December 11th, 2020

Trinity tops St. X to advance to state title game

Block_eric thorne

Eric Thorne

Staff Writer


Trinity tops St. X to advance to state title game
Tiger defenders try and bring down Trinity's Bradley West who scored 2 touchdowns. (photo by Eric Thorne)

Sometimes special teams win games sometimes they lose games, but Trinity made the most of two opportunities to defeat arch-rival St. Xavier 31-0 and advance to the KHSAA Class-6A state title game against Male.

A blocked punt for a touchdown, a fake punt for a touchdown and a pair of interceptions proved to be the difference as Trinity topped the Tigers for the 17th time in the last 19 meetings.

The biggest highlight came from Branden Stearman off a fake punt who seemed to stun everyone by sprinting untouched up the middle for a 45-yard touchdown. He later ended a late game drive with an interception.

“That was (coach Bob) Beatty’s call and I’ve run it like three times in my career and tonight finally busted one through the hole, saw it wide open and had to score,” Stearman said. “I scored one on defense last year in the state game with a pick six, but not one on offense since grade school.”

The 6-1, 220-point inside linebacker had flashbacks to his grade school days at St. Mary Academy as a quarterback running down the field.

Stearman came to Trinity with the quarterback genes after his dad Eric Stearman played quarterback at Florida State before being injured. He then transferred and finished up at Lindenwood University in St. Charles Missouri. Branden will follow his father’s footsteps to Lindenwood.

“Here at Trinity, you have to be really good to play both sides, so I decided to focus on linebacker and have been starting for the past three years on varsity,” said Stearman. “Tonight showed if you win special teams you are going to win the game.”

St. X coach Kevin Wallace knows it’s the little things that matter and despite a hard-hitting defensive battle special teams and turnovers proved costly.

“You have to play mistake free football and we just didn’t do that tonight,” Wallace said. “Its that plain and simple. Those were just brutal mistakes for us.”

St. X had to rely once again on Mekhi Smith to run the offense much of the game mostly out of the wildcat as starting quarterback. Normal starter Giles Pooler saw very limited action after suffering a head injury last week.

“He just didn’t practice hardly at all this week, so it was hard to play him much, but he was the best option we had to throw it. We didn’t have much choice having to play the cards we were dealt,” Wallace said.

On the Tigers second possession and following an 11-yard sack by DeAnthony Perry and Laquann Williams the Tigers were forced to punt. However, Michael Patterson broke through and blocked the kick at the goal line that soared up into the air and into the endzone where Jack Dingle recovered for the touchdown and Trinity lead 7-0.

Trinity capitalized on another Tiger miscue as Smith threw to Grant Goodman, but the senior was hit as he turned and fumbled with Patterson coming up with the recovery.

Smith led the Tigers in rushing with 52 yards on 16 carries.  Pooler and Smith combined to complete just 5 of 13 passes for 44 yards.

The Rocks marched down the field quickly as Nathan McElroy hit Owen Francia with a pass and the senior juked defenders for a 39-yard pickup. Three plays later Bradley West pulled in a pass from McElroy on third down, rolled over the St. X tackler, stood up and sprinted in for the 10-yard score.

“Give St. X credit they came out ready to play and hit us hard all night,” West said. “Every play was a battle and we had to persevere by just pounding it every play.”

Trinity added a Kellan McLaughlin 18-yard field goal as the half came to a close.

Trinity got the ball to open the second half and despite returning it to midfield only managed five yards. Lined up to punt the Rocks executed the fake perfectly and Stearman from his up-back position ran untouched up the middle to the endzone making it 24-0.

“I called that play earlier this year and it went no where so I am the biggest idiot east of the Mississippi,” Beatty said. “I called it tonight and it happened to work and now I’m the biggest genius east of the Mississippi.”

“But our special teams hold each other accountable and the coaches are hard on them for a reason and tonight that showed.”

West capped off the scoring when the senior powered in for the Rocks and finished as the leading rusher with 110 yards on 14 carries. He now has 12 rushing touchdowns and 601 yards on the season.

Trinity finished with 232 yards rushing and 288 total yards with McElroy completing 8 of 18 passes for 94 yards.

Wallace walked off the field with his players as dejected as they were.

“I am proud as hell at the job these kids did from June 15 to get to where we were tonight and hopefully some of the younger kids will be inspired by the senior leadership that kept us going all year,” Wallace said.

Trinity advances to play Male at 7pm next week at the University of Kentucky. The rocks will be vying for their 27th state title and Beatty his 15th.

“Tonight, was extra special with a rival game and first time at Trinity in a long time and for our seniors last game on our home field so you could say the stars all just aligned,” West said. “Beat your rival on your home field to go to state what more could you ask for.”

 

 

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