in the trenches.  Much like the linebacker position, each group has a strength.  St. X has more depth, and Trinity has more size.  Which one will reign triumphantly?  My guess is as good as yours.  I’m calling a draw between these defensive lines.  They are both so good, and their talent will be more than noticed when the lights come on at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

St. X vs. Trinity Positional Breakdown: Running Back

TaiJon Smith could have a signature performance Friday night. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

TaiJon Smith could have a signature performance Friday night. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

The running game is the strong suit for both offenses heading into Friday night. It could very easily come down to which star tailback can find holes in the opposing defense.

St. Xavier Depth Chart

– #22 TaiJon Smith- 5’9”| 177 lbs.| Senior

– #34 John Martinez- 5’9”| 180 lbs.| Junior

– #23 Chase Rowan- 5’11”| 167 lbs.| Junior

 

St. Xavier Overview

Historically, St. X is a school that breeds outstanding running backs. Victor Anderson, Deuce Finch, Lamont McMurry, Devontae Beach, Austin Davis, Treyveon Percell, Charles Walker. I could rattle them off all day long. Soon, another young man will be added to that list of legendary St. Xavier running backs. His name is TaiJon Smith and he is ready to run all over the Rocks tomorrow. All year long the Tigers have depended on Smith to carry them on offense, especially when it was struggling. TaiJon has been there in every game and has not disappointed. In the two losses on the season where the Tigers were shutout, Smith was the only positive on offense. He gained a combined 101 yards on 35 carries in those two games. He knows how to read a defense and says he has no plans to slow down on Friday night.

“I plan on playing the game the way I know and constantly looking to move the ball down the field,” he says.

Simple enough, TaiJon. Smith’s breakout game was against Bryan Station when he shredded the Defender defense for 178 yards on a whopping 32 carries. He has scored four touchdowns on the season and couldn’t have done it without his backfield mate, John Martinez. At a solid 180 lbs. for his 5’9” frame, Martinez is a load and is hard to take down once he gets moving. He is the perfect complement to Smith and can provide a much needed change of pace for the running game. Martinez is capable of reeling off 50+ yard runs in the blink of an eye and can be a dynamic, game-changing back. He had a field day against Bryan Station as well, gaining 82 yards and scoring a touchdown on just 10 carries. If the offensive line can hold up, which it has in the run game up to this point, then watch out for this powerful one-two punch coming out of the Tiger backfield.

 

Trinity Depth Chart

– #19 Donald Brooks- 5’11”| 185lbs.| Senior

– #34 Jailen Reed- 5’10”| 200lbs.| Junior

– #3 Jody Osborne- 5’6”| 150lbs.| Junior

 

Trinity Overview

Donald Brooks is a beast. That is honestly the best way to describe him. Through 6 games, he leads the state with 924 yards and has scored 12 touchdowns. If you think those numbers are staggering, get this: he is averaging 154 yards per game on the ground. That’s more than some high school offenses can gain in an entire game. Brooks is without a doubt the center of the offensive game plan for the Rocks and is the number one player on the Tiger defense’s radar tomorrow night. Stopping him is a must in order to win. Brooks is the clear-cut feature back for Trinity and will get the bulk of the carries tomorrow night. The thing that makes him so dangerous is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and turn it up the field in no time. His complement in the backfield is junior Jailen Reed, who makes the most of his opportunities when he is in the game. Reed’s ability to relieve Brooks is important because his running style is different and slows the game down for the offense.

Quarterback Ryan Young said each of the Shamrock tailbacks has a certain skill.

“Donald’s strength is his power and quickness through holes, Jailen is more of a power back, and Jody is a straight speed back.”

Young appreciates his running backs’ abilities, and he should, because they help relieve him of pressure and make defenses respect them.

EDGE: In a comparison of two fairly equal backfields, I have to give Trinity the edge in this one. There are a few key advantages that the Rocks have over the Tigers. The first is that Brooks is simply averaging a lot more yards than any Tiger tailback and seems to be on top of his game right now. This is not a knock on Smith who is playing very well this season, but Brooks has been dominant. The second advantage is that the Rocks have three backs that are all healthy and are all logging minutes in every game. Chase Rowan has been the starter for the first two years of his St. X career and has been very good, but has been battling constant injuries this season that have kept him from seeing significant playing time. Once he is healthy, look out. So I’m giving Trinity the edge here because they have three fully healthy and fully experienced backs whereas the Tigers have one that is still getting back into the groove of things. Just because I am giving them the edge does not mean that I think Smith, Martinez and Rowan can’t be better than Trinity’s trio tomorrow night. You can never count out a Tiger.

St. X vs. Trinity Positional Breakdown: Wide Receiver

 

Blake Roshkowski could have a big night against the Rocks. | Photo by Jack Arnold

Blake Roshkowski could have a big night against the Rocks. | Photo by Jack Arnold

The passing attack for both St. X and Trinity will be huge, as each leans heavily on the run game. The Tigers go a solid six deep at wideout, and Trinity’s receiving corps is led by a slew of juniors.  Whoever can complement the running game through the air most effectively will likely win this game.

St. Xavier Depth Chart

– #21 Jaylon Hibbs- 6’0”| 181 lbs.| Senior

– #17 Mason King- 6’2”| 164lbs.| Senior

– #25 Michael Ackerman- 5’7”| 158 lbs.| Senior

– #16 Griffin Ackermann- 5’10”| 175 lbs.| Senior

– #37 Blake Roshkowski- 5’10”| 167 lbs.| Sophomore

– #2 Colin O’Daniel- 5’11”| 140 lbs.| Junior

 

St. Xavier Overview

The Tiger receiving corps is experienced and deep with four seniors serving as primary targets for quarterback Noah Houk. As I mentioned earlier, the passing attack Friday night is crucial for the offense to have success. TaiJon Smith will need a few plays off and I look to the receivers to provide those necessary moments of rest. Senior Jaylon Hibbs is a freak athlete who will go up in jump ball situations and come down with it just about every time. He leads the receivers with two touchdowns on the season. Lining up in the slot on the other side of the field is Michael Ackerman who is a burner. Ackerman is comparable to a Wes Welker, Percy Harvin or Brandin Cooks type of receiver. When he gets the ball in space, watch out. He is notorious for catching short passes and taking them deep into an opponent’s territory. The offense runs a lot of screens for Michael and he is a definite threat when the ball is in his hands. Senior Mason King provides Houk with a nice, tall target and has come up with some big catches this season in crunch time. Junior Colin O’Daniel and sophomore Blake Roshkowski provide the true depth of the receiving corps. Both are known for their ability to take the top off of a defense and reel off big chunks of yards after the catch.

I asked Michael Ackerman about what he thought makes the receiving corps such a threat to secondaries.

“I think the biggest threat we have is that all of us are dangerous. It’s hard to lockdown on 3 or 4 receivers at one time,” he said. “You can’t double team us all.”

 

 

Trinity Depth Chart

– #10 Rodjay Burns- 6’2″|175 lbs.| Junior

-#80 Dalton Jones- 6’2″|175 lbs.| Junior

– #21 Santo Biddix- 5’9″ | 160 lbs. | Junior

– #13 Jake Woosley- 5’10”| 170 lbs.| Junior

– #1 Connor Carrico- 5’7”| 145 lbs.| Junior

 

Trinity Overview

The Trinity corps is not nearly as deep nor experienced as the Tigers, but they are talented. There is a clear-cut number one receiver for the Rocks and his name is Rodjay Burns. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you will. Burns can set the tone of the game in just one play. His quarterback, Ryan Young, spoke glowingly of the two-way star.

“He just really has a feel for the game, he runs great routes and can go get the ball at its highest point when he needs to.”

Junior Dalton Jones is a big target and is a nice counterpart to Burns. In the Rocks’ close victory over Cocoa, Florida, Jones was the difference maker catching 2 passes for 43 yards, both of which went for touchdowns. On the other side of the field, Santo Biddix is a reception monster and can provide a change of pace in the passing game with his short, slashing routes.

 

EDGE: Both teams have formidable pass catchers that can break a game open in no time. It’s tough to say which one has the edge, but I’m going to side with the Tigers and here’s why: experience. These receivers roll deep and have learned from talented players who came before them. The trio of Ackerman, Hibbs and King have built up great chemistry with their quarterback and know how to get open when it matters. The deep play ability of the underclassmen is very important as well. It will be tough for the Tiger Defense to slow down the Rocks’ receivers, especially Burns, but they will be up for the task. In an almost even matchup, I’m giving St. X the slight advantage over Trinty at wide receiver.

St. X vs. Trinity Positional Breakdown: Quarterback

 

Noah Houk has an opportunity to make a statement against the Shamrocks. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Noah Houk has an opportunity to make a statement against the Shamrocks. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Quarterback play is always important, and it will be the most talked about aspect of Friday’s game and will assuredly help decide who reclaims the shillelagh.  Let’s take a deeper look at the guys lining up under center on Friday night.

St. Xavier Depth Chart

– #14 Noah Houk- 6’4”| 190 lbs.| Senior

– #8 A.J. Breit- 6’0”| 172 lbs.| Junior

-#13 Corey Chitwood- 5’10”| 170 lbs.| Junior

 

St. Xavier Overview

Noah Houk has been waiting for this moment for a very long time. Being the starting quarterback for St. X High School and leading them against Trinity on Friday night has been one of his goals since he was balling at St. Margaret Mary as a kid. Houk wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps and lead the Tigers to victory on Friday night in an attempt to break the current seven-game losing streak to the Rocks. And let me tell you, he is more than capable of doing so. Even though the stats might not show it right now, Noah is an elite passer. He can put the ball exactly where he wants to, when he wants to. Flashback to last year during this time, and Houk was resurrecting the offense against Central and then receiving monumental reps against Trinity as he replaced BJ Nagle. If any further proof is necessary that he can be “the man” for the Tigers against Trinity, click here to learn about how he was the last St. X quarterback to defeat the Rocks. Houk is confident, Houk is ready and Houk is the man.

In order for St. X to pull out a victory, Noah explained that ball security has to be the number one priority.

“We cannot have any turnovers. Turnovers have been the only thing that has stopped us this year.”

He went on to add that tomorrow night may be ‘The Game,” but that’s not going to cause him to change his mental preparation.

“Mentally I’m treating it like a normal game. I’ve been watching a lot of film and working hard in practice this week, but as far as my routine goes, I’m not changing anything,” he said.

Don’t worry, Tiger Nation, Noah’s got everything under control.

 

Trinity Depth Chart

– #16 Ryan Young- 6’0”| 181 lbs.| Senior

– #15 Larry Harper III- 5’9”| 163 lbs.| Sophomore

 

Trinity Overview

The Rocks have alternated back and forth between Harper and Young throughout the first half of the season and found success with both. Young started off the season with 235 yards passing through two games but failed to find the end zone and instead threw interceptions in two early season losses. Harper got the start in the next game against Imhotep (PA) and threw for 59 yards on 7-11 passing. The next game he went 15-25 for 245 yards but threw two interceptions. Young returned the next week and threw for a touchdown in a win over Cocoa (FL). Last week, Young put on a clinic against annual Indiana powerhouse Cathedral High. He threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns while only misfiring on one pass (27-28). Young will be the starter for Trinity tomorrow night and says he is confident entering into the game.

“I’m pretty confident. I just need to treat it like I would any other game,” Young said.

Young’s key to victory: “Establishing a solid running game to set up our passing game.”

Young knows how to lead a football team and has already proven that he can bounce back and handle adversity well.

The young but ultra-talented Harper cannot be overlooked here, though.  Although his size suggests that he might have problems playing around much bigger guys, he has already proven this season he can play and play well against tough varsity competition.  He is a very mobile quarterback with deceptive agility.  In the JV game on Monday, he repeatedly displayed his elusiveness, as he juked, spun, and hesitated his way out of several dropbacks that would have been sacks for most other quarterbacks.  Even when a lineman has a clear shot at him, he is extremely tough to actually bring down.

If Young cannot go for any reason at any point during the game, the Shamrocks don’t really have any drop off in talent and ability from starting quarterback to backup quarterback, a luxury that St. X simply does not have.

 

EDGE: There is no definitive option between Young and Houk as to who the better quarterback is. You can’t go wrong with either one. Whichever quarterback’s offensive weapons show up more will determine the winner of this QB battle. As Houk said, turnovers will also be a huge factor. I think it will all depend on which quarterback can lead his offense to success early and put points on the board. Three and outs will do no good in this game and whoever can avoid those more will likely be more effective. In a close battle that could go either way, I’m siding with Houk and predicting a big performance from the Tiger QB: 215 yards and 2 TDs, but most importantly, ZERO interceptions.

St. X vs. Trinity Positional Breakdown: Special Teams

Jack Werner will have to execute perfectly tonight. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Jack Werner will have to execute perfectly tonight. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Our last preview is definitely not the least, as we could see this clash of titans come down to a field goal late.  It’s simple; if you take advantage of opportunities in special teams, you win a lot more ballgames.  Special Teams may not be as involved as the other facets of the game, but it is still responsible for the most exciting and momentum-shifting plays.  This game could be decided by special teams play, so let’s take a look at both sides.

St. Xavier Depth Chart

-#98 Michael Bennett-K 5’6″ | 147 lbs. | Senior

-#15 Ben Logsdon-K 6’2″ | 165 lbs. | Senior

-#17 Mason King-P 6’2″ | 164 lbs. | Senior

-#39 Mike Ervin-P 5’11” | 163 lbs. | Junior

-#83 Owen Johnson-K 5’9″ | 146 lbs. | Sophomore

-#2 Colin O’Daniel-KR 5’11” | 155 lbs. | Junior

-#21 Jaylon Hibbs-KR 5’11” | 175 lbs. | Senior

-#5 J.R. Johnson-KR 5’5″ | 145 lbs. | Senior

-#25 Michael Ackerman-PR 5’7″ | 158 lbs. | Senior

-#84 Jack Werner-LS 6’3″ | 183 lbs. | Senior

 

 

St. Xavier Overview

I will keep this one short and sweet because there are only a few things you need to know about St. X’s special teams.

Mason King is a fantastic punter.

Jack Werner is the best long snapper in the state.

Colin O’Daniel can take a kickoff all the way home at any moment.

Ben Logsdon and Michael Bennett bring a great combination of power and accuracy to the St. X kicking game.

 

 

Trinity Depth Chart

-#98 Andrew Deye-K 5’8″ | 160 lbs. | Senior

-#99 Jay Nunamaker-P 5’7″ | 155 lbs. | Junior

-#19 Donald Brooks-KR 5’11” | 185 lbs. | Senior

-#67 Kyle Gregory-LS 6’0″ | 228 lbs | Senior

 

Trinity Overview

While Trinity’s kicking game might not be the best, their kick returner is.  Donald Brooks is simply a speed demon as soon as he touches the ball, and it is dangerous to kick to him.  Regardless of how far away he is from the endzone, Brooks is always a threat to score.

Kyle Gregory is a nice long snapper, too.  He has great size, and uses that size well when making plays on kick coverage.

 

EDGE: Another gridlock.  I would give kicking and punting for St. X, but Brooks’ sheer ability in the return game warrants a lot of attention.  He is a game-changer, and there is no better place to change the complexion of a game than on special times.  It will obviously be fun watching these powers juke it out, but keep your eye out for special teams, for sure.  You will not regret it.