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By Al Stilley
Southsider Voice correspondent
Junior quarterback Luke Johnston has written his way into Southport’s football record book again.
On Friday at Perry Stadium and with lots of help from his teammates, Johnston threw two all-important touchdown passes in the second half to become the school’s all-time TD passer with 32, breaking the record of 30 set by Steve Howell from 1998-2000. Johnston set a season record with 29 TD strikes last year.
And that pair of TD passes proved to be the difference in the Cardinals’ 27-13 win over Roncalli.
With the game tied at 13 and the momentum on the Rebels’ side, Johnston connected on a 59-yard score to junior Evan Higgs on fourth and-seven with 4:54 left in the third quarter. Then with 5:30 left in the game, Higgs caught a pass at midfield and galloped into the end zone for an 86-yard scoring play.
“That fourth-down play, long touchdown (third quarter) changed the game,” said Johnson, who credited Southport’s defense with keeping the Cardinals in the game. “I couldn’t believe he was that wide open.”
Southport held a 13-0 halftime lead, but Roncalli came back with a vengeance, scoring on a 95-yard kickoff return by senior Luke Alfrey. After Roncalli’s Josh Brown recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, a 26-yard flea-flicker TD pass from junior Robbie Strader to senior Gavin Taylor tied the game with five minutes remaining in the third.
“We survived a momentum shift,” Southport coach Bill Peebles said. “Our guys answered the bell, stuck it out and got the momentum back. We made big plays on fourth down. We were up 13-0, but Roncalli has a great program, and they weren’t going to back down. Their defense had us covered up a lot. We played great defensively; we didn’t play well offensively. The defense bent a little bit but didn’t break.”
Roncalli coach Bruce Scifres gave his assessment: “They made a couple more big plays than we did; they have strong and fast kids. I was pleased with the way our kids fought, played hard, played with passion and didn’t surrender.”
The Rebels made it into the red zone twice in the first half but could not score.
After Southport’s Donovan Millbrook blocked a 29-yard field goal attempt by Matt Cunningham in the first quarter, Millbrook returned the ball 26 yards, but the Cardinals could not cash in either. Roncalli drove to the 18 early in the second only to fumble on fourth down, with Millbrook coming up with the ball.
Roncalli had its share of big defensive plays.
Senior Nat Otley stripped Southport running back Cardell Tucker in a scrum on Southport’s 12 late in the first half. Senior David Schott intercepted a pass with 2:23 and returned the ball to the 50. The Rebels’ drive stalled after they missed a first down by inches on fourth down.
Johnston and Roncalli senior defensive back Nick Boehle were honored as U.S. Army Most Valuable Players.
FC, Greenwood win
Greenwood’s one-two punch of quarterback Tanner Skeel and RB John Gallman rolled over visiting Perry Meridian.
Skeel ran for five TDs and passed for another; Gallman ran for one TD. The two backs ran for more than 300 yards in a 56-28 win at the Woodshed. Falcons QB Tristan Tonte hit 13-of-26 passes for 280 yards, three TDs and three interceptions.
Center Grove fell 12-9 in overtime to defending 6A champ Warren Central in a Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference opener. All of the Trojans’ points in the defensive struggle came on Nathaniel Snyder’s field goals of 35, 42 and 31 yards.
Beech Grove QB Chase Endries threw for 381 yards and four TDs – three to Jamal Brumfield – against visiting Lutheran, but the Saints held the Hornets to only 19 yards rushing and emerged with a 36-28 Indiana Crossroads Conference win. Lutheran racked up 262 yards on the ground, and QB Jake Reid threw for two TDs.
Franklin Central built a 19-8 lead over Decatur Central and hung on for a 26-21 road win. Flashes QB Chris Arnold passed for two TDs and ran for one. Aaron Austin got FC on the board with a 55-yard TD run.
Manual’s Taj Moore broke the Redskins’ scoring drought at Edinburgh with a 13-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. The Lancers won 62-8.