Senior staff writer
Perry Meridian defensive back Reggie McDonald stands 5 feet 9 inches tall. The first-year varsity football player stood at least 10 feet tall in the eyes of the Falcons’ fans Friday night at homecoming. McDonald picked off a deep Greenwood pass on the 14 and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown with 41 seconds left in a 29-point fourth-quarter explosion.
With Greenwood desperate to score, the sophomore D-back snared his second interception at almost the same spot with 7 seconds left. After trailing 21-7 at halftime, the previously winless Falcons enjoyed many firsts: first win of the season, first win and first homecoming win in Falcon Stadium and first Mid-State win.
“I was able to step in front and caught it,” said McDonald, a freshman starter on the varsity basketball team last season. “I took it to the house.”
Students rushed the field and continued cheering for their victorious Falcons. The Falcons trailed 21-7 going into the fourth quarter. Brooks Davis scored from the 1 early in the fourth, but Greenwood responded with a TD. The Falcons scored on a 38-yard pass from Alex Hooten to Brandin Green and on senior Dakahri Jones’ 11-yard run that set up the boldest play of the night – a successful two-point pass conversion for a 29-28 lead with 1:39 on the clock.
“It’s homecoming – go for the win,” Falcons coach Matt Henninger said of the play. “We had the momentum and we had a few tricks up or sleeve.” And then McDonald’s interception sealed the deal.
“We were hyped all day for homecoming; the school and the fans were behind us,” Jones said. “We were down at halftime, but we talked it out. We came together as a team and fixed it.”
Defending conference champion Greenwood dominated the first half for a 21-7 lead and outgained Perry Meridian 187 to 28 yards of offense. The Woodmen scored on three of their first four drives on a short run by Anthony Williams and two by workhorse Nick Willham.
A turning point came near the end of the first half after Greenwood recovered a PM fumble on the Falcon 18. That’s when a previously sluggish and inopportune PM defense jammed Willham for no gain on fourth-and-one at the 3.
“That (stop) was huge,” coach Henninger said. “We kept telling kids to get a stop and they did; but we had to do it right off again to start the second half. We played outstanding after our worst first half of the season.”
Greenwood (1-5, 0-4) aided the Falcons’ momentum in the second half by committing five major penalties. Willham gained 122 yards on 33 carries and Williams picked up 102 yards on 12 totes for the Woodmen. The Falcons (1-5, 1-3) wound up with 272 yards of offense, mostly on Hooten’s 12-of-21 passing for 217 yards. Looking ahead, Jones said, “Now that we have the W, we will continue to rack up more.”
• Southport’s Jalen Caldwell ran the opening kickoff back for a 98-yard TD and QB Eddie Schott threw for 394 yards and four TDs in a Conference Indiana win against visiting Bloomington South. After six games, Schott leads the state’s quarterbacks with 2,147 yards, completing 155-of-239 passes (64.9 percent) for 26 TDs. His favorite target is junior Ryan Lezon with 56 receptions, 754 yards and 10 TDs.
• Host Beech Grove (5-1, 4-1) stayed in the Indiana Crossroads title hunt by dumping Monrovia. Sergio Hulse rushed 26 times for 163 yards and two TDs and caught a TD pass QB Jordan Reel, who completed 5-of-10 passes and had three scoring strikes.
• Center Grove’s ground game racked up 352 yards against Lawrence Central with soph Carson Steele gaining 219 yards and scoring three TDs.
• Roncalli fell to host Brebeuf by 33 points, the Rebels worst defeat since a 32-point loss to Chatard in 2011 … Lutheran managed only 106 yards of offense against 2A No. 4 Scecina, which racked up 451 yards and seven TDs … Franklin Central suffered its second straight shutout, still winless in rugged Hoosier Crossroads Conference … Howe handed Manual its third straight loss; Redskins have Friday off, opponent Trinity Lutheran suspended football after three games.