Moeller Nabs GCL South Title In Thriller Over Elder

CINCINNATI, Ohio – The Moeller Crusaders trailed by 10 points in the third quarter but found a way to comeback and defeat the Elder Panthers 24-21 at Nippert Stadium for its first GCL-South title since 2013.

Kevin Thibodeaux kicked a 28-yard field goal with 2:14 left in the game to give the Crusaders what turned out to be its final lead. 

That’s usually enough time for the high-powered Elder offense to drive the field for a go-ahead score. However, the Moeller defense lead by defensive end Ryan Mullaney squashed the hopes for some late game heroics by the Panthers.

Mullaney forced two incomplete passes during the final Elder drive and sacked Elder quarterback Michael Bittner two more times. Mullaney’s sack of Bittner on 4th-and-5 from the Moeller 36-yard line salted away the game and the title for the Crusaders.

Elder took a 21-11 lead in the third quarter with 7:09 left. Kyle Trischler, who caught 10 passes on the night for 153 yards, tip toed down the sideline for a 10-yard touchdown score.

Moeller did not blink as it got its sluggish offense into gear. On the ensuing possession, Thibodeaux booted a 43-yard field goal, one of three on the night, cutting the deficit to 21-14.

The Crusaders defense forced an Elder turnover on the first play of the fourth quarter when Braedon Junker intercepted a pass thrown by Bittner.

Moeller drove down the field, tying the score as quarterback Mitch McKenzie threw a 37-yard pass to R.J. Khayo. Khayo was tackled at the one-yard line but T.J. Rotello punched it into the end zone tying the score 21-21.

Thibodeaux was the game’s unsung hero making field goals from 34, 43 and the game-winner from 28 yards.

Elder’s offense outgained Moeller by a margin of 381-227 for the game with Bittner going 21-30 passing for 236 yards and one touchdown.

On Elder’s opening drive of the game Bittner was pressured out of the pocket. His pass was deflected on the release and intercepted by Andy Deyhle. The turnover resulted in a 34-yard field goal by Thibodeaux for the game’s first score.

Elder settled down and took advantage of a Moeller miscue to score its first points of the game. The Crusaders muffed a punt and Elder’s Jake Hofmeyer recovered it on the Moeller 23-yard line.

Two plays later Bittner scrambled 14-yards into the end zone giving Elder a 7-3 advantage.

Early in the second quarter, Chrystopher Watkins capped a seven-play drive with four-yard touchdown run. The Crusaders successfully converted a two-point conversion on a running play by Rotello flipping the lead back to Moeller 11-7. 

The Panthers took over on the ensuing possession and Bittner led them on an 11-play drive scoring on a one-yard touchdown run.

Elder had a chance to score late in the first half. On 4th-down-and-12 play near midfield, Elder set up to punt the ball back to Moeller. Ben Deters took the snap and ran over the right end of his offensive line racing to the first down marker extending the drive. 

The Moeller defense stiffened once again preventing Elder’s high powered offense from scoring as the two teams went to locker room with Elder leading 14-11. 

With the win, Moeller head coach Doug Rosfeld becomes the first rookie head coach to win the GCL-South title since Steve Specht of St. Xavier accomplished the feat back in 2004.

Elder 7-7-7-0 – 21
Moeller 3-8-3-10 – 24

M – Kevin Thibodeaux 34-yard FG
E – Michael Bittner 14-yard TD run (Sam Harmeyer kick)
M – Chrystopher Watkins 4-yard TD run (Run good by TJ Rotello)
E – Michael Bittner 1-yard TD run (Sam Harmeyer kick)
E – Kyle Trischler 10-yard catch from Michael Bittner (Sam Harmeyer kick).
M – Kevin Thibodeaux 43-yard FG
M – T.J. Rotello 1-yard TD run (Kevin Thibodeaux kick)
M – Kevin Thibodeaux 28-yard FG

RECORDS: Elder (4-3, 1-1); Moeller (6-1, 3-0)
UP NEXT: Elder vs. Winton Woods (5-1); Moeller @ St. Ignatius (4-2).

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