CINCINNATI - St. Xavier narrowly escaped being its own worst enemy on Saturday afternoon.
Penalties and fumbles allowed visiting East St. Louis (Ill.) to stick around after the Bombers built a 21-0 first half lead. A young St. X squad didn’t handle the early prosperity well but held on for a 35-20 win in the 2014 opener.
Things started out great for St. Xavier. Junior Sean Prophit broke free for a 36-yard touchdown run on the Bombers' first play from scrimmage. He would finish the game with 58 yards on eight carries.
Ben Glines scored his first of three touchdowns 49 seconds into the second period.
After a poor punt and a penalty gave St. X the ball on the Flyers 10-yard line, Glines wasted little time scoring on a 10-yard run with 9:21 left in the second quarter.
The visitors would get a break after recovering a fumble by St. X quarterback Sean Clifford. It would be the first of four fumbles that the Bombers would lose in the contest. The Flyers turned to their stud, Natareace Strong, and hje scored with 3:58 left before halftime.
Strong, a Missouri commit, would finish the game with 56 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns but wasn’t much of a factor after he got cramps midway through the second half.
After intermission St. Xavier immediately gave the ball up on a fumble at the 1-yard line. Strong went over and the Flyers were back in the game.
The Bombers fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the ball to the Flyers on the Bombers 39. St. Xavier held, though, and got good field position when a high snap to the ESL punter and his run gave Bombers the ball on the East St. Louis 37.
Glines went to work again getting the hat trick with his third rushing score to give the Bombers a 28-14 lead. The senior finished with 126 yards on 19 carries. It was the fourth time in the last six games that Glines has run for more than 100 yards.
East St. Louis pulled close again as sophomore quarterback Rayondus Estes hooked up with Jermain Grissom on a 32-yard scoring strike. A missed extra point and the Bombers found themselves up by just eight with 6:52 left.
But redemption came next for St. Xavier’s Ronnie Fricke, who had two of the team’s earlier fumbles.
The Bombers marched right back down the field and Fricke finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown with 5:42 left.
The St. Xavier played fairly well behind Justin Hilliard, Cole Jones, Elijah Payne and J.P. Bitzenhoffer, who had a team high nine tackles including two for losses.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Bombers as they host an angry Colerain team next Friday night.