St. Pius X 31, North Hall 6

It wasn’t easy for St. Pius X head coach Paul Standard to knife his way through the crowd of parents, fans, students and alumni to address them after the Golden Lions beat North Hall 31-6 Friday to reach the class AAA state championship game.

Then again, it hasn’t been easy for SPX to get back to the state finale.

Standard’s message: “The man upstairs is proud.”

You could take that a couple different ways.

Standard first led everyone in the Lord’s Prayer, and then said that he knew the late George B. Maloof – the first head coach decades ago at the DeKalb County Catholic high school, and Standard’s mentor – would’ve loved what happened Friday in the stadium named after him.

Maloof led the Golden Lions to their first two title game appearances, and their only championship in 1968, and his best teams did it with defense. So, too, did the present-day Lions on Friday night.

Senior fullback Ryan Braswell rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns, but the Lions punched their ticket to the Georgia Dome with a defense that held North Hall’s wishbone offense well below its usual production.

Maloof’s ‘68 team won the state with a 6-0 shutout of Gainesville, the fifth time that season the Golden Lions blanked an opponent.

Friday, SPX held in check a team that had scored 38 or more points in nine of its previous 10 games by stuffing North Hall on four out of five fourth-down tries and all nine third downs. The Trojans (11-3) were averaging 344 rushing yards with their wishbone offense, but SPX (12-2) limited them to 192 yards on 53 carries.

“The story of the night was our offense being able to make some big plays, but our defense . . . that team was averaging 42 points a game, and our defense played light out,” Standard said later. “They played with reckless abandon, sacrificed their bodies. They sold out.”

The Lions scored first, and they had their defense to thank.

On the SPX 45-yard-line, the Trojans went for it on fourth-and-14 on their first possession, and SPX defensive tackle Kyle Johnson sacked North Hall quarterback Bradley Brown.

On the next play, senior quarterback Jack Spear optioned right and raced 53 yards for a 7-0 lead. The Trojans, who were as big up front as any SPX opponent all season, didn’t give Braswell any running room early.

“They have very smart coaches so we knew they were probably going to defend us pretty well. We wanted to open it up,” said Spear, who finished with 72 rushing yards on 13 carries in addition to completing 3-of-6 passes for 68 yards and a score. “I pulled it [out of Braswell's gut], and the safety came down pretty hard and overran me.”

The Lions soon stopped the Trojans again on fourth down, but Spear was quickly intercepted by North Hall’s Destin Bennett on a tipped pass.

North Hall turned that into a 30-yard scoring play on the next snap as Bradley Brown found Lee Shelton over the middle on the ext play to pull North Hall within 7-6 with 9:42 left in the first quarter.

The Trojans never came close to the red zone after that. Braswell soon found the end zone on a 38-yard run not long after SPX safety Matt Pearson intercepted a Brown pass. Later, SPX linebacker Daniel Crochet had an interception which the Lions converted into three points as well.

After SPX stuffed Andrew Smith on fourth-and-2 from the North Hall 39, Spear hit tight end J.P. Graves for a 38-yard touchdown pass at the front, right pylon with 1:02 left in the third quarter for a 28-6 lead. Graves caught one pass in SPX’s first 13 games, also for a touchdown.

St. Pius, whose first state final appearance came in 1965 when the Lions lost 6-0 to West Rome, didn’t dominate the Trojans. SPX had a modest edge of 279-266 in total yardage. North Hall’s T.J. Tate rushed 22 times for 115 yards.

But the Lions made the most plays at critical junctures.

“This is amazing,” Spear said. “I’ve never had a feeling like this.”

Standard will be one of three members of the St. Pius X graduating class of 1980 in a state final next week as a head coach, as former teammates Ed Dudley of Ware County and Keith Norcross are going as well.

“We thanked God first,” Standard said, “and then coach Maloof.”

North Hall – 0 6 0 0 – 6
St. Pius X – 7 7 14 3 – 31

SPX – Jack Spear 53 run (Thomas O’Leary kick)
NH – Lee Shelton 30 pass from Bradley Brown (kick failed)
SPX – Ryan Braswell 38 run (O’Leary kick)
SPX – Braswell 4 run (O’Leary kick)
SPX – J.P. Graves 34 pass from Spear (O’Leary kick)
SPX – O’Leary 22 FG

37 comments Add your comment

Region 7-AAA

December 7th, 2012
11:08 pm

I tell ya, St Pius really took it to us tonight. Did not see that one coming. We didn’t come to play at all and we paid the price. Congrats to St Pius X, good luck in the Dome. Hope you get them Wolves!!!

Hamlton

December 7th, 2012
11:11 pm

It’s great to be a golden lion!

kidsballcoach

December 7th, 2012
11:38 pm

7 AAA- Congrats on a great season. You guys had 13 yards less rushing than Pius and were pumped up in the 1st qtr. SPX just wore them down. The NH’s wishbone was one of the best I have ever seen.
We are headed to the DOME!

GOLDEN LION

December 7th, 2012
11:55 pm

Buford doesn’t know what’s comin!

BigDawg11

December 8th, 2012
12:02 am

What a greatly schemed game from all aspects by the Golden Lion coaching staff! Load the Bus we’re Dome Bound!

Seen a few

December 8th, 2012
12:39 am

Congrats to both teams and coaches. I like the folks from North Hall. Go Pius. Beat Buford

THEX

December 8th, 2012
12:51 am

Agree-very nice fans from North Hall.
Go Lions!

Big Irish Mike

December 8th, 2012
1:46 am

This article has a couple of factual errors. # 1 Pius beat Gainsville 6 – 0 in a driving rain storm but not allowing Gainsville any first downs even by penalty. They had only 5 shutouts that year.That was 68! #2 In 65 SPX lost to West Rome 6 – 0 in championship at Grady. It was an upset seeing how West Rome’s final record was 7-5-1. St Pius had a final record of 10-2-1 with 7 shutouts.
North Hall was its own worst enemy having big plays called back in the 1st quarter. They could of easily been knocking on the door on their first two drives had it not been for those pesky yellow flags thrown on them and the staunch defense.
A great win on both sides of the ball for SPX and another good game from the top notch
special teams. I am very proud of this special group of young men and all the Pius supporters. Makes me proud to be a Golden Lion!

Delta Hog Moss

December 8th, 2012
2:01 am

This is the best day of my life. But only for a moment because it’s time to think about the Dome. St. Pius what time is it?!?!

St Pius fan

December 8th, 2012
2:13 am

WOW I can’t get the tears out of my eyes…. Trojanman 2 I told you and Wolfbait we will see you Friday.. So much for pregame smack talk.. Waco gone N Hall gone when so many told us we could not win. IT IS GREAT TO BE A GOLDEN LION……………………………. GO LIONS DOME BOUND.

ST PIUS fan

December 8th, 2012
2:21 am

WOW what a night……………..

Big Fan

December 8th, 2012
6:39 am

Amazing! I’m watching film and breaking it down brother. These SPX coaches are outstanding. It really is fun to watch them game plan. These boys have been working out since January and of course preparing for years in this program. I know Buford has Maurice Jones-Drew and all his friends and they are amazing. But it’s time. Let’s do this. Living the dream!

N. Hall

December 8th, 2012
7:21 am

Hate it that the Trojans lost, but Buford would have killed us in the next game. Already stomped us once. The better team won. Hopefully they have a better shot at Buford than we did!

Mike

December 8th, 2012
7:36 am

If there is a better coached football team in GA, I would be amazed. Pius plays with poise and determination on every play. Everyone holds his hole and everyone pursues. Very few mistakes. Truly fun to watch! Thank you Coach Standard!

Roy D. Mercer

December 8th, 2012
7:43 am

I wouldn’t trade this coaching staff for anyone! Confidence, poise, ability. Ain’t no mentum like Momentum!

FINAL SCORE

December 8th, 2012
8:01 am

Whatever happened to Mr. 20-14? I bet he’ll be riding MARTA to watch the GOLDEN LIONS AT THE DOME!!!

Max Sizemore

December 8th, 2012
8:25 am

Hey, Big Irish Mike, is your name Shikany? Linebacker Shikany? You delivered a forearm shiver to me that I have never forgotten. Plus, we both worked at Sears in Buckhead and knew each other there.

Asa

December 8th, 2012
9:20 am

Beat Buford think they will recruit any more kids by next Friday?

WarEagle

December 8th, 2012
9:40 am

Congrats to SPX! Well earned. Coach Standrd is a class act. Good luck at the Dome.

State Champs '68

December 8th, 2012
9:44 am

Hats off to great win last night. I played on the ‘68 championship team and have been patiently waiting for another Pius team to take the torch of victory forward. I believe I saw that team play a terrific game last night. Good luck in the Dome, it will be better than the six inches of mud we played on in Gainesville on our Championship night where it rained as hard in the locker room as it did on the field!

ILOVESPX

December 8th, 2012
10:03 am

UNBELIEVABLE!
GO LIONS!

Region 7-AAA

December 8th, 2012
10:59 am

North Hall got more penalties in that game than the first 3 playoff games. St Pius and those yellow flags really took the life out of North Hall real quick. Sure wish we could have put that wishbone on a display like we did against Peach County last week.

Saint Teresa

December 8th, 2012
12:34 pm

Congrats to the Golden Lions and a shout out to the team and fans of North Hall. You all were a class act and are to be congratulated on an outstanding season! LOVE THOSE GOLDEN LIONS!!!

JColl

December 8th, 2012
4:22 pm

Woo hoo! I watched the SPX webcast and was blown away! Great game. Proud of all the Golden Lions…see you at-the-DOME!

Part of the SPX family

December 8th, 2012
5:39 pm

Hey Final Score, I was thinking the same thing where is Mr. 20 – 14??? I love it!!!
GO LIONS

SPX

December 8th, 2012
7:15 pm

Whoever predicted 20-14 shouldn’t be bashed around because of that. It was a PREDICTION.

If you want to do that, lets not forget to bash the AJC for PREDICTING that St Pius would only win by 4 points. Lets not forget to bash the Gainesville Times for predicting North Hall to win.

It’s part of the fun. Predicting. No need to rub it in other peoples faces.

Matt Winkeljohn

December 8th, 2012
7:19 pm

20-14 was the moniker used by a Woodward Academy fan on here for a few weeks after Woodward beat SPX 20-14.

THEX

December 8th, 2012
8:40 pm

20-14 is enjoying basketball and preparing for NEXT football season!

Oh my

December 8th, 2012
8:46 pm

Thanks Mr. Winkeljohn.

SPX – you born in the last decade? Why the anger? Why so negative? Your life must suck. Rub this in your face.

THEX – you are so right!!!

SPXGUY

December 8th, 2012
10:01 pm

Can’t wait to see how the St. Pius X coaching staff will get our boys prepared for this week, it will be a hell of a game.
Just as an interesting fact going into this game: Buford’s junior quarterback, VanGorder, is the cousin of SPX DE Quincy Nieporte.
I just thought that was cool

Hamilton

December 8th, 2012
11:51 pm

Matt, we need a big story on the SPX factor in this years playoffs. Three of the 12 head coaches in the finals all came from SPX class of ‘80 and played for George Maloof – that is AWESOME! That has to be a pretty unique situation in HS football history. I hope someone is giving this story some attention.

SPXParent

December 9th, 2012
9:29 am

SPX players please protect yourselves better while on the field of play next week–don’t relax. North Hall took shots at our players away from the ball (opening play hit on Mitchell was the most obvious example–fortunately it didn’t end his season). LET’S GO PIUS!!!

Hamilton

December 9th, 2012
12:49 pm

@SPXParent – I watched the film a couple of times, and that was a nasty shot! Is there a “defenseless player” rule in HS like the is in the NFL? If so, that should have drawn a flag. Fortunately, that hit was not to the head. There was also a blatant hit from behind on Spear that did get a flag – and a big protest from the NH coach. I hope Coach Christmas reviews that film and chews some butts for those hits.

ST PIUS fan

December 9th, 2012
1:21 pm

OH where Oh where is 20-14 or WA parent??? Golden Lions Rock and so does MWJ’s write ups…It is GREAT TO BE A GOLDEN LION

Davis

December 9th, 2012
1:24 pm

Good Luck Pius. I hope that our offensive game plan has a few wrinkles (not like last year’s playoff loss…..where we didn’t go to Plan B till half way through the 4th quarter….too late). If Buford stops up the dive….got to be ready to adjust! Go Golden Lions!

TrojanMan2

December 10th, 2012
11:23 am

With all due respect to everyone out there…it was MY son who scored the only NH touchdown, so I left the game with a bittersweet feeling. :) It was wonderful to watch my son absolutely outplay the SPX defensive backs. It is too bad that NHHS is such a one-sided offense. Maybe next year we can open it up a little more and put together a run at the state title with more balance!!
…to the SPX players, fans, and staff….absolutely a great game! Nicely done! Good luck in the dome vs. Buford….you’re going to need it. They may recruit heavily, but their players are legit on the gridiron. The defensive coordinator is my coach from my highschool days and you can bet your last dollar that he will have them ready. Good luck!!

Golden Lion 2

December 12th, 2012
10:14 pm

@TrojanMan2 “make a run at the state title” don’t you mean make a pass at the title. Watched NHall play Peach why weren’t yall throwing at least half the time against Pius the way you did vs Peach? What were you waiting for Xmas? Yes pun intended. Now seeing the UGA commit DB left Pius that week and didn’t even play why not pass more? Could your coach not see that? Maybe because he didn’t have time.
Who are you talking about recruiting St. Pius?
Speaking of didn’t Bufords QB older brother play for NHall as a LB as I recall? What happened there?