Following a disappointing 2008 season, the St. Xavier Bombers didn't garner much respect heading into the 2009 campaign. A strong senior class and new influx of talent quickly changed that though.
St. Xavier rolled to an 8-2 record during the regular and went undefeated in conference play as they earned yet another GCL South title. Their title hopes got cut short with a second-round playoff loss to their arch rivals, the Elder Panthers.
Let's take a game-by-game look at St. Xavier's 2009 campaign:
GAME #1 - ST. XAVIER 16, COLERAIN 0 It what has become one of the area's best rivalries of non-conference opponents, the Bombers beat Colerain in a slugfest at Nippert Stadium in the Crosstown Showdown. St. Xavier kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard while limiting them to just 179 total yards of offense. Place kicker Robert Leonard got the scoring started with a 21-yard field goal in the first half. Sophomore running back Conor Hundley made his varsity debut a memorable one as he rushed for a season-best 161 yards and two touchdowns to lead the way.
GAME #2 - ST. XAVIER 19, INDIANAPOLIS CATHEDRAL 10 The Bombers traveled to Lucas Oil Field, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, to tangle with Cathedral. After trailing 10-9 at intermission, St. X would outscore Cathedral 10-0 in the second half to secure the win. Senior quarterback Luke Massa led the way with his best effort of the season, completing 13 of his 20 passes for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Classmate Alex Longi pulled five catches for 91 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown and Hundley caught the score. The sophomore halfback added 123 yards on 21 carries in the victory.
GAME #3 - ST. XAVIER 24, ST. XAVIER (LOU) 7 For the second straight week, St. Xavier was made a long bus trip and once again they came out on the winning side of the ledger. The defense shutdown the eventual 6A Kentucky State Champions by holding them to just 180 total yards of offense. Senior Will Carroll came up with an interception and a sack to lead the defense. Massa and Longi connected for two touchdown plays and Hundley kept things moving on the ground, carrying the ball 18 times for 112 yards.
GAME #4 - ST. XAVIER 43, TRINITY 13 Playing in their first home game of the season, the Bombers didn't disappoint their fans as they thoroughly dominated Trinity. They raced out to a 27-0 lead in the first quarter and led 43-0 at the half before pulling most of their starters. Massa shined his limited action by going 6-for-8 for 101 yards and throwing three touchdowns. Carroll, Nate Ley, and Jeff Kramer each came up with a touchdown catch. On the ground Hundley, Nigel Muhammad, and Daniel Braswell all found their way in the end zone as St. X rolled up 307 yards of total offense. Sean Duggan came up with an interception and Jake Rumpke picked up a fumble recovery in the win.
GAME #5 - HIGHLANDS 12, ST. XAVIER 7 St. Xavier traveled to Ft. Thomas in one of the most-anticipated games of the season as they faced their third straight team from the Commonwealth, the Highlands Bluebirds. The game was televised nationally on CBS' College Sports TV. Both teams had their share of miscues through the first half, with a safety giving the Bluebirds a 2-0 halftime lead. The Bombers struggled to contain Highlands' quarterback Will Bardo, who finished with 51 passing yards and ran for 135 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with an injury. Massa would connect with Jeff Kramer for 16-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late. St. X mustered just 2.6 yards per carry, but stayed in the game with key plays on defense. Nick Weston shined on that side of the ball coming up with an interception and a fumble recovery.
GAME #6 - ST. XAVIER 17, ELDER 7 The Bombers bounce backed nicely from their first loss of the season as they opened up conference play by hosting Elder. St. Xavier took a 3-0 lead early, but fell down 7-3 after Mark Miller connected with Alex Welch for a touchdown. The defense would not buckle again for the Bombers. They completely shut down the Panthers' running game holding to just 5 yards in the game. Muhammad had two of the team's six sacks and Duggan added a sack and an interception. Muhammad scored the team's first touchdown on a 7-yard run and Massa put the game away when he hit Carroll for a 35-yard touchdown.
GAME #7 - ST. XAVIER 24, LASALLE 7 St. Xavier fought through rainy, cold conditions to advance to 2-0 in the GCL-South and win the battle of North Bend Road. It was St. Xavier who drew first blood as Tanner Vidal took it 18 yards for the touchdown on a direct snap. LaSalle didn't waste much time tying the game back up, as quarterback Andrew Kummer marched the Lancers down the field and scored on a one-yard keeper making it 7-7. The rest of the game was all St. Xavier, starting with Leonard's 24-yard field goal with 5:50 left in the first half. Then Nate Ley scored on a 21-yard run to make it 17-7 heading into the locker rooms. Massa was 10 of 18 for 51 yards with a touchdown, a third-quarter 9-yard strike to Carroll to round out the scoring.
GAME #8 - ST. XAVIER 3, ST. EDWARD 2 The lone points of the game for St. Xavier came on a 27-yard field goal by Leonard in the second quarter. St. Edward had a chance late in the game and came up with a fourth-quarter safety to cut the deficit to one point, but the Bombers' defense held their ground and secured the win. Massa completed 17 of his 25 passes for 158 yards, with five of his passes being pulled in by sophomore running back Connor Hundley for 44 yards. He added 78 more yards on the ground on 25 carries. Seniors Greg Versteeg and Carroll each had an interception in the Bomber's victory.
GAME #9 - ST. IGNATIUS 30, ST. XAVIER 21 Four turnovers doomed the Bombers as the made the trip north to face Ignatius. Both offenses produced solid numbers as the teams combined for 663 total yards. Massa completed 20 of his 31 passes to eight different receivers, but his two interceptions proved costly. St. Xavier struggled to stop Robert Grebenc, who finished with 134 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
GAME #10 - ST. XAVIER 13, MOELLER 10 St. Xavier parlayed two turnovers and a power-running game into a 13-10 victory. The win gave the Bombers the GCL South title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Division I, Region 4 playoff. The Bombers dominated the time of possession as they held the football for nearly 33 minutes behind a strong effort from Hundley. He finished with 97 yards on 20 carries, including several key runs. Massa accounted for the Bombers' lone touchdown, an 8-yard pass to Jeff Kraemer. Senior defensive back Patrick Guetle came up with a key fumble recovery and an interception late in the game to lockdown the victory and earn him recognition as our Gold Star Chili Star of the Week.
GAME #11 - ST. XAVIER 37, CENTERVILLE 12 It didn't take long for the Bombers to get on the board. Only a little over a minute into the game, Massa found Tanner Vidal in the endzone for a 23-yard touchdown reception. On the next St. Xavier possession, running back Connor Hundley put the Bombers up 13-0 with a 10-yard touchdown run. Centerville cut the lead in half with a touchdown of their early in the second quarter. Next, Nathan Gerbus forced a Centerville fumble that was returned by the Bombers for a touchdown once again giving his team a two-score advantage. After that it was all St. Xavier. The Bombers took a 27-6 lead to the locker room at the half. St. Xavier would allow the Elks, a team that had averaged 36 points per game during the regular season, only one more score the rest of the way. Centerville was held to 90 yards rushing. The Bombers were able to score twice more in the game on a 31-yard Leonard field goal and Longi's second touchdown of the evening. Longi led the Bombers with 82 yards receiving. Massa was 14-of-17 for 194 yards and three touchdowns.
GAME #12- ELDER 17, ST. XAVIER 14 Unlike their first match-up of the year with Elder, St. Xavier couldn't stop the Panthers' rushing attack. That helped open up the passing game and allowed Elder to take a 17-0 lead into the fourth quarter. The Bombers wouldn't go away though. They finally got on the scoreboard with a 1-yard Muhammad touchdown run three minutes into the fourth quarter. After a big stop, the Bombers added another score when Massa connected with Carroll on an 18-yard scoring strike with 3:29 to play in the contest. It would be as close as St. X would get as Elder's defense would come up with a final stop to seal the game. Massa finished the night by completing 20 of 28 passes for 221 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Hundley was held to 57 yards on 16 carries in the defeat.
MILESTONES AND MORE: --Quarterback Luke Massa completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In two-plus varsity seasons Massa threw for 3,496 yards and 28 scores despite missing significant time due to injuries. He has verbally committed to Cincinnati.
--Sophomore running back Conor Hundley finished the season as the GCL's top rusher with 1.054 yards on 199 carries.
--Defense was a big part of the Bombers' success. They only allowed 9.8 points and 212 total yards per game and did even better in league play, ceding only eight points per contest.
--Offensive tackle Matt James, a four-star recruit, was named First-Team All-State in Ohio's Division I and was an anchor for three plus seasons up front for the Bombers. Defensive back Will Carroll was named Second-Team All-State, linebacker Steven Daniels was named Third-Team All-State and Nigel Muhammad garnered Special Mention All-State honors.
--The Bombers finished 3-0 in the GCL South and now have posted a 15-3 record (not including postseason) inside the conference since 2004, with all three losses coming in 2008. Their league title was the fifth crown for the school in five years.
--After his 9-3 finish this season, head coach Steve Specht now sits at 64-12 as the head coach during his six years at the school.
**The St. Xavier Bombers have been nominated as one of six finalists for QueenCityHigh.com's Cincinnati Team of the Year. The award will be handed at our Cincinnati Year In Review show at Buca di Beppo at Rookwood Commons in Norwood on Thursday, January 14th, 2010. The event is open to the public. Cost for admission is $15 per person and includes family-style Italian buffet. For further details and to RSVP to the event CLICK HERE**