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(11)Saint Xavier
(1)University of Saint Francis (Ind.)
Football - Sat, Sep. 23, 2017

FORT WAYNE, Ind.  – In a battle between the top teams in the MSFA Midwest and Mideast Leagues, No. 11 Saint Xavier were unable to overcome a fast start from No. 1 St. Francis (Ind.), falling behind early in a 48-23 loss on Saturday night.

The Cougars (3-1) allowed 25 first-quarter points to St. Francis (4-0), as the home team scored touchdowns on their first three drives, and a pair of bad snaps on SXU punt attempts resulted in back-to-back safties for a 25-0 edge. Saint Xavier would get on the board late in the first, when Alex Martinez (St. Laurence HS / Burbank, Ill.) finished a 65-yard, nine-play drive with a touchdown pass to Michael Markasovic (Providence Catholic HS / New Lenox, Ill.), his first TD reception of the season.

After another St. Francis touchdown to start the second quarter extended the lead to 32-7, SXU defensive back Kevin Block (FR/Plainfield, Ill.) killed their next drive with his first career interception, returning the ball 24 yards to give the Cougars possession at the USF 28-yardline. The Cougars were unable to convert for a first down, but Abdul Mahdi (Bogan HS / Chicago, Ill.) split the uprights on a 37-yard field goal to make it a 32-10 score.

St. Francis would strike again with another touchdown, before the Cougars answered with a Martinez-to-Mark Strbjak (Northern Illinois / Munster, Ind.) touchdown, and SXU would go into the halftime break trailing 39-17.

Looking to turn the momentum around at the start of the third quarter, the Cougars quickly drove across midfield on their first possession, with big gains from Markasovic and Nick Czeszewski (Oak Forest HS / Oak Forest, Ill.). The drive stalled with a fourth down at the USF 30-yardline however, and an interception in the corner of the end zone when SXU tried to convert.

Both offenses slowed compared to the high-scoring first half, as both teams traded fourth-quarter touchdowns in the closing minutes. Jamarri Watson (Oak Park-River Forest HS / Oak Park, Ill.) rushed for his first touchdown of the year, capping an 11-play, 79-yard drive with two minutes left to play, resulting in the 48-23 final score.

Martinez finished the day 28-for-54, for 258 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. The Cougars tallied just 194 yards of total offense however, thanks in part to eight sacks and three bad snaps, resulting in negative-64 rushing yards. Czeszewski made ten receptions for 93 yards to lead the team, while Mike Ivlow (Joliet Catholic Academy / Channahon, Ill.) had a team-high 29 rushing yards on six carries.

Defensively, Kevin Block and Josh Hettiger (Richards HS / Oak Lawn, Ill.) each had eight tackles to lead the team, while Derrick Hosselton (Olivet Nazarene [Ill.] / Manteno, Ill.) made one-and-a-half sacks for a net loss of ten yards.

Saint Xavier returns to Deaton Field next Saturday, as the Cougars celebrate Homecoming Weekend on September 30. The Cougars face Taylor in a 1:00 p.m. kickoff.