Fort Wayne, Ind. – Sophomore running back Joshua Hunter (South Holland, Ill./Thornridge) scored on a pair of rushing touchdowns, but the No. 10 ranked Saint Xavier University football team fell to No. 4 University of Saint Francis (Ind.), 45-20, in Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) crossover action Saturday night at Bishop D'Arcy Stadium in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Cougars (3-3 overall) kept it close in the first half trailing 10-7 at the break, but USF scored 35 points on five touchdowns in the second half to pull away. It is the first time SXU has lost two straight games since the start of the 2008 campaign when they opened the season 0-2.
Freshman wide receiver Stephen Simms (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) led the Cougars in both rushing (119 yards on eight carries) and receiving (five receptions for 39 yards). Junior wide receiver Nick DeBenedetti (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) had Saint Xavier's only other touchdown and finished the night with three catches for 34 yards. Senior linebacker Zach Dolph (Crest Hill, Ill./Joliet Catholic) led the defensive effort for SXU with nine total tackles (three solos).
Saint Francis scored on their first offensive possession of the game marching 55 yards on 12 plays to go ahead, 3-0, on a 37-yard field goal by senior kicker Emerson Ueber with 7:39 left in the opening frame. Early in the second quarter, Saint Xavier took the lead, 7-3, when Hunter found the end zone on a seven-yard scamper. However, on the ensuing drive, USF went 77 yards on 10 plays to close out the first half with a touchdown on a one-yard keeper by senior quarterback David Yoder to make the score, 10-7, at the break.
The hosts opened the second half with another long drive going 84 yards on 11 plays to extend the lead to 17-7 on a four-yard rush by junior running back Garrett Harvey. After a stalled drive by SXU, Saint Francis found the end zone again when Yoder hit sophomore Seth Stuart on a 23-yard touchdown strike to make the score, 24-7, with 7:04 left to play in the third quarter. An unexpected onside kick by USF proved costly as the hosts recovered and scored three plays later on a 14-yard end-around by sophomore wideout Akeim Kelsaw. Trailing 31-7, Saint Xavier took advantage of a Saint Francis fumble late in the third quarter and was able to capitalize on the resulting drive when Hunter pounded it in from two yards deep. However, the Cougars could not convert the two-point conversion and trailed 31-13 with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Yoder found sophomore wide receiver Matthew Noll open for a 75-yard touchdown strike to push the lead to 38-13. Another stalled drive for Saint Xavier helped USF extend its lead when junior quarterback Wesley Hunsucker hit redshirt freshman Steven Espinoza over the middle for a six-yard touchdown reception with 7:02 remaining in the ballgame. SXU wrapped up the game's scoring on the next drive when senior quarterback Joe Gill (Munster, Ind./Western Illinois University/Munster) connected with DeBenedetti for a four-yard touchdown reception.
Saint Xavier (3-3 overall/0-1 MSFA) makes its way to Forest City, Iowa, on Saturday, October 19, for a MFSA Midwest League game against Waldorf College (Iowa). Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Bolstorff Field.