Goss: St. Francis turns loss into learning experience
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org September 29, 2013 10:54PM
University of St. Francis quarterback E.J. White drops back to pass against Saint Xavier University during their football game in Chicago Saturday, September 8, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 1, 2013 10:05AM
No offensive touchdowns, on either side, for three quarters.
“Who knew that after three quarters fireworks would start like that?” St. Xavier coach Mike Feminis said after his team secured a 37-25 victory Saturday over rival St. Francis at Joliet Memorial Stadium. “But these games usually are crazy.”
St. Francis coach Joe Curry agreed with “crazy” but had more on his mind.
“I love the fact our defense didn’t give up any touchdowns for three quarters (even though St. Xavier led at the time 19-6). But three quarters is not enough. And our offense has to put points on the board when we have them there.
“I really believe we will be in two or three more games just like this. This one is a great learning experience.”
Frustrating, yes, but a learning experience.
St. Xavier (3-1) finished with 496 total yards, St. Francis (2-2) with 441, camouflaging the defensive battle it was. Saints elusive quarterback E.J. White, the national total offense leader, and his mates had zero luck on the ground. Curry told his coaches earlier that if the Saints could run, they would win. It didn’t happen.
“We had their tendencies down well, what they like to do on first-and-10, second-and-9, all those situations,” said St. Xavier senior linebacker Zach Dolph (Joliet Catholic), who made eight tackles. “Our plan was to contain E.J. (White). He’s a great quarterback. I know. I’ve played against him the last four years.”
White’s passing stats skyrocketed in the wild fourth quarter thanks to junior receiver Troy Torrence, who like fellow junior receiver Trace Wanless is a transfer from St. Xavier. He made a one-handed catch on a 19-yard TD pass, shrugged off a defender and went the rest of the way for a 73-yard score, and ended with 12 catches for 243 yards.
“E.J. is great, and Troy, I love him,” Feminis said. “He played a phenomenal game.”
“Guys like Torrence and Wanless can fly,” Dolph said. “I got to St. Xavier with them. I sure miss them. It’s unfortunate we have to play against them.”
Junior cornerback Tyler Hoag (Minooka) , who led St. Xavier with nine tackles, said White “is an elusive guy. He’s tough to defend. We gave up some points in the fourth quarter, but we showed our character as a team. I’m glad we never quit because they kept coming back.”
“It’s all about momentum,” said USF sophomore linebacker Mike Passo (Joliet Catholic), who was in on nine tackles. “Our defense was solid even though we had a couple of injuries to defensive linemen that slowed us down. They spread us out and used a lot of trick plays. Some hurt us. But I see a lot of potential in our defense, and our offense is always coming back.”
Passo has seen St. Xavier quarterback John Rhode previously.
Recall the 70-45 Montini victory over Joliet Catholic in the record-shattering 2011 Class 5A state championship game.
Rhode was Montini’s quarterback, completing 29-of-45 passes for 587 yards and seven touchdowns in directing his team to 853 total yards.
Passo was Joliet Catholic’s best defensive player but unfortunately was hurt.
“I played about 10 plays that game,” Passo said. “I was injured and tried to play through it, but I couldn’t go anymore.”
In his second collegiate start, Rhode hit 25-of-37 against USF for 280 yards, and his 49-yard run in the fourth quarter was huge.
If Rhode and his St. Xavier teammates had lifted the foot off the gas, even briefly, the Saints may have celebrated homecoming with a comeback victory. Instead, as Curry said, lessons must be learned.
USF begins Midstates Football Association Mideast play next Saturday at Concordia (Mich.). A conference championship means an automatic berth in the NAIA playoffs. Perhaps helped by the loss to St. Xavier, the Saints plan to be in the hunt.