Lexington Catholic's football program quit acknowledging moral victories long ago, but that doesn't mean the Knights can't take a lot of good vibes out of a loss.
A week after two-time defending Class 5A champ Bowling Green bashed Lexington Catholic 48-21, 6A power St. Xavier beat the host Knights 49-28 in the Republic Bank Bluegrass Bowl on Sunday night.
"We'll take a lot of positives out of this," Lexington Catholic Coach Bill Letton said. "If we play that hard the rest of the way, we're going to be in really good shape.
"We executed a lot better than last week. We gave up a big play or two, but we gave up several last week.
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"I saw a lot of improvement tonight, and I was awfully proud of our effort.
St. X, under first-year coach Will Wolford, piled up 485 yards and looked dominant at times. But the Tigers left town knowing they had been in a fight.
Lexington Catholic gashed St. X's defense for 385 yards, and it was a one-score difference (35-28) late in the third quarter.
Knights sophomore quarterback Reese Ryan stood up to a fierce rush to complete 19 of 35 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns. He was picked off twice.
"They came hard and they came fast, and they're big," Ryan said of the Tigers.
But Ryan kept his cool and was able to repeatedly hook up with David Bouvier and Sam Letton.
David Bouvier, a 5-foot-9, 150-pound senior, had nine receptions for 89 yards. Sam Letton, a 6-3, 215-pound sophomore, had five catches for 192 yards and three scores (28, 66 and 72 yards).
"Me and Sam found it tonight," Ryan said. "We picked on a corner and he'd blow by him or find a seam. We just had a connection tonight."
Letton, son of Coach Bill Letton, was modest about his big night.
"He was a pretty good corner, but I just tried to blow by him and do my assignment, nothing else," he said.
Marcelis Logan had a 52-yard dash that accounted for most of the Knights' 72 net rushing yards.
Sam Letton's third TD catch of the night cut St. X's lead to 35-28, but the Tigers responded by scoring less than a minute later.
Charles Walker led the St. X ground game, rushing 12 times for 92 yards and two TDs. Austin Davis, a 225-pound bruiser, ran 14 times for 78 yards and three TDs.
"I'm glad I didn't have to tackle No. 45 (Davis) tonight," Letton said.
Tigers senior quarterback B.J. Nagle, son of former University of Louisville QB Browning Nagle, completed 13 of 28 passes for 221 yards and a TD. He was intercepted once, by Cody Mitchell in the end zone.
Will Roshkowski had a couple long-distance scores. He caught a 72-yard TD pass on St. X's second play of the game, and he had an 86-yard kickoff return for a TD to open the second half.
Wolford praised the maturity of his team, which had a rough week, trying to squeeze in practice in the oppressive heat, then making two trips to Lexington.
The Tigers were supposed to play Lexington Catholic on Saturday night, but storms forced it to be postponed.
Letton thought his Knights held up well against the bigger, stronger Tigers.
"Our Achilles heel has always been big, strong, power teams. They always give us trouble," he said.
"But if we can go toe-to-toe with St. X, we can go toe-to-toe with anybody."
St. Xavier 49, Lexington Catholic 28
St. Xavier 21 7 14 7—49
Lexington Catholic 7 7 14 0—28
SX—Will Roshkowski 72 pass from B.J. Nagle (Jake Collins kick). LC—David Bouvier 98 kickoff return (Donovan Morris kick). SX—Charles Walker 12 run (Collins kick). SX—Austin Davis 2 run (Collins kick). LC—Sam Letton 28 pass from Reese Ryan (Morris kick). SX—Davis 26 run (Collins kick). SX—Roshkowski 86 kickoff return (Collins kick). LC—Letton 66 pass from Ryan (Morris kick). SX—Walker 1 run (Collins kick). SX—Davis 1 run (Collins kick).
Records: St. Xavier 2-0; Lexington Catholic 0-2.