FAIRFIELD — The game plan for the Fairfield Prep football team is a simple one. Run the football, control the clock and wear down the opposition.
The Jesuits did all that … and more Friday night. Justin Keith scored three touchdowns and rushed for over 120 yards, the Prep defense recorded six sacks and held Xavier to a -1 yard rushing total and the Jesuits rolled to a 35-7 victory over the Falcons at Rafferty Stadium.
“The boys did a really good job, I thought they did,” Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “I felt we had a much better week of practice, they really dialed it up. Xavier is a big rival of ours and we knew we would have to play some pretty good defense because they some solid offensive weapons.”
Prep’s defense sacked Xavier quarterback Will Levis six times — two coming from junior linebacker Chris Martinez — and unofficially, held the Falcons to minus-29 yards rushing.
“Our game plan was to try and wear them out,” Martinez said. “We knew we had the depth and by the end of the game we were able to do that and do what we had to do.”
Meanwhile, as the Jesuits defense was doing its thing, the Prep offense was doing its thing — running the ball down the Falcons’ throat. Eight different players carried the ball for Prep, who unofficially gained 408 yards rushing. Keith led the way with 121 yards and touchdown runs of four, 10 and three yards.
“I love the workload,” Keith said, who rushed 16 times and caught two passes. “Doug (Harrison) was the workhorse before but injuries happen and the next guy has to step up and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
To say that the Jesuits defense dominated in the first half would be an understatement. Three plays into the game, Xavier had moved 57 yards, 56 of them coming on two pass plays from Levis to Kyle MacGillis. But after that, Prep stood like a stone wall, holding Xavier to just four yards over its next 21 plays.
“We had to make sure that we made it difficult for them to execute,” Hellstern said.
Prep took advantage of some solid field position to move 46 yards and take the lead as Keith scored from 4 yards out on the first play of the second quarter to make it 7-0 as Hendrik Boot converted the extra point. The Jesuits also used a rare safety to add to the lead as Levis — strangely in the shotgun when the Falcons were starting at their own 1 — was tackled by Keith to up the Prep margin to 9-0 at halftime.
Keith’s second TD run, early in the third quarter, pushed the Prep margin to 16-0 but Xavier countered, scoring on Prep’s only defensive lapse of the night — a 73-yard TD pass from Levis to MacGillis — to cut the lead to 16-7 but another Keith touchdown run, a 26-yard TD run from Anthony Mastroni and a 2-yard touchdown run from Sean Nelson as the final horn sounded (he rushed for all of Prep’s 82 yards in the final drive), started the Jesuits celebration.
“I think this was the turning point in the season for us,” Martinez said. “Coming off a good win over Sheehan, this will give us a lot of momentum heading into the second half. Big things are coming.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Prep’s Justin Keith. He scored three touchdowns, rushed for over 120 yards and had a sack of Xavier QB Will Levis in the end zone for a safety.
“Last year they kind of ran up the score on us and we came out for some revenge. They scored 31 on us last year … big difference tonight, huh?” — Prep’s Justin Keith
PREP 35, XAVIER 7
XAVIER 0 0 7 0 — 7
FAIRFIELD PREP 0 9 13 13 — 35
FP — Justin Keith, 4-yard run (Hendrik Boot kick)
FP — Safety, Will Levis tackled in end zone
FP — Keith, 10-yard run (Boot kick)
X — Kyle MacGillis, 73-yard pass from Will Levis (Samuel Norris kick)
FP — Keith, 3-yard run (kick failed)
FP — Anthony Mastroni, 26-yard run (Boot kick)
FP — Sean Nelson, 2-yard run (no kick attempted)
Records: Fairfield Prep (4-1); Xavier (2-3)