ONE STEP CLOSER
McShane scores twice as surging St. Xavier eases past St. Francis
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.