St. Pius X regained control of Region 6-AAA Friday night when the No. 9 Golden Lions beat No. 7 Blessed Trinity 24-17 on senior fullback Ryan Braswell’s 1-yard run with 1:21 left.
The Lions (7-2, 4-1 Region 6-AAA) won somewhat like they lost a week earlier at Woodward Academy – with a late, long drive (12 plays, 96 yards), and with the help of turnovers in front of a huge crowd at SPX’s George B. Maloof Stadium. The Titans (7-2, 4-1) held the ball most of the second half, but scored just a field goal after intermission.
“I’m going to say this: we’ve had some big-time drives in the 12 years that we’ve been here, but that might be, ‘The Drive,’ ” said SPX head coach Paul Standard. “Our tailback, Nick Ruffin, almost broke two or three and in retrospect I’m glad he didn’t because it helped us take time off the clock.”
The first play of the game-winning drive was nearly a disaster.
One week after Braswell fumbled into the end zone to trigger what became WA’s winning score with 20 seconds left, SPX quarterback Jack Spear optioned left. When he pitched late in the play, the ball hit Ruffin’s knee and then he inadvertently kicked it forward. He fell on it for a 21-yard gain.
The Lions did not turn the ball over against Blessed Trinity, however, after coughing it up five times against Woodward Academy. Blessed Trinity’s last gasp came moments after Braswell’s score when SPX senior cornerback Michael Sikorski intercepted a long pass by BT quarterback Spencer McManes with 1:05 to go.
Junior wingback Brandon Mitchell swept untouched around the right side for 50 yards to give SPX a 9-0 lead in the first quarter. He finished with 105 yards on five carries. Ruffin added 57 yards on six totes, all but one coming on SPX’s final drive. Braswell was busy in the final three quarters on the way to a 22-carry, 104-yard night.
St. Pius took the opening kickoff and drove well only to have to punt shy of field goal range. That worked out because Thomas O’Leary’s 32-yard kick went out of bounds inside the BT 1-yard line.
SPX senior safety Matt Pearson led a host of tacklers on the Titan’s first play from scrimmage, dropping BT freshman running back Milton Shelton in the end zone for a safety.
McManes pushed the Titans ahead 14-9 by halftime with a 17-yard scoring run and a 73-yard pass to C.J. Brazil, both in the second quarter.
The Lions regained the lead, 16-14, on the third play of the second half when when junior safety Nick Glass returned an interception 39 yards for a score.
McManes completed 5-of-13 passes for 96 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown for Blessed Trinity, and he guided the Titans to a 17-16 lead in setting up Marc Nolan’s 25-yard field goal with 5:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Every play on the game-winning drive would be a running play on a night when the Lions rushed 46 times for 323 yards.
After Cedar Grove’s win over Woodward Academy Friday, a St. Pius win over Decatur next Friday would make the Lions the No. 1 seed in Region 6-AAA. Then, the winner of next Friday’s Cedar Grove-Blessed Trinity game will be No. 2. The loser will be No. 3, and Woodward Academy (7-3, 4-2) will be No. 4 by virtue of losses to Blessed Trinity and Cedar Grove.
Blessed Trinity – 0 14 3 0 — 17
St. Pius X – 9 0 7 8 — 24
SPX – Safety, BT’s Milton Shelton tackled in end zone
SPX – Brandon Mitchell 50 run (Thomas O’Leary kick)
BT – Spencer McManes 17 run (Marc Nolan kick)
BT – C.J. Brazil 73 pass from McManes (Nolan kick)
SPX – Nick Glass 39 interception return (O’Leary kick)
BT – Nolan 25 FG
SPX – Ryan Braswell 1 run (Braswell run)