By Rob Huizenga, Saint Xavier (Ill.) Sports Information Director
CHICAGO – Six turnovers by No. 3 ranked Saint Xavier (Ill.) told the tale as No. 4 Grand View (Iowa) spoiled SXU’s Homecoming with a 48-21 victory in the Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Midwest League opener for both teams Saturday afternoon at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. The Cougars finished the game with five interceptions and a fumble with one of the interceptions returned for a Vikings touchdown. It was only the second home loss for SXU in the last five seasons with both coincidentally coming on Homecoming Weekend. With the loss, Saint Xavier falls to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in MSFA play, while Grand View stays perfect at 5-0 on the year and 1-0 in the league.
Redshirt freshman quarterback John Rhode (Chicago Heights, Ill./Montini Catholic) completed 22 of his 37 pass attempts for 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but threw all five interceptions for the Cougars. Rhode also rushed eight times for 30 yards and a score. Junior wide receiver Nick DeBenedetti (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) had four receptions for a team-best 99 yards and a touchdown, while freshman Stephen Simms (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) led the SXU receiving corps with seven grabs for 32 yards. Senior linebacker Dave Marciano (Chicago, Ill./Eastern Illinois/St. Rita) was a force defensively for Saint Xavier with a game-high 14 total tackles (five solos) to go along with a tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery.
The Vikings got on the scoreboard first when GVU sophomore quarterback Derek Fulton found junior wideout Brady Roland open on a seven-yard touchdown strike to put the visitors ahead, 7-0, with 8:49 left in the opening quarter. After a three and out for SXU, Grand View found the end zone again when Fulton hit senior Taylor Goebel for a 32-yard touchdown pass just over four minutes later. Later in the first quarter, Rhode converted a two-yard keeper for a touchdown to cut the deficit in half, 14-7, with 2:33 left in the quarter. However, the Vikings answered right back with a two-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Charles Badgett early in the second quarter to make it, 21-7.
Fulton found Roland open again later in the second quarter for a 52-yard touchdown reception to extend the Vikings lead to 28-7 with 8:07 remaining in the first half. Sophomore running back Joshua Hunter (South Holland, Ill./Thornridge) hauled in a three-yard pass from Rhode and made his way in for the touchdown on SXU’s next drive to make the score, 28-14, late in the second quarter, but an interception and an 11-yard return for the Grand View defensive touchdown in the final seconds of the half put an exclamation point on a rough first half for the Cougars. Leading 35-14 at the break, the Vikings capped a long drive to open the second half with a seven-yard scoring rush by Fulton. Grand View added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a nine-yard run by junior Dorian Ballentine. Rhode wrapped up the game’s scoring when Rhode hit DeBenedetti on a 35-yard touchdown strike with 12:05 to play in the game.
Saint Xavier (3-2 overall/0-1 MSFA) heads to Fort Wayne, Ind., next Saturday (October 12) for its final MSFA crossover game of the season lining up against No. 6 University of Saint Francis (Ind.). The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. (eastern) kickoff at Bishop John D’Arcy Stadium in Fort Wayne.