Photo by Jeff Vorva
St. Xavier’s Mike Ivlow turns the corner and runs for a school-record 98-yard touchdown run in Saturday’s 45-0 victory over Lindenwood-Belleville.
Former Richards High School star Josh Hettiger was brutally honest about the 2016 season for St. Xavier University’s football team, which finished below .500 for the first time since 1999.
“It was a letdown, 100 percent,” the sophomore linebacker said. “All offseason we said ‘we suck – we’re not a good team.’ We used it as fuel all offseason.’’
The Cougars used that fuel and roared out of the gate this season 3-0 with a shocking opening-season victory over Marian, which was ranked fifth in the nation in the NAIA by the coaches at the time. They followed up with a couple of romps including Saturday night’s 45-0 victory over Lindenwood-Belleville at Deaton Field in a Mid-States Football Association crossover game.
It was their first shutout since a 31-0 pasting of William Penn Nov. 17. 2012 and just the 10th shutout in the history of the school, which started football in 1993 and played 278 games. On offense, sophomore receiver Harold Davis had three touchdown receptions and senior running back Mike Ivlow broke the school record with a 98-yard run in the third quarter en route to a 189-yard rushing night.
Now, the ultimate test.
The Cougars, ranked 11th in the country, travel to Fort Wayne, Ind. to take on the No. 1 team in the nation and defending national champion St. Francis, at 5 p.m. at Bishop John D’Arcy Stadium in another crossover.
SXU is 5-8 lifetime against St. Francis (also known as the Cougars) and won 53-26 the last time these team hooked up on Oct. 11, 2014.
“Our wins and losses are pretty close against them,” SXU coach Mike Feminis said. “We’ve had some huge games with them. We were No. 1 a few different times. They were No. 1 at least a couple of times. There was a game where it was a No. 1 vs. No. 2 one year. We’ve played them in the playoffs three times.
“This is about as big as it gets at our level. It’s a good rivalry and a healthy rivalry. We have a lot of respect for them. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. I can’t wait. Any time you get a chance to play the No. 1 team in the country – how can you not be excited?’’
St. Francis (also 3-0) brings in a powerhouse offense that exploded for 686 yards in a 49-21 victory over St. Ambrose Saturday in Davenport, Iowa. Nick Ferrer threw for 508 yards and six touchdowns. The senior has 110 career TD passes.
Hettiger, who had 2 ½ sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Belleville, is looking forward to the challenge. He said that the season opener against Marian had a special feel to it and he said he can’t wait for a crack at No. 1.
“The atmosphere is just so different,” Hettiger said. “You can’t compare it with anything. Once you get out there, it’s just so surreal. I don’t know what it’s going to be like but I’m excited and the team is excited.
“If we bring the same type of energy as we did (against Lindenwood-Bellville), I’m looking for another shutout.’’
Ivlow said the offense should be ready.
“Everyone had us under the radar before the season started,” he said. “We’re ready to roll. They have everything to lose and we have nothing to lose. We’re going in with the same mentality that we have each week, and that’s to be ready to go.’’