by Wade Marbaugh
In a showdown between state-ranked high school teams, the St. Pius X Golden Lions proved more golden than the Lovett Lions.
Ryan Braswell scored two touchdowns and Jack Spear and Thomas O’Leary added six points apiece as the St. Pius X Golden Lions blanked the Lovett Lions 24-0 Sept. 21 at George B. Maloof Stadium.
The matchup drew considerable pregame hype as it was the first time the two schools met on the gridiron since 1983, and both entered the season with bright outlooks.
Under head coach Paul Standard, St. Pius (3-1) has made the playoffs nine times and has racked up a 45-8 record over four seasons and four games into the 2012 campaign. The Golden Lions entered the game ranked fifth in the Class AAA state poll.
Lovett (2-2), which boasted victories over two ranked AAA teams—Woodward Academy and Blessed Trinity—came into the game ranked No. 4 in Class AA. The Lions have made the playoffs every year since Mike Muschamp took the head coaching job in 2005.
However, throughout the contest, Lovett’s offense and quarterback Willie Candler were stymied by St. Pius’ stout defense, led by junior defensive backs Nick Spear and Nick Glass and senior tackle Quincy Nieporte.
Working off its patented wishbone offense, St. Pius lit up the scoreboard in the first quarter with a 43-yard field goal by junior kicker Thomas O’Leary. A shanked 16-yard punt by Lovett had given St. Pius excellent field position, but the visitors’ reputed defense held the damage to a field goal.
It was the last bright spot for Lovett. When its offense fumbled on its next possession—after committing only two turnovers in the first three games—the St. Pius offense went back to work a mere 13 yards from goal line.
Braswell, a senior fullback, barged into the end zone from the one-yard line. O’Leary booted the point-after, and the Lions took the 10-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Standard and his staff apparently made adjustments during the intermission. The Golden Lions came out roaring in the second half.
Jack Spear, a senior in his first year as starting quarterback for the Golden Lions, applied a little innovation with the wishbone early in the third quarter to break the game open.
Running back Brandon Mitchell and Spear botched an option play to the left by bumping each other in the backfield. But Spear kept the ball, reversed to the right side and galloped 56 yards to pay dirt, making the score 17-0 with O’Leary’s point-after kick.
The Lions maintained possession most of the period, getting six first downs, while they had managed only four in the entire first half.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Braswell scored on another one-yard plunge, his eighth touchdown of the season. O’Leary finished the night’s scoring with the PAT.
Nick Spear intercepted a Candler pass in the closing minutes to preserve the shutout.
The victory puts the Golden Lions back on track after the previous week’s 21-14 loss to No. 2 Thomson, only its third regular-season loss in four years.
The victory improved St. Pius to 9-4 over Lovett in their 13 meetings over the decades. Each program has won a state championship, St. Pius in 1968 and Lovett in 1970.
St. Pius opens its Region 6-AAA schedule, hosting Towers Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m.