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By Al Stilley
Senior staff writer
4A No. 1 Roncalli and 6A No. 2 Center Grove, riding a 12-game winning streak, chase state football championships Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Roncalli (14-0) faces No. 2 NorthWood (14-0) at 3:30 p.m. as the Rebels aim at the school’s ninth state championship trophy and seventh with veteran coach Bruce Scifre (80-20 in postseason play) at the helm. The Rebels edged East Central 24-21 as Patrick Sandler kicked his second game-winning field goal of the playoffs.
The Rebels return to the state finals for the first time since 2005 after appearing in four straight championship games. Roncalli and NorthWood have met once, with the Rebels winning 14-12 at the Hoosier Dome in the 1993 3A state final.
Defending state champion Center Grove (12-1) follows with a rematch against Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference foe and No. 6 Carmel (9-4) in the nightcap of a triple-header day of football. The Trojans defeated the Greyhounds 19-6 Sept. 2. Center Grove upended No. 4 Ben Davis 42-22 Friday as senior Russell Yeast scored four touchdowns.
“Back to back going to the state championship game, that’s so unbelievable,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said. “We had a big target on our backs because we were the defending champions. I’m so proud of them for hanging in there and playing good tough physical Trojan football.
Lutheran, Class A No. 12, tried to make it three teams from the Southside in the state finals but fell on the road at Class A No. 2 unbeaten Linton Stockton 43-14.
Trojans roll over Giants
At Ben Davis, Center Grove gave up an opening-drive touchdown before scoring five unanswered touchdowns. Yeast scored on runs of 22, 83, 18 and 5 yards.
His 83-yard run with 9:38 left in the second quarter gave the Trojans a 21-8 lead and broke the Giants. Yeast hit inside, spun around a would-be tackler, accelerated at the 25 and outran all defenders to the end zone.
“I really didn’t know what I was doing until I reached the end zone,” said Yeast, a University of Louisville commit. “It was pretty fun; everything was going our way.”
Moore considers Yeast a strong Indiana Mr. Football candidate who came in for injured Titus McCoy, who was in the running for the honor before going down with an ankle injury early in the season.
“He (Yeast) adapted so well to our community,” Moore said. “He’s a first-class kid, a great athlete. He loves to practice football like a lot of our guys do. We’re football junkies; I love that about our kids.”
The dismantling of the Giants was a true team effort by the Trojans, who racked up 387 yards rushing, led by Yeast’s 174 yards on 18 carries and McCoy’s 98 on 12 carries. McCoy scored the Trojans’ first TD on a 1-yard run. The Trojans kept their attack on the ground; senior quarterback Jack Kellams threw only two passes on a rainy and blustery night.
The Trojans gave up a 65-yard march by the Giants but then shut them down for the next 36 minutes. By then CG had a commanding 35-8 lead. The Trojans stopped the Giants on the ground, leaving quarterback Reese Taylor to throw 39 times. The Trojans’ defense, a question mark this season after the graduation of six seniors who are playing in college, intercepted two passes.
“It was really the next guy up,” Moore said. “We had seniors on defense but they weren’t experienced seniors. This (season) was their chance.”
Rebels’ close call
Roncalli controlled the ball for the last six minutes at East Central, and that enabled Sandler to nail a game-winning 30-yard field goal.
The Rebels trailed 21-14 at the half after giving up a season-high 210 yards on the ground. They held East Central to 48 rushing yards in the second half. Meanwhile on offense, the Rebels drove 80 yards and tied the game at 21 on Kenny Gillum’s 16-yard run and Sandler’s PAT.
Third-generation quarterback Derek O’Connor passed for a career-best 216 yards and 18 completions and a touchdown. Gillum ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
(Note: Roncalli sports director Rob Brown contributed to this article.)