CHICAGO – Senior linebacker Zach Dolph (Crest Hill, Ill./Joliet Catholic) and junior wide receiver Nick DeBenedetti (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) both established new career-high marks in helping lead the No. 23 ranked Saint Xavier University football team to a 37-20 victory over Trinity International University (Ill.) in Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Midwest League action Saturday on "Senior Day" at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. Dolph hauled in a career-best two interceptions, including a 32-yard pick six in the first quarter; while DeBenedetti set new career marks for both receptions (14) and receiving yards (183). With the win, SXU improves to 6-4 overall and 3-2 in MSFA play, while TIU falls to 4-4 on the year and 1-3 in league play.
On the ground, Saint Xavier was led by senior running back Nick Pesek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn Community) with 13 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown. Fifth-year senior quarterback Joe Gill (Munster, Ind./Western Illinois University/Munster) also had a nice outing in his final home game as a Cougar completing 26 of 44 pass attempts for 329 yards and three touchdowns. In addition to his two interceptions, Dolph also led the SXU defensive effort in tackles with 11 total stops, including five solos. Senior safety Jacob Ghinazzi (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) also hit double figures in tackles Saturday with 10, including four solos. Senior kicker/punter Spencer Nolen (Columbia, Tenn./Nevada/UT-Chattanooga/Columbia Central) had a 27-yard field goal and made four extra-point attempts for seven of Saint Xavier's 37 points on the day.
With 5:34 left to play in the first quarter, the visiting Trojans struck first when sophomore Stephen Anderson found freshman Cory Windle open for a 32-yard touchdown strike. However, TIU failed on the extra-point try to make the score, 6-0. Gill led Saint Xavier down the field on the ensuing drive and capped it with an eight-yard scoring strike to DeBenedetti to give the Cougars the 7-6 advantage after the Nolen PAT. Three plays later, Dolph picked off Anderson and brought it back 32 yards to the end zone to give SXU a 14-6 lead late in the first quarter. A nine-yard touchdown catch by freshman wide receiver Dennis Vilimek (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) and a two-yard plunge by Pesek in the second quarter gave Saint Xavier a 27-6 halftime lead.
The Trojans marched down the field to open the second half and scored on an eight-yard pass by Anderson to sophomore Dillon Turk to cut the lead to 27-13 with 12:06 remaining in the third quarter. Nolen converted on a 27-yard field goal on Saint Xavier's first drive of the new half to make it, 30-13. However, TIU answered with another long scoring drive that saw sophomore Chris Elliott find the end zone on an eight-yard run to bring his team within 10 points, 30-20, at the 6:15 mark of the third quarter. The Cougars answered with a long drive of their own (10 plays, 75 yards) that ended with an 11-yard touchdown grab by DeBenedetti from Gill late in the third quarter. Neither team scored in the final frame as SXU maintained its double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
Saint Xavier (6-4 overall/3-2 MSFA) wraps up its 2013 regular season slate on Saturday, November 16, with a MSFA Midwest League game against Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.). The game is scheduled to kick off at 1:30 p.m. at Tiger Field in Bourbonnais, Ill.