Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Saint Francis' Justin Green carries the ball Saturday against St. Xavier at Bishop D'Arcy Stadium.
Saint Francis receiver Rocky James looks to get past St. Xavier cornerback Brenton Johnson. James scored two touchdowns in the victory.
Sunday, September 24, 2017 1:00 am
Saint Francis 48, St. Xavier 23
Quick start boosts Cougars
QB Ferrer tosses 4 touchdown passes in victory
GREG JONES | The Journal Gazette
Homecoming for defending NAIA national champion Saint Francis included postgame pyrotechnics, but the Cougars got the fireworks started much earlier.
No. 1 Saint Francis rolled past No. 11 St. Xavier 48-23 on Saturday night at Bishop D'Arcy Stadium for its 13th straight win, which tied a school record, and improved to 17-3 in 20 homecoming games.
“We came out hot and fast and set the tone and tempo early in the game,” Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said. “We went after them pretty good.”
Saint Francis (4-0) jumped out to a 25-7 lead after the first quarter and pulled away under unseasonably muggy conditions in the team's only home night game of the season.
“We enjoy competitive games,” Donley said. “We expected one tonight, and we got it. They didn't quit, and they fought until the end.”
Nick Ferrer continued his torrid pace with four touchdown passes, increasing his school-record total to 114. The senior quarterback is seven scoring tosses away from No. 2 all-time in NAIA history.
Ferrer completed 29 of 44 passes for 351 yards but was pressured throughout the game and sacked three times.
“The offense came out hot in the first half,” Ferrer said. “The defense took care of the rest in the second half. That's a really good team.”
Ferrer has thrown at least two touchdown passes in 30 straight games. He did, however, throw his first interception in 12 games.
Rocky James made two highlight-reel scoring catches, one juggling the ball into the end zone before finally corralling it for the score and one where he showed off his jumping ability and went over a defender for the touchdown catch.
“I just got out there and provide for my team,” James said. “When I see the ball, I just go get it.”
James had 11 catches for 166 yards and the two touchdowns, one on a 49-yard haul and the other on a 18-yarder. James was the main receiver as Dan Ricksy, who caught four touchdowns last week, was on the sideline nursing an injury. Nate Carson and Duke Blackwell caught the other two touchdowns for the Cougars.
“The momentum just kept going, and the offense was rolling, rolling, and we got the defense back on our side,” James said. “We got it going and put the other team down. The heat was overwhelming, and it got to me early. I had to get to the sideline and rehydrate, but I had to get out there for my team. The heat was a factor, but we overcame it.”
Saint Francis running back Justin Green ran for two scores, and the defense surrendered only 194 total yards, including minus-64 yards rushing.
The Cougars also benefited from a football rarity, three safeties (two in the first quarter) on snaps for St. Xavier punt attempts that went out of the back of the end zone.
“They had some special team errors, and we capitalized on that,” Donley said.
St. Xavier, which beat Saint Francis rival and next Saturday's Cougars' road opponent, Marian, 32-27 in the season opener, lost for the first time and fell to 3-1.