With a 9-3 record, the St. Xavier Bombers captured a GCL Title and earned a trip to the Division I playoffs in 2009. Led by quarterback Luke Massa and breakout sophomore running back Conor Hundley on offense and a stingy defense, the Bombers advanced to the regional semifinal where they were ousted by conference rival, Elder. This season there's a little more uncertainty swirling around North Bend Road.
The Bombers will take to the gridiron with a quarterback not named Luke Massa for the first time in three years. Along with Massa, several key offensive players graduated in the spring, and many who saw limited action last season will be expected to take their game to the next level. St. Xavier doesn't exactly take on an easy schedule so the new signal-caller won't have much room for error. But that doesn't mean that Bomber fans shouldn't be excited for the upcoming season. It will be exciting to see who will step up for St. Xavier this season as Coach Steve Specht and his assistants will no doubt have St. Xavier ready to compete for another GCL Title and playoff berth in 2010.
2009 RECORD: 9-3, 3-0 GCL South
COACHING: One of the marquee coaches in the Tri-state area, Specht holds a 64-12 record over six years at his alma mater. He has garnered national attention by seeking out premier football opponents, earning national rankings and leading the Bombers to two state titles (2005 and 2007) in continuing the tradition of football excellence at St. Xavier.
OFFENSE: There is a lot of turnover on the Bomber offense after losing several key contributors from last season. The Bombers need to replace the production of running backs Tanner Vidal and Nate Ley along with Alex Longi and Jeff Kraemer, who were St. Xavier's top two receivers in 2009. Those four players combined for over 1,200 yards along with nine scores in 2009. Not to mention, the Bomber faithful will be watching a new quarterback run the offense, while Massa moves on to Notre Dame in the fall. No players on the current roster have recorded a varsity pass.
Running back Conor Hundley returns for his junior season after getting his feet wet in 2009 by leading the GCL in rushing yards with 1,054. No doubt, Hundley will lessen some of the pressure the new quarterback will face. He along with lineman Jack Woodall, were first Team All-GCL South selections a year ago. Several athletes from last year's squad look to take on roles of greater importance in 2010. Daniel Braswell, figures to see increased playing time after rushing 24 times for 62 yards and one touchdown last season. Patrick Barrett and Will Washburn both look to make a major impact on the ground for the Bombers.
The Bombers also have a couple pass-catchers returning. Wide receiver Kevin Milligan caught nine passes for 136 yards as a freshman. Milligan figures to be a factor in the backfield as well, having already accumulated 136 yards on the ground during his young St. Xavier career. Another option is senior tight end Joey Neiser, who hauled in six passes for 47 yards while seeing limited playing time as a junior.
DEFENSE: A St. Xavier defense that allowed more than 14 points only once last season, takes a big hit losing 6-foot-1, 230-pound Nigel Muhammad. Muhammad recorded five sacks and one forced fumble in 2009 applying major pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He will play collegiately at Lehigh University in the fall of 2010.
The Bombers are most experienced at the linebacker position as they return four from the 2009 season, Steven Daniels, Nathan Gerbus, Jake Rumpke and Sean Duggan. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Duggan amassed two sacks and two interceptions for the Bombers last season. He and Daniels are garnering many Division I college offers before they even step onto the field for their senior seasons. Gerbus recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as a sophomore. In the secondary, defensive back Connor Buczek returns for his senior season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Bombers will be without the services of kicker Robert Leonard, who graduated in the spring. They do, however, return Chris Gradone, who saw the majority of playing time at punter during the 2009 season. As a junior, Gradone punted 25 times for 832 yards and two touchbacks. As far as returns, Jake Brodbeck is back for his senior season after gaining 147 yards on 13 punt returns during his junior campaign.
Aug. 29 – OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL (MD) - 3:00 p.m.
Sep. 3 – INDIANAPOLIS CATHEDRAL – 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 10 – ST. XAVIER (KY) – 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 17 -- @ Trinity – 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 24 – MOELLER – 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 1 -- @ Elder – 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 8 -- @ LaSalle – 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 -- @ St. Edward – 2:00 p.m.
Oct. 23 -- ST. IGNATIUS – 2:00 p.m.
FINAL TAKE: Even with the turnover from last season, expect a younger St. Xavier squad to challenge for another conference title in 2010. Conference play doesn't unfold until the fifth week of the season, so the team will have some time to work out the kinks and gel in the first few weeks. Playoffs are definitely within reach, especially if the Bombers can get a new face to take his game to the next level. They have the potential to emerge as the top team in the city, but they must prove it against that brutal schedule.
Written by: Katie Budke, TriStateFootball.com