November 6th, 2010

Tigers Overcome Seneca's Smith, Win 48-33

Chris Jung

Senior Writer


Tigers Overcome Seneca's Smith, Win 48-33
photo by Chris Jung

Defending champ St. X moves on behind McMurry, Beach

When November football rolls around, the value of senior leadership is priceless.

Friday night, at Saint Xavier’s Brother Thomas More Stadium, the defending state champion Tigers got all they could handle from Seneca High School and five-star quarterback Damarcus Smith, but a group of five senior leaders stepped up big to lead St. X to a 48-33 win in the first-round of playoff action.

Things looked sour for the Tigers (9-2) at halftime, as Seneca (5-6) boasted a 13-7 lead and possession of the ball to begin the second half. But defensive end Anthony Brutscher gave his team the game-changing play it needed, as the senior halted a 60-yard drive by the Redhawks with a recovery of his own forced fumble on QB Smith, giving the Tigers the ball and a new found confidence on the field.

Less than a minute later, fellow senior Devontae Beach rumbled 57 yards for a touchdown in front of his team’s sideline, notching the score at 13-13. With a chance for Seneca to go up 20-7 or maybe more to start the third quarter, Brutscher’s effort changed the course of the contest.

“If they come out and do anything on that first drive, we’re really battling our mind,” said Glaser. “We told the kids off the bat that we’ve got to get a stop, and we’ll be fine. We’ve been pretty resilient and fought back all year long, and once we got that stop, I knew it was all over.”

It wasn’t quite over after that, but Glaser and Co. certainly took advantage of the momentum. On Seneca’s next drive, Brutscher got involved again and flushed Smith out of the pocket, chasing him to the sideline and forcing a broken throw on a big third down conversion attempt. The stop forced a Seneca punt that senior La’mont McMurry proceeded to return 48 yards, all the way down to the Seneca goal line.

McMurry, who had 222 rushing yards on the night, finished what he started with a one-yard run into the endzone, but a second straight missed extra point attempt from kicker Scott Raque only put the Tigers up 19-13, keeping Seneca within striking distance.

But on the ensuing kickoff, the Redhawks coughed up the return and St. X junior Alex Simpson returned the fumble to the Seneca seven-yard line. A minute later, quarterback Luke Brohm scrambled out to the right, cut back to run, and bullied his way over the goal line for a five-yard touchdown run. Glaser decided to “go for two” and kept the ball in Brohm’s hands, as the senior QB ran untouched for the two-point conversion and a 27-13 St. Xavier lead with five minutes to go in the third quarter.

“I knew they couldn’t stop us on offense…the only thing that could stop us on offense was ourselves,” said Glaser.

After a dramatic turnaround and the Tigers well on their way to a convincing opening round victory, the Redhawks’ Smith flashed his brilliance again, finding wide receiver Michael Fluellen for a 67-yard touchdown bomb down the right sideline – Fluellen’s second of four touchdowns on the night. The impressive pass play cut St. X’s lead back to seven, as Seneca only trailed 27-20.

Once again, however, a senior was there to answer the call and McMurry picked up his second score of the night with a 37-yard draw, giving the Tigers a 34-20 lead. The back and forth game was again injected with offensive explosion minutes later, as Smith and Fluellen hooked up again, this time for an 11-yard touchdown with 4.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter, making the score 34-26 heading into the final period of play.

Beach, who tallied 128 yards on the ground during the game, found the endzone for the second time in the game at the fourth quarter’s 7:41 mark, running over everyone in front of him – including his own teammate blockers – for a 15-yard touchdown and a 40-26 Tigers lead. Raque’s point after attempt was blocked.

After yet another Smith to Fluellen touchdown with five minutes to go, McMurry scored his third touchdown of the night with 2:18 to go, dragging a Seneca defender with him for nearly four yards before lunging and reaching the endzone. A fake extra point attempt and run by St. X junior Michael Johnson made the score 48-33 and sealed the game for the Tigers.

Following the game, Glaser was asked whether the double-duty Beach (who starts at linebacker on defense and is a frequent weapon on offense) could keep up that same ironman pace for four more weeks of playoff action. The veteran coach didn’t blink at the thought.

“I almost fired a defensive coach tonight because I thought they were giving him a break, but apparently (Beach) just had to fix a problem with his helmet,” said Glaser. “He’s 16, 17 years old….he can handle it. Plus it means something to these guys. (Beach) is one of our warriors, one of our leaders. And it means more to him than most of the guys out here. He has to stay in there because he is not going to let us lose.”

The Tigers, who also got a first-quarter rushing touchdown from senior defensive back Daylen Hall, did not earn the victory as easily as some had anticipated, due mostly in part to the superb play of Seneca’s Smith. In his final game as a Redhawk, Smith was electric all night and put his talents on display during every offensive series. He ended the game with nearly 450 yards passing and five total touchdowns (four thrown, one rushing), giving him 35 total touchdowns on the season.

“I’ve said it before, but he’s the best I’ve ever seen,” Glaser said of the University of Louisville-bound Smith. “I think he’s better than Brian (Brohm) at this stage in the game. He has tremendous velocity, great arm strength, and a great release, plus it’s a quick spiral every single time.”

Regarding what position he’ll play in college or what role he’ll receive at UofL, Glaser was definitive in his opinion.

“People ask, ‘do you think he’s going to be a quarterback (at Louisville),’ and if he doesn’t play quarterback (for the Cardinals), then I know nothing about football,” said an emphatic Glaser. “I don’t think there are many more in the country better than him. I really mean that. In the whole country, there’s no one better than that quarterback.”

With the win, the Tigers set up a second-round showdown and rematch with Ballard High School – a team St. X beat by a single point (35-34) during 2010’s first regular season game. In that matchup, St. X blew a 28-0 lead, Ballard scored twice in the game’s final 44 seconds, and the Bruins missed a two-point conversion that would have beaten St. X with 1.5 seconds to go.

St. X will host the game and must not look ahead, as a likely quarterfinal showdown with rival Trinity High School would await the Tigers with a victory over Ballard.

 

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