ONE STEP CLOSER

McShane scores twice as surg­ing St. Xavier eases past St. Fran­cis

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - Sports - By Steve Mil­lar

When Vance McShane de­cided to leaveWestern Illi­nois in the spring of 2017, hewasn’t sure what his next step was go­ing to be.

“To be hon­est, I was about to give up on foot­ball,” McShane said. “Iwas like, ‘AmI done?’ ”

McShane, how­ever, has found a new home at St. Xavier. The red­shirt fresh­man run­ning back rushed for a touch­down and caught an­other Satur­day as the host Cougars, ranked No. 22 in NAIA, topped St. Fran­cis 44-28 in a MSFA Mid­west League game.

Prov­i­dence grad­u­ate Justin Hun­ni­ford threw for 296 yards and three TDs as St. Xavier (7-3, 4-0) won its fifth straight and kept its post­sea­son hopes alive.

Mount Carmel grad­u­ate Don Butkus threw for two TDs and ran for two more to lead St. Fran­cis (2-7, 0-3).

McShane sparked the Cougars in the first half. His 1-yardTDrun early in the first quar­ter made it 10-0 and his 15-yard TD catch from Hun­ni­ford with a minute left built a 24-7 lead.

McShane went to Western Illi­nois as a pre­ferred walk-on, but de­cided it wasn’t the right spot for him.

For­mer Rock­ford Auburn coach Dan Ap­pino, whose son Pa­trick starred on St. Xavier’s 2011 na­tional cham­pi­onship team, coached against him when McShane was at Freeport and rec­om­mended him to St. Xavier coachMike Fem­i­nis.

“He toldme, ‘If you­can get this guy, he’s ab­so­lutely dy­na­mite,’ ” Fem­i­nis said. “Sure enough, he’s here nowand he’s dy­na­mite. He’s a dif­fer­ence-maker. We’re ex­cited to have him for three more years.”

McShane red­shirted last sea­son be­cause of trans­fer rules, but was ready to make an im­pact from­day one this year.

“You al­ways have to aim high, so I came in ex­pect­ing to play right away,” McShane said. “I knew if coach gave me a chance, I’dmake some­thing hap­pen.”

Hun­ni­ford, who also threw TD passes to Harold Davis and El­liott Pip­kin, is happy to see the ground game get­ting in gear with McShane and EricWil­liams Jr.

Williams, an Evergreen Park grad­u­ate, also ran for a TD.

“Those guys have made our run game a huge suc­cess,” Hun­ni­ford said. “We know based on the look we get from the de­fense if we want to run it and ex­actly where we want to run it or if we want to pass it.

“Right now, it’s all click­ing. Hope­fully, we can keep that up nex­tweek and into the play­offs.”

Richards grad­u­ate Josh Het­tiger, Evergreen Park grad Tim Walsh and Dmitri Joe had in­ter­cep­tions to lead St. Xavier’s de­fense.

Butkus com­pleted 20 of 43 passes for 240 yards.

With awin nex­tweek at Olivet Nazarene, St. Xavier would clinch the Mid­west League cham­pi­onship. If the Cougars can rise to the top 20 of theNAIA rank­ings, they would be guar­an­teed a playoff spot.

“When we were 2-3, we told the guys we had to win out,” Fem­i­nis said. “Now it’s five weeks later and we’re one win away. I’m re­ally proud of the guys.”

SteveMil­lar is a free­lance reporter for the Daily South­town.

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