MADISON >> Will Levis threw a pair of touchdown passes and Xavier’s defense stifled Hand pretty much most of the night as the Falcons notched a 13-7 win on Friday at the Surf Club.
Xavier scored twice in the first half, but neither team found the end zone again until Reid Sweitzer’s one-yard run capped a spirited, 86-yard drive for Hand with 48 seconds left in the game.
The Tigers were unable to recover Garrison Fenner’s onside kick, and the Falcons evened their record at 4-4. Hand fell to 5-2.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on defense,” said Xavier coach Sean Marinan. “We’ve been having some growing pains, making a lot of mental mistakes, and we cleaned a lot of that up this week. It’s a credit to the kids for focusing and paying attention.”
On the flip side, Hand coach Steve Filippone wasn’t overly pleased with his team’s effort, really laying into the squad during a lengthy, emotional postgame speech — at one point noting that players from championship teams in Hand’s history wouldn’t have been proud of the team’s effort on Friday.
Xavier scored on its second possession, starting at the Hand 35 and capping the four-play drive with a 24-yard swing pass from Levis to Anthony Caramanica.
The Falcons made it 13-0 on a terrific 4th-and-5 pass play from Levis to Parker Rowley, who made an outstanding, leaping catch in the end zone. Two nifty runs (15 and 25 yards) by Glenn Cunningham highlighted the drive for Xavier.
All the while, Hand just couldn’t get much going offensively. The Tigers gained just 46 yards on 15 carries, while quarterback Nick van Dell completed just 10 of 22 passes for 76 yards — 25 of them on a last-second completion to Mark Hill that was stopped well short of the end zone as the first half expired.
Hand couldn’t get much going offensively in the latter half, either, until starting at its own 16-yard line with just 3:06 to play. Highlighted by long pass completions to Sweitzer, Hill and Joe Ciotti, the latter bringing the ball to the Xavier four.
On 4th-and-goal, Sweitzer capped the drive, but that was all the Tigers would be able to muster.
“Inexperience,” Marinan said of the large chunks of yards his defense allowed on Hand’s final drive. “Quarterback’s running, the guy comes off the receiver before the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage and they played catch.
“But, we’ll get that fixed.”
Indeed, while Xavier is out of the postseason picture, Marinan is enjoying the role of spoiler.
“You hope you teach the kids not to give up on things and play for pride and win as many games as you can,” he said. “Just because you’re out of the running for a championship doesn’t mean you can’t try to be the best you can be and finish on a good note. We’re working on that, and hopefully we can finish strong.”
Xavier 13, Hand 7
Xavier 6 7 0 0 0 — 13
Hand 0 0 0 7 0 — 7
X—Anthony Caramanica 24 pass from Will Levis (kick failed)
X—Parker Rowley 28 pass from Will Levis (Benjamin Deveran kick)
H—Reid Sweitzer 1 run (Garrison Fenner kick)
Team records: Hand 5-2; Xavier 4-4