Southsider Voice correspondent
A nasty, snowy Halloween night didn’t keep Center Grove, Southport, Beech Grove, Roncalli and Lutheran from advancing in the state football tournament.
Center Grove, which has won seven games in a row after losing its first three outings to the top three ranked 6A teams – Carmel, Ben Davis and Warren Central – pounded Columbus North 54-7. Running back Max Norris led CG’s wing-T attack with 166 yards and three touchdowns. The Trojans scored eight touchdowns and amassed nearly 400 yards rushing while holding the host Bulldogs to 130 yards of offense.
The Trojans (8-3), ranked No. 4 among 6A teams, host No. 10 Southport (9-2) on Friday at 7 p.m., the start time for all games. The Cardinals used timely offense and defense to end Franklin Central’s season in an all-Southside Sectional 7 championship matchup at Perry Stadium.
Cardell Tucker, who missed four games due to a knee injury, caught two touchdown passes and scored on a 3-yard run to lead the Cardinals to a 28-18 win.
Southport quarterback Luke Johnston threw TD passes of 19 and 17 yards on his way to a 200-yard game in blustery conditions on the artificial turf at Ray Skillman Field.
Tucker’s scintillating back-of-the-end-zone TD catch of Johnson’s 17-yard laser pass on fourth down and Ed Aleman’s extra-point kick put the Cardinals ahead 28-12 with nine minutes left in the game.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen a high school play nicer than that one,” Southport coach Bill Peebles said of the clutch TD. “It was an outstanding throw and outstanding catch on fourth down and long.”
The Flashes (3-8), needing to score twice, never gave up. They took the kickoff, marched 69 yards in eight plays, scoring on quarterback Chris Arnold’s 2-yard run with 5:43 to go. The drive featured three passes from Arnold to 6-3 split end Wil Huber for 63 yards.
Southport’s defense stepped up as Donovan Millbrook intercepted the two-point pass that the Flashes desperately needed. The defense later stopped FC at midfield on four downs to ice the game.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Peebles said. “We limited (Aaron) Austin, who is a great running back, to only pop off a couple (long runs). They are a very physical football team.” Austin was held to 97 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown and a 5-yard run in the third quarter.
Southport sophomore running back Drew Mappes picked up 93 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. “Mappes ran great and got some tough yards against a team that plays outstanding run defense,” Peebles said.
Last year the Trojans dominated the undefeated Cardinals 56-14 for the regional title in a duel between the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference champs (CG) and Conference Indiana victors (Southport).
“They beat us by a big margin,” Peebles said. “We’re going to have to play the perfect game to be successful.”
Elsewhere, Beech Grove (7-4) rediscovered its high-powered offense to defeat Pendleton Heights 46-0 to capture a 4A Sectional 21 semifinal on the road.
The Hornets, who will face New Palestine on Friday, kept it on the ground for 60 plays and gained 388 yards (6.5 yards per carry). Quarterback Chase Andries scored on runs of 29, 1 and 25 yards and threw a 12-yard TD pass to Ben Neff. Ryan Ward scored twice on the ground.
Beech Grove’s improved defense achieved its first shutout of the season and limited Pendleton Heights to 68 yards on 29 carries.
The Hornets rolled to a five-game winning streak earlier this season by scoring 262 points during that span, but the Hornets lost their next three games. The offense averages 39.1 points; the defense has improved to allowing 27.6 points.
Roncalli (5-6) avenged a 20-7 regular-season loss against Bishop Chatard into a 31-6 upset of the No. 4 Trojans in a 4A Sectional 22 semifinal.
The Rebels, who meet Plainfield for the championship, led 31-3 at the half after exploding for three touchdowns in the second quarter, scoring on two short rushing TDs by Nate Fries and a 26-yard pass from Casey Gore to Gavin Taylor. Patrick Sandler capped the outburst with a 21-yard field goal.
Lutheran (8-3) blasted South Putnam 47-0 in the Class A Sectional 46 semifinal to advance to the title game against Howe.
The Saints opened the scoring with a 90-yard kickoff return by Cody Moncel. Jacob Zoeller scored on an 11-yard run, and Dylen Goddard concluded the first-quarter romp with a 16-yard score.
Zoeller wound up with 141 yards on 15 carries and one more TD. Dalton Nidey added 125 yards on the ground.
The Saints amassed 471 yards of offense, including 371 yards on the ground, and limited South Putnam to only 94 yards of offense.