Last week, the Archbishop Moeller Crusaders were humbled by GCL rival St. Xavier, losing 49-16 at home for their first defeat of the year. They weren’t about to let it happen twice.
Facing another conference foe on Friday in La Salle, Moeller won a hard-fought battle in the trenches, beating the Lancers 28-14 at Norwood’s Shea Stadium. They overcame an early 7-0 deficit with three second-half touchdowns, earning their first win in league play in dramatic fashion.
Coming off the St. X debacle, it was a much-needed shot in the arm.
“They beat the tar piss out of us,” said Moeller head coach Mark Elder, referencing last week’s loss. “I think that this was a great confidence builder, and it gave us a good judge of where we’re at exactly.”
The Crusaders were led by a resurgent performance from senior quarterback Noah Geselbracht, who missed the last two games – the St. X loss and a 25-7 win at Ironton – with an undisclosed illness. He credited his teammate, sophomore Van George, for stepping up in his absence.
“I told him after the game, I went up and said, ‘thank you for leading this football team,’” Geselbracht said of George, who threw for 419 yards and three scores over the past two games in his first opportunity as a varsity starter. “For him to step up like he did was amazing… he stuck in there, and I’m proud of him.”
George happily deferred to Geselbracht on Friday, as the senior returned to throw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, earning player of the game honors in the process. Despite missing multiple games, his 15 passing scores on the season are second-most in the Greater Catholic Leagues.
The scoring started in the first quarter, as La Salle took the lead on a 29-yard pitch from Mason Mattingly to Jaden Troehler with three minutes to go. Moeller responded with a touchdown in the second period, as Geselbracht connected with senior wideout Kurt Thompson for a 10-yard score. However, a failed two-point conversion allowed the Lancers to hold the lead into halftime.
The action picked up immediately in the second half, as Geselbracht led a 71-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter, culminating in a 13-yard strike to Thompson that gave Moeller its first lead of the game. They followed that up with an 80-yard drive shortly after, with Geselbracht finding junior Ryan Mechley for the 27-yard capper up the middle. Just like that, the score was 21-7.
But the Lancers didn’t quit. They capitalized on a sack-fumble by Geselbracht, gaining possession inside the 30 and then riding senior back Davay Hill all the way into the endzone. As the third quarter came to a close, it was a one-score game.
The final period was a back-and-forth affair, but the deciding blow came on a 12-yard touchdown run by junior Alec Weeder with three minutes remaining. From there, Moeller took care of business.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a dogfight,” Geselbracht said. “I think it’s only up from here.”
The Crusaders were aided by 83 yards on 12 carries from sophomore Jordan Marshall, the GCL’s second-leading rusher. In the passing game, Thompson led the way with eight catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns, while senior tight end Joshua Kattus added 71 yards of his own. Junior Joseph Ginnetti, the GCL’s leading tackler, led the team with five hits and had a clutch interception.
For La Salle, Mattingly went 8-20 for 77 yards, one touchdown and 64 yards on the ground before being replaced by sophomore Kyle Reynolds in the fourth quarter. Troehler finished with five catches for 61 yards and a single score.
The win marked the first GCL victory for Elder, who was hired by Moeller in 2020 after several years patrolling the college sidelines at Eastern Kentucky University.
“We had to fight to win it and that’s great to see,” Elder said “I knew that this was going to be a big measuring stick for us because this is a darn good football team.”
The Crusaders will get another chance to test their mettle next week, as they travel to Elder on Saturday for another conference battle. La Salle will face undefeated Cathedral, hoping to rebound before they take on GCL leader St. Xavier in two weeks.
La Salle – 7 0 7 0
Moeller – 0 6 15 7
LS- Mattingly 29 pass to Troehler (Luensman kick)
M- Geselbracht 10 pass to Thompson (White run failed)
M- Geselbracht 13 pass to Thompson (Marshall run)
M- Geselbracht 27 pass to Mechley (Steele kick)
LS- Hill 1 run (Luensman kick)
M- Weeder 12 run (Steele kick)