CHICAGO - In what is becoming the norm for the No. 4 ranked Saint Xavier University football team this season, another big win also marked another record-setting performance by senior wide receiver Mike Maher (Plainfield, Ill./Providence Catholic). The Cougars rode a huge first half to a 62-6 victory over the visiting Trinity International University Trojans in the Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Mideast League opener for both teams Saturday evening at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. Maher finished with four catches for 82 yards and a touchdown and became SXU's and the MFSA's all-time leader in career receptions with 258 grabs. He surpassed Bill McKeon, who wrapped up a stellar four-year career with the Cougars in 2009 with 257 career receptions. Maher also returned the opening kickoff 77 yards to the end zone to tie the school record for kickoff returns in a season with two after taking one back 85 yards last week against University of St. Francis (Ill.).
Senior quarterback Anthony Kropp (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) led the Cougar offense finishing the night completing 15 of his 22 pass attempts for 264 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Sophomore wide receiver Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) led the receiving corps with five catches for 56 yards and a score, while freshman running back Nick Pesek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn Community) had a solid game running the ball posting five carries for a team-best 65 rushing yards. Defensively, SXU was paced by sophomore linebacker Mike Bushnell (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) with a team-leading seven total tackles (five solo, two assists), including a half sack for three yards.
Saint Xavier was dominant on both sides of the ball to start the game jumping out to 24-0 lead in the game's first seven minutes. After the Maher return for a touchdown, SXU would take advantage of a Trojan fumble on the ensuing kickoff and score again on a 43-yard field goal by junior Tom Lynch (Frankfort, Ill./Southern Illinois University/Joliet JC/Lincoln-Way East). The Cougar defense would keep forcing three-and-outs and the offense would capitalize. Saint Xavier scored on a 32-yard pass by Kropp to Zackery as well as on a six-yard rush by junior running back KJ Franklin (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) and a six-yard reception by sophomore wideout Wes Gastel (Freeport, Ill./Freeport) to build a 31-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was more of the same as Kropp and Maher connected for a 37-yard touchdown strike in the first six seconds of the frame. Just three minutes later, senior running back Donnie Selby (Alsip, Ill./Shepard) would break free for a 60-yard touchdown catch from Kropp to extend the big lead, 45-0. Franklin would find the end zone again late in the first half on an eight-yard scamper, which gave the Cougars a 52-0 halftime advantage. With the SXU starters out of the game in the second half, the Trojans were able to mount a scoring drive early in the third quarter and a 38-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Daniel Beals to junior tight end Bruce Palmer made the score, 52-6, after the missed extra-point attempt. SXU freshman quarterback Joe Gill (Munster, Ind./Western Illinois University/Munster) would sneak it in from two yards out with 4:21 to play in the third quarter to make it, 59-6, and junior A.J. Nichols (Tinley Park, Ill./Mount Carmel) would cap the scoring spree midway through the fourth quarter with a 32-yard field goal. Saint Xavier (3-0 overall) heads to Bourbonnais, Ill., next Saturday for a MSFA Mideast League match-up against Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.). The kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Ward Field.