by Michelle Clark
On a chilly Halloween night, ghosts, goblins and football fanatics came out by the thousands to watch the clash of the No. 1 Moeller Crusaders and No. 2 Xavier Bombers in their final regular season matchup. Stakes were high for the two top-ranked teams as the outcome not only determined the 2009 Greater Catholic League South Champion, but also the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. For Moeller, the home team, the Saturday night showdown was also senior night and players were looking to finish off an undefeated season on a high note. Walking away with the Great American Rivalry Series championship trophy and hats would have been the icing on the cake.
The night began in good sportsmanship as the top student-athlete from each rival school–senior defensive back Josh Burandt from Moeller and senior tight end Alex Longi from Xavier–were commemorated in a pre-game public ceremony at midfield. Air Force Lt Col Hughbanks and SMSgt Edington presented the exceptional seniors with scholarship award plaques in the company of proud parents. Ironically, the two recipients were former teamates in middle school and shook hands afterward to congratulate each other. That would be the last gesture of friendship, however, until the game clock stuck zero.
Moeller, who came in averaging 30 points per game and was known for their strong offense, had the opening kickoff and began making good headway down the field. It looked as if they would make the first touchdown until the Bombers shook out the cobwebs and stiffened their defense. The Crusaders ended up settling for a 42-yard field goal by Corey Smith four minutes into the first quarter, giving them the lead that lasted for only a few minutes. The Bombers came back and responded with a 26-yard field goal of their own to even the score 3-3.
Going into the second quarter the Bombers regained possession of the ball and started gaining momentum. Three minutes in, St. X took the lead when quarterback Luke Massa threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeff Kraemer. Moeller’s attempts at a comeback in the first half were squelched when they fumbled the ball, and by halftime St. X was up 13-3. It appeared the Crusaders’ outlook for a perfect season record was growing dimmer by the second.
After the halftime battle of the drumlines, the Crusaders of Moeller ran out on the field with determination smeared all over their faces. On their first possession of the second half, Moeller made it back on the scoreboard with a 19-yard touchdown run by running back Jeff Aubin. The Bombers’ lead was reduced to 13-10 and fans wondered if the tide was changing. St. X maintained focus, however, and kept the momentum in their favor by running down time on the clock. Sophomore running back and Great American Rivalry Series Most Valuable Player Conor Hundley helped the Bombers keep possession of the ball and finished the game with 97 yards.
With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Moeller got the ball back and had one last chance to score and turn the tables. Fans were on the edges of their seats as quarterback Andrew Hendrix threw a pass that could have stolen the victory, but the pass was intercepted by Bomber linebacker Patrick Guetle. Thus ended the Crusader winning streak and the Bombers came away with a 13-10 win and their fifth GCL South title in the last six years.
While Xavier students and fans went wild, the triumphant Bomber football team gathered at midfield and took a knee. Air Force Lt Col Hughbanks awarded Conor Hundley, the media-nominated Most Valuable Player, with a medal and trophy in front of supportive teamates and coaches. Hughbanks then took a live mic and congratulated the Bombers on a well played and thrilling rivalry game while presenting the Great American Rivalry Series Champtionship Trophy to Athletic Director John Sullivan. The players hoisted the trophy before rushing off to sing their school’s fight song with the student section and begin a long night of celebration.
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- St. Xavier vs. Moeller – 2009