St. Pius X has plenty of new faces, but the fourth-ranked (AAA) Golden Lions still have options in the option and Ryan Braswell was chief among them Friday as the senior fullback rushed for 141 yards and two scores to lead SPX to a 21-3 win at Westminster.
With five players breaking off at least one run of 15 yards each, the Lions (1-0) ground out their second straight win over the Wildcats.
St. Pius won its first 12 games last season before falling to Cairo in the state Class AAA quarterfinals. That team graduated 25 seniors and sent stars Geno Smith to Alabama and T.J. Holleman to South Carolina while quarterback Trey White and fullback Logan Rosborough landed at The Citadel.
Yet head coach Paul Standard’s philosophy – run, run, consider for a moment a pass and then run again – is still in place, the Lions still have players, and they barely gave ground to Westminster (0-2) after the game’s first few plays.
St. Pius fumbled away its first two possessions, but the Wildcats didn’t didn’t do much with the takeaways. Soon after the first, senior kicker Harrison Butker – who has committed to Georgia Tech – missed a 42-yard field goal. He later made a 42-yarder with 2:53 left in the first quarter for the game’s first points.
From there, St. Pius cranked up its ground game and clamped down on the home team.
The SPX option began working inside and out as Braswell scored from 15 yards early in the second quarter after junior wingback Brandon Mitchell swept 24 yards on the prior play.
Senior David Marsau is the only returning starting among SPX offensive linemen, but he and newcomers Matt Doelling, Michael Caragher, Phineas Andrews, Grayson Klingler and tight end J.P. Graves gave quarterback Jack Spear room to work in his first start.
“They do a great job opening holes,” said Braswell, who rushed 20 times. “They’re easy to run behind.”
Westminster junior quarterback Jake Forte’s screen pass was intercepted four plays after Braswell’s first score by SPX junior linebacker Daniel Crochet. Not long after that, junior wingback Nick Ruffin swept 24 yards around left end to push the Lions ahead 14-3 with 6:06 left in the first half.
Braswell added a 32-yard touchdown in the game’s final minute. By then, the SPX defense had worn down the Wildcats even though DBs Ruffin and Nick Glass are the only two returning starters on that side of the ball. Glass added an interception, and senior defensive tackle Quincy Nieporte — a top-notch baseball prospect who did not play football last fall — recovered a Westminster fumble in the third quarter.
“I was very pleased with how we played given our lack of experience,” said Standard, whose offense totaled 344 total yards, including 308 rushing, despite returning four starters. “The defense played really well. It could have been 14-0 the other way with the way we started.”
St. Pius X 0 14 0 7 — 21
Westminster 3 0 0 0 – 3
Westminster — Harrison Butker, 42 FG
SPX — Ryan Braswell, 15 run (Thomas O’Leary kick)
SPX — Nick Ruffin, 24 run (O’Leary kick)
SPX — Braswell, 32 run (O’Leary kick)