Everywhere you looked Saturday night, there was Xavier's William Solomon.
The key component to the Knights' powerful single wing rushing attack, Solomon ran the ball 27 times for 174 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 7 Xavier over No. 6 St. John the Baptist, 35-14, in the CHSFL AA championship game at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
While Xavier enjoyed a King-size effort from Solomon, it was a different story for St. John the Baptist, which had a tough night offensively.
"We just couldn't get things going," St. John the Baptist coach Keith Schweers said. "For whatever reason, we got things going all year and tonight just wasn't our night. You keep looking for those couple of plays to get going and they just never happened."
St. John the Baptist (9-2) and Xavier (9-2) met earlier this season, a 14-0 win for the Cougars on Sept. 15. After the loss, Xavier coach Chris Stevens said he made a few adjustments that paid dividends the rest of the season.
"After we played them the last time, it forced us to make a couple of changes and those changes put us on the roll that we've been on," Stevens said.
One of those changes was inserting Ryan Kilgallen on the wing. He rushed for 88 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries Saturday night. Kilgallen shared offensive MVP honors with Solomon, who also had two interceptions on defense.
After having its powerful rushing attack neutralized early on, St. John the Baptist was able to put some pressure on Xavier in the middle of the third quarter.
Oscar Frisby capped an 11-play, 90-yard drive when he scored from 1 yard on fourth-and-goal to cut SJB's deficit to 27-14. The key play on the drive was a 50-yard pass down the right sideline from Greg Egan to Bryan Sinclair. SJB's first touchdown was also a 1-yard run, by Jonathan Wiswall in the second quarter.
After Frisby's TD made it a 13-point game, Matthew Sutton recovered a fumble on the ensuing Xavier drive. But SJB couldn't make it a one-possession game as Egan was sacked on fourth down.
The Cougars couldn't get any closer as Solomon's running ate up large chunks of time. "He's a great football player and a great athlete," Schweers said. "He's a very strong young man and they did everything right offensively. Their 11 guys blocked and ran and they took advantage of it."
It wasn't all disappointment for Schweers and his team as they walked off the field. It was a step in the right direction for a program that hasn't played in a final since 1993 (Class AAA) and hasn't won a championship since 1984 (also AAA).
"I realized with a minute left to go in the game that there's only two teams left in AA and somebody had to lose," Schweers said. "They came to play -- they had a great game tonight and had every answer for us. Our guys still battled on both sides of the ball no matter what and it is a great step for our program. We would have loved to come off the field victorious but it doesn't mean we're going to stop. We're going to continue to go."