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Like a good suspense movie Moeller kept their fans on the edge of their seats on every stop along their 2011 journey. The Crusaders endured incredible highs and devastating lows as they fought their way to the Division I, Region 4 finals for the first time since 2004.
The team peaked at 7-0 before running a gauntlet in October that led to three straight defeats to end the regular season. From there, the Crusaders pushed into the playoffs and had three very memorable battles during their stay in the post-season.
It was one wild ride on the rollercoaster, but Big Moe found a way to squeeze the most out of each thrill around each turn.
Let’s take a game-by-game look at Moeller’s 2011 season:
GAME #1 – MOELLER 14, PICKERINGTON CENTRAL 0: Every last bit of Moeller’s victory over Pickerington Central was a struggle for the Crusaders to earn in the 2012 opener. In the end it would be a pair of touchdown passes from Spencer Iacovone to Keith Watkins that would the difference. Pickerington set up to punt at its own 27-yard line when Moeller senior Mitch Catino blocked the punt and Steven Anderson recovered it on the 12-yard line. Moeller appeared to score a touchdown, but it was called back on an illegal procedure penalty. On the next play Iacovone connected across the middle with Watkins for a 12-yard touchdown reception. That gave the Crusaders a 7-0 lead going into the locker room at halftime. Moeller came out on a mission after break. They drove the ball 67 yards on 10 plays to take a 14-0 lead on a 4-yard toss from Iacavone to Watkins. Despite being held to 1-of-11 on third-down conversions the Crusaders still amassed 221 yards of total offense. The Moeller defense stole the show. They held the Tigers to 24 yards on the ground on 29 totes. Kevin Robinson-White registered 1.5 of the Crusaders’ 5.0 sacks.
GAME #2 – MOELLER 68, HAMILTON 7: What a difference a week made for the Moeller offense as the unit asserted itself big time. The Crusaders shredded the Hamilton defense for 503 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns. The special teams even scored when Max Foley returned a punt 41 yards for a score in the fourth quarter. The Moeller defense held the Big Blue to 110 total yards, just five first downs and did not let them into the end zone. Hamilton’s only touchdown came on a Marcus Oliver interception return. In all, seven different Crusaders crossed the goalline. Iacovone threw three touchdown passes. In his 2012 debut, Monty Madaris hauled in three receptions for 107 and two touchdowns. Watkins and Brian Burkhart each found the endzone twice rushing before the start of the fourth quarter. Garrett Morrissey, Watkins, Madaris and Foley all had at least 91 all-purpose yards as the Moeller skills players made things happen all night.
GAME #3 – MOELLER 63, NORTHMONT 12: Sometimes the guys up front don’t get the credit they deserve, but the Moeller offensive line should be showered with all kinds of superlatives in their domination of Northmont . The Crusaders rolled up a 494 yards of total offense. Iacavone threw a career-high four touchdowns with 168 yards through the air. He also ran for a score. Madaris was on the end of two of Iacavone’s scoring tosses. John Tanner and Morrissey also had touchdown receptions. Morrissey gained a team-high 93 of the teams 308 yards rushing as Watkins, Burkhart and Ricky Davis also ran for scores. Just eight seconds after Moeller scored for the first time defensive back Tyler Williford returned an errant Thunderbolts’ pass 24 yards for a touchdown and the Crusaders were never threatened the rest of the way. Williford’s pick was one of three takeaways for the Big Moe defense. Austin MacEachen had an interception and Gabe Stivers recovered a fumble for the victors.
GAME #4 – MOELLER 27, LOUISVILLE ST. XAVIER 10: The marquee was set and Madaris had his name in the bright lights Friday night as Moeller held off Louisville St. Xavier for their fourth straight win to start the season. The Crusaders receiver had seven receptions for 207 yards with touchdowns of 80, 49 and 46 yards. Davis threw two of those scores to Madaris and finished with 159 yards through the air. Iacavone had a rushing and passing touchdown with 127 yards through the air. Ironically, Moeller lost the time of possession battle by 8:32, but were still able to bust out 423 yards of total offense.
GAME #5 – MOELLER 27, ST. XAVIER 24: For the third time in the teams’ last four meetings, the Moeller Crusaders came out on top over their GCL South foes, the St. Xavier Bombers. Moeller built a 27-10 lead less than five minutes into the second half, but would have to hold off the Bombers, who scored 14 unanswered points to set up a thrilling finish. Conor Hundley got St. Xavier on the board first when he ran in a score from five yards out one play after the Bombers’ Nathan Gerbus recovered a fumble by Iacovone. The Crusaders responded. Iacovone capped off an 85-yard drive with a one yard scoring plunge to knot the game at 7-7 after the first 12 minutes. The Crusaders took the lead less than three minutes into the second quarter when Watkins punched in a score from 11 yards out. He added a second touchdown on a 3-yard run eight minutes later making the score 20-7. A St. Xavier field goal pulled them to within 10 at halftime. Moeller linebacker Shane Jones intercepted a Bombers’ pass on the first drive of the second half. Iacovone would make St. X pay when he plunged in from a yard out at the 7:35 mark of the third quarter to give Big Moe a 17-point lead. The Bombers would get some help from Moeller when Joe Barrett recovered a fumble and ran it 17 yards for a touchdown pulling St. Xavier to within 10 heading into the fourth quarter. With 1:55 left in the game Hundley would score to make it a three-point game. The Bombers defense would force the Crusaders into a three-and-out on their following possession setting up one final shot for St. Xavier to tie or win the game. The Bombers drove the length of the field setting up a game-tying, 32-yard field goal attempt by Nick Roemer. The senior drilled his first attempt, but it was wiped away as Moeller head coach John Rodenberg called his last timeout before the snap. The move paid dividends as Roemer sent his second kick wide right as the Crusaders held on for a three-point win. Moeller won the game despite turning the ball over four times. They held an advantage in total yards by outgaining St. Xavier by a 316-to-239 advantage, including outrushing the Bombers 146 to 142 yards. Watkins finished with 118 total yards and two touchdowns to lead the Crusaders. Iacovone completed 12-of-20 passes for 170 yards and was intercepted twice. He did manage 42 yards and two scores on the ground. Madaris caught five balls for 97 yards in the win.
GAME #6 – MOELLER 35, LA SALLE 13: In a driving rain Moeller played to their strength and it paid off big time as they handled their GCL South rival LaSalle by 22 points. Iacavone was too much for the Lancers’ defense to handle. The junior quarterback ran for 159 yards, threw for 215 yards and had one touchdown rushing with two more passing. His partner in crime on this evening was Madaris. The senior hauled in eight catches for 197 yards and three scores. It marked the second time in three weeks that Madaris caught at least seven balls for at least 197 yards and three touchdowns. It was also his fourth multiple touchdown game in the last five tilts. Watkins ran for a score and Davis came off the bench to throw one pass good for a 33 yards scoring strike to Madaris. The Crusaders’ defense was solid once again. They allowed just one offensive score for the fourth time this year. Moeller has not given up more than two offensive scores in a game this season. Linebacker Tyler Williford intercepted his first pass this fall and lineman Brian Markgraf recovered a fumble to account for Big Moe’s two takeaways.
GAME #7 – MOELLER 36, ELDER 10: The dream start to the 2011 campaign continued for Moeller. The Crusaders defeated Elder handily to win their first outright GCL South title since 1997 and remain unbeaten at 7-0. Watkins scored three touchdowns on a 16-yard reception, two-yard run and an 80-yard kickoff return all in the last 24:06 of the contest. The junior ended up with 178 all-purpose yards on 23 touches. Iacovone completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Tanner with 1:25 left in the first quarter to give Big Moe the early lead. He would also connect with Mike Means and Watkins on scores before halftime. Iacavone finished with 175 yards passing and the three touchdown tosses. The Crusaders defense put the offense in good field position all game long. They held the Panthers to just 150 yards of total offense. Markgraf registered 2.0 of the team’s 4.0 sacks while Catino and Williford came up with interceptions. The road doesn’t get any easier for Moeller as their final three games are against teams that are reigning state champions from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
GAME #8 – CATHEDRAL 26, MOELLER 24: Moeller was ousted and jousted by Cathedral as the Crusaders fell from the ranks of the unbeaten. A last second 40-yard field goal from Drake Myers doomed what was looking like a magical season for the boys from Montgomery. The Irish laid down the hammer as the forged out to a 17-3 halftime lead. Moeller looked very ordinary as they only mustered 108 yards of total offense in the first half. The Crusaders caught some life in the second half. Iacovone ran for a touchdown and threw one each to Madaris and Watkins. The junior signal caller ended up with 243 yards passing. Madaris caught seven balls for 164 yards and his 11th touchdown reception in the loss. Three turnovers on the evening were enough to put a real damper on all that Moeller accomplished offensively. Cathedral used a balance attack to rack up 433 yards of total offense. It was the most yards (by 70) the Crusaders had given up all season. Only Louisville St. Xavier had racked up more than 264 yards against Moeller. The loss ended the Crusaders' bid for a national championship. They entered the week ranked sixth in the nation in the RivalsHIGH 100.
GAME #9 – ST. EDWARD 42, MOELLER 27: Moeller entered an angered Eagles’ nest on Saturday and came out on the wrong side of the fight as St. Edward handed the Crusaders their second straight loss. Moeller jumped out to an early lead behind two Watkins’ rushing touchdowns, but 21 unanswered, second-quarter points by the Eagles and two costly turnovers by the Crusaders proved to be the difference. St. Ed’s quarterback Ryan Fallon enjoyed a career day. The junior completed 19-of-25 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns, all of which went to Anthony Young, who finished with 152 yards. Quincy Jones added 106 yards and six catches. Watkins finished with 126 yards on 20 carries to go along with the pair of scores. Iacovone connected with Madaris for a pair of scoring passes. The junior with finished with 183 yards passing and added 37 more yards on the ground in the defeat.
GAME #10 – LOUISVILLE TRINITY 49, MOELLER 14: Moeller’s Friday night’s loss to Trinity made for a sour end to what started off as such a promising season. The Crusaders dropped their third straight game and it was by an alarming 35 points to the Shamrocks, who are clearly one of the best teams in the nation. Moeller was in the game in the first half. After falling behind 14-0, the Crusaders cut the lead to seven early in the second quarter on an Iacovone one-yard touchdown run. It would be the closest they would get to Trinity the rest of the night. The Shamrocks, who are ranked No. 2 in the nation in the latest RivalsHIGH 100, added one more score before the break and ran away with the game in the second half. The Moeller defense had no answers for Shamrocks’ running back Dalyn Dawkins, who finished the night with 153 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. Big Moe added a late score on a Davis to Foley, 32-yard touchdown strike. Despite the loss, Moeller limps into the Division I, Region 4 playoffs with a home tilt against backyard rival, Sycamore. It marks the 10th straight trip to the post-season for the Crusaders.
GAME #11 – MOELLER 31, SYCAMORE 21: The Backyard Battle between the Moeller Crusaders and the Sycamore Aviators was like a heavyweight fight, with both sides throwing knockout punches. In the end it was Moeller that prevailed, winning 31-21. Sycamore jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the second quarter off a pair of touchdown runs from quarterback Kyle Sess. The first was from a yard out and the latter coming on a 27-yard scramble. Moeller did not panic. The Crusaders entered the game riding a three-game losing streak after starting the season 7-0. They would break out of their funk. Big Moe strung together a six-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown run by Burkhart to cut the lead to 14-10 at the half. The Moeller passing attack came to life a bit after the break, highlighted by a third quarter, 27-yard touchdown pass from Iacovone to Madaris as the Crusaders took their first lead of the game. After the Aviators’ offense stalled out, Moeller added to the lead as Madaris turned a reverse into a 33-yard touchdown with just over seven minutes left in the game to give the Crusaders a two-score edge at 24-14. Sess would drive Sycamore back down the field and cut the deficit to three with a 3-yard touchdown run. The senior finished his final game of his career with 172 yards and three scores on 30 carries. Burkhart added a second score of his own to give Moeller some insurance as he took one into the end zone from four yards out with a little over a minute left in the game. With the win the Crusaders moved on to face top-seeded Middletown at Nippert Stadium.
GAME #12 – MOELLER 42, MIDDLETOWN 30: In a game that saw five first-half lead changes and 861 yards of total offense it was Moeller that prevailed 42-30 over Middletown. It was a wild affair that had the two schools successful on nine of their 11 red zone scoring chances between them. With the win the Crusaders advanced to the Division I, Region 4 finals for the first time since 2004. Middletown quarterback Jalin Marshall ran for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The junior was outstanding making play after play to answer every Moeller scoring drive. The Middies would rack up 419 yards on the ground and outgained the Crusaders by 91 yards on the night. Middies tailback EJ Junior tallied 66 yards and a score and classmate Cody Quinn also found the goal line in defeat. Middletown won the time of possession battle by 8:22, but still ended up 12 points short. Big Moe found a cast of characters that came up with big plays in clutch situations. Not to be overshadowed by his counterpart, Crusaders' quarterback Iacovone scored Moeller’s third, fourth and final touchdowns on short keepers. The team's fifth score was a 43-yard scoring strike from Iacovone to Madaris just before the third quarter ended. Iacovone ran for 40 yards and threw for just 82 more, but his will to win became more evident as the game wore on. Madaris touched the ball seven times and racked up 129 all-purpose yards on the night. The contest's most unsung hero was Crusaders running back Burkhart. His hard-nosed running up the gut of the Middletown defense cleared the way for a career-high 122 yards and a touchdown as he filled in for starter Watkins, who was out because of injury. Burkhart had never run for more than 62 yards in a game before tonight. His 18 carries were 10 more than he had ever had in a game. The senior’s hard running style helped Moeller control the fourth quarter clock as time elapsed on Middies comeback hopes. The difference in the contest ended up being the Crusaders ability to convert on third and fourth downs. Moeller was 8-of-13 in keeping crucial drives alive. In contrast Middletown was just 3-of-11 on third down and 3-of-6 on fourth-down conversions.
GAME #13 – ST. XAVIER 35, MOELLER 21: St. Xavier avenged a regular season loss by beating Moeller 35-21 in to win the Division I, Region 4 championship game at Nippert Stadium. The Crusaders, who had not won the region since 1997, trailed at halftime 21-7 but took control of the third quarter with a stingy defense and a pair of offensive touchdowns. After each team traded turnovers, Madaris made a diving 39-yard touchdown catch to cut the lead to 21-14. The senior would finish with 108 yards rushing and six receptions for 63 yards. Iacovone followed up Madaris’ score with a 7-yard touchdown run in the final seconds of the third quarter to tie the score 21-21. With 5:11 left in the game and all of the momentum on Moeller’s side, St. Xavier quarterback Griffin Dolle put together an eight-play, 90-yard drive that gave the Bombers the winning score. Dolle, who was held in check most of the game going 10-for-18 with 108 yards, made a pair of clutch pass completions when he needed them the most. He hit Kevin Milligan with a 25-yard strike and Ryan Frey with a 15-yard bullet to give the Bombers first-down at the Moeller 39-yard line. The Crusaders were expecting another pass play but what they got was Conor Hundley sprinting up the middle through a huge hole provided by his offensive line for the go-ahead touchdown. Big Moe still had plenty of time too at the very least get a tie as they got the ball back with 3:39 left in regulation. On fourth-and-eight, Iacovone threw one of his three interceptions on the game, and linebacker Nathan Gerbus returned it 66 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach 35-21. Moeller actually outgained St. Xavier 401-330 in total offense for the game, but the Bombers earned 35 first downs compared to 21 for Moeller.
MILESTONES AND MORE
--Moeller won its first outright GCL South Championship since 1997.
--Moeller made their 10th straight playoff appearance. That is the longest current streak amongst all Division I schools throughout the state. The Crusaders have now made 30 post-season appearances going 36-23 with seven state championships, four runner-ups and 11 Regional titles.
--Offense: Averaged 33 points per game with 58 total touchdowns while running for 2,233 yards and passing for 2,474 more.
--Defense: Compiled 23.0 total sacks to go along with 19 takeaways.
--John Rodenberg in four years at Moeller is now 32-14 and 114-78 overall.
--Monty Madaris - Earned Division I Southwest District Offensive Player of the Year, GCL South Offensive Athlete of the Year, Division I First Team All-Ohio and First-Team All-TriStateFootball.com honors. He caught 56 balls for 1,137 yards and 16 touchdowns. Madaris finishes his career with 121 receptions for 2,024 yards and 25 touchdown catches. He also compiled 2,572 all-purpose yards and 30 total touchdowns in a Crusaders uniform. Madaris heads to East Lansing to play his college ball for Michigan State.
--Keith Watkins – One of the top prospects at the skill positions in the Class of 2013, Watkins averaged 31.1 yards with a touchdown on kickoff returns. The junior racked up 1,169 yards and 14 total touchdowns earning him First-Team All-TriStateFootball.com honors as a return specialist. He already has an offer from Cincinnati.
--John Tanner – Hauled in 13 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns on his way to First Team All-GCL South and Second Team All-TriStateFootball.com honors as a tight end. He will suit up for the Ohio Bobcats in 2012.
--Spencer Iacovone – The junior threw for 1,926 yards with 22 touchdown passes on his way to First Team All-GCL South accolades. He also ran for 579 yards and 11 scores. Iacovone heads into his senior campaign with 2,322 yards passing, 26 touchdown passes along with 612 yards rushing and 11 scores on the ground.
--Dillon Kern - The senior had a nose for the football and was a tackling machine for the Crusaders. He finished with a sack, a fumble recovery and an interception. He was a First Team All-GCL South and Division I Second Team All-Southwest District member. He will play for Akron next fall.
--Kevin Robinson-White was a First Team All-GCL South and a Division I Second Team All-Southwest District member after a 3.5 sack campaign as a senior.
--Mitch Catino, Eric Lalley and Alex Gall were named First Team All-GCL South selections. Gall who is only a junior has already received an offer from Kentucky. Lalley led the team with 5.0 sacks as he closes out a great career.
--Tyler Williford - The senior led the Crusaders with four interceptions on his way to Second Team All-GCL South honors.
--Shane Jones - The junior registered 2.0 sacks with two interceptions and a fumble recovery on his way to Second Team All-GCL South honors. Jones heads into his senior campaign with offers on the table from Cincinnati, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.
Greg is a co-founder of TSF and is now entering his ninth season as a Featured Analyst for the website. The Xavier University grad also serves as the Content Manager for the website and is widely considered one of the top high school football experts in the region. If you are interested in covering your team, please CONTACT US.