Bourbonnais, Ill. – Senior wide receiver Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) finished with 14 receptions for 237 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 1 ranked Saint Xavier University to a 41-12 season-opening win over Olivet Nazarene University in Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) crossover action Saturday night at Ward Field in Bourbonnais, Ill. The Cougars (1-0 overall) racked up 401 yards of total offense in first-half action to build a 28-6 halftime advantage. SXU senior quarterback Jimmy Coy (Park Ridge, Ill./Valdosta State/El Camino College/Maine South) was equally impressive on the night completing 35 of his 53 pass attempts for 426 yards and five touchdowns to go along with eight carries for 47 yards.
Zackery put Saint Xavier on the scoreboard first when he caught a short pass from Coy and broke free to score on a 64-yard touchdown reception with 9:25 remaining in the first half. ONU got into a rhythm offensively in its next series and cut into the SXU lead with a 22-yard field goal by junior Andrew Muzljakovich to make it, 7-3, with 2:17 to play in the frame. The Cougars wasted no time making up the Tiger score going 72 yards in six plays when Zackery got loose on the right sideline for a 22-yard touchdown grab to end the first quarter.
The second quarter proved to be more of the same as Coy found sophomore Nick DeBenedetti open in the end zone for a 12-yard strike to make it, 21-3, with 9:59 left in the first half. After the SXU defense forced a quick ONU punt, Coy marched the Cougar offense down the field again and capped another scoring drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to senior Wes Gastel (Freeport, Ill./Freeport) at the 6:16 mark of the second quarter. Trailing 28-3, Olivet Nazarene notched another Muzljakovich field goal from 27 yards out to make the score, 28-6, with just under a minute to play in the half. The SXU offense got all the way down to the Olivet 18-yard line before running out of time making the halftime score, 28-6.
Neither team found the end zone early in the third quarter, but with 1:20 remaining in the frame, Coy found Gastel open for a 32-yard touchdown pass. After a miss on the extra-point attempt, the Cougars went into the fourth quarter with a 34-6 lead. With 11 minutes remaining in the game, ONU junior Ben Backstrom picked off SXU junior quarterback Joe Gill (Munster, Ind./Western Illinois University/Munster) and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to make it, 34-12, after the failed extra-point attempt. Gill found DeBenedetti open for a 33-yard touchdown grab, his second of the game, with just less than five minutes to play to extend the lead to 41-12 and complete the game's scoring. Junior free safety Jacob Ghinazzi (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) helped lead the Cougars' defensive effort with six tackles, a pass break-up and an interception.
Saint Xavier hosts its 2012 home opener on Saturday, September 8, with a huge match-up against No. 7 ranked University of St. Francis (Ill.). The big MSFA crossover game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago.
Following the game, some of the statistics reported immediately after the game were inaccurate. Corrections were made the next day and are reflected in the story above.