Preview: Elder at St. Xavier

The Blitz 5 Tour starts the back half of the 2019 season in grand fashion as it makes a stop on North Bend Road for an epic GCL South battle. Top-ranked St. Xavier will host #2 Elder in the historic 100th meeting between the two schools.

The rivalry that started back in 1923. The two teams have squared off every year since 1930 with 1929 being the only season they haven’t played (since ’23). Elder leads the series 51-42-6.

The contest has all the makings and hoopla to be a special night. Count on that happening as bragging rights for the gridiron kings of the Queen City are at stake.

#2 ELDER PANTHERS (4-1, 0-0) at #1 ST. XAVIER BOMBERS (5-0, 1-0)
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
St. Xavier Stadium, Tom Ballaban Field
Follow on Twitter @TSFootball

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Seniors OL Luke Kandra, OL Jakob James and TE Joe Royer are the nucleus of an outstanding Elder offensive front. James and Royer have verbally committed to Ohio State, Kandra has said yes to Louisville. The backfield has reaped big benefits behind the talent in front of them. Classmate QB Matthew Luebbe has amassed 1,433 yards of total offense (1,020 pass, 413 rush), averaged 8.3 yards per carry, completed 65.1 percent of his passes and counted for 16 touchdowns (11 pass, five rushing). He has connected with Royer 24 times for 433 yards and six touchdowns over the last three games. In that span, Royer has gone over 100 yards receiving in each with the last two being for 161 and 166 yards. The duo of senior RB Joe Catania and junior RB Cooper Johnson have combined for 445 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Sophomore WR Drew Ramsey brings explosiveness and a totally different vibe to the offense when he is in the game. Ramsey has 17 catches for 242 yards, 140 yards rushing and five touchdowns (one pass, one rush, three rec).

The St. Xavier offense all starts with QB Matthew Rueve. The senior has been nothing short of sensational, throwing for 1,314 yards and 13 touchdown passes with no interceptions. Rueve has thrown at least to touchdowns in all five of the Bombers’ wins. His top target is junior WR Liam Clifford, who has 41 receptions for 631 yards with six trips to the end zone. Clifford has offers that include Cincinnati, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Duke, Kentucky, Pitt and Tennessee. Northwestern-bound TE Marshall Lang has hauled in 26 catches for 286 yards and four scores. The St. Xavier rushing attack has been decent with senior Kellen Newman leading the way. Newman has run for 364 yards and five touchdowns.

TEAM TRENDS: The Elder defense is allowing 28.0 points and 394.2 yards per game, including 230.2 yards on the ground. Four of the Panthers’ top six tacklers are defensive backs. The other side of the ball is a different story. Elder is on pace to put up 4,000 plus yards of total offense for the year. Six players have scored all but six of the Panthers 213 points – Royer (50), Johnson (36), K Sam Harmeyer (35), Catania (30), Luebbe (30) and Ramsey (26).

St. Xavier has allowed 24 first-half points in each of its past two games. The Bombers have given six touchdowns of 57 yards or more in the first half of games this season. They have been burned for passing scores of 88, 80, 70 and 66 yards, a 57-yard run and a 99-yard kickoff return. The second half has been a completely different story. St. Xavier has given up just 27 total points after halftime in games played this season. They have held four of their five opponents to seven points or less in second halves of games this year.

ELDER’S KEYS TO VICTORY: The defensive line has not been good against upper-level competition. They must get Rueve on the run and flush him out of the pocket. That will give the linebackers and secondary the chance to come up with takeaways. In a game like this a score from the defense could very easily be the difference in the final score. The offense can score with the best of them, but needs to build an early lead. Exploiting the Bombers’ vulnerability to the long pass will go a long way. If the Panthers can get a cushion that will afford the Elder defense opportunities to cut it loose.

ST. XAVIER’S KEYS TO VICTORY: The special teams and defense needs to eliminate the Panthers’ big plays in the first half. Those have been momentum killers for the Bombers. That won’t be easy with against this potent Panthers’ offense. The defense needs to stay at home, in their lanes, be disciplined on assignments and bring it for a full 48 minutes, not just after intermission. Establishing the run early could lead to a big night for the St. Xavier aerial attack.

Prediction: ST. XAVIER 31, ELDER 27

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