Southsider Voice correspondent
Southport and Perry Meridian locked up Friday in the Battle of Perry Township on opening night of the Class 6A football tournament.
The first time the teams met this season, Southport dominated with 580 yards of offense in a 62-21 triumph Sept. 6 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The second time around was much closer. The Cardinals had to come from behind twice to finally upend the determined Falcons 31-21 on Ray Skillman Field at Perry Stadium.
Luke Johnston’s two fourth-quarter touchdown passes enabled the Cardinals to pull out the Sectional 7 win after trailing 21-17. Johnston connected with Cardell Tucker, who missed four games earlier this season with a knee injury, on a 20-yard scoring strike for the lead and extended it on an 18-yard TD pass.
“Offensively, in general, we executed well,” Southport coach Bill Peebles said. “We caught fire in the fourth quarter, and it saved the game for us. We were fortunate to win.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Southport struck for a 9-0 lead on Johnston’s first TD pass, a 20-yarder to Aaron Ferguson, and on a 26-yard field goal by Edgar Aleman.
The Falcons, determined to win the battle, came right back and took a 14-9 halftime lead on junior Malik Davis’ 22-yard TD run and a 17-yard scoring pass from sophomore QB Tristen Tonte to Ben Fleet. Tonte and Fleet teamed for a fourth-quarter go-ahead touchdown before Southport’s offense began clicking again.
“This was the best game we played all year,” Falcons coach Scott Marsh said. “We did not play poorly. All the credit goes to the players. We had pushed a lot of young players for seven weeks, and we broke a lot of them in as starters at Lucas Oil.
“Our young players learned so much this year, and that really gives us an exciting foundation for next year. In the end Friday, they (Southport) had a few matchups that were better, and they got into a rhythm with their offense.”
Southport goes up against Franklin Central, 42-26 winners at Tech, for Friday’s sectional championship at 7 p.m. at Perry Stadium.
Coach Burt Austin’s Flashes had one of their best rushing games of the season with 313 yards. Aaron Austin ran for three touchdowns and 295 yards on 23 carries. FC also mixed in 157 yards passing by Chris Arnold, who was 12-24, including a 55-yard scoring pass to Austin. The Flashes intercepted Tech twice.
The FC-Southport duel is a foreboding one for the Cardinals as they had to come from behind Sept. 26 to defeat the Flashes in the waning minutes on a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Peebles expects another closely fought game Friday.
“They’re back to good ol’ Franklin Central football,” Peebles said of the Flashes’ ground attack. “They did a lot of things on defense that had our offense stymied when we played earlier. They are big and strong up front.”
The game pits top running backs Tucker and Austin on the same field again.
Hornets guarantee winning season
Beech Grove relied on its high-powered offense during the regular season, but it was the Hornets’ defense that solidified a 36-21 4A Sectional 21 triumph against visiting Mount Vernon.
In the second half the Hornets’ limited the Marauders to one touchdown, came up with three interceptions, one sack and one blocked punt. Beech Grove jumped to a 30-14 lead in the third quarter after Matt Baughmann’s blocked punt on the 3-yard line. A few plays later, Baughmann caught an 8-yard TD pass from Chase Andries, who threw for 308 yards on 20-of-37 passes and three TDs.
The Hornets are assured of their first winning season since 2000 and their first under fourth-year coach Mark Weller.
Trojans Rolling along
Center Grove’s offense racked up more than 600 yards of offense and seven touchdowns against winless New Albany … five different Trojans scored TDs. … Roncalli rushed for 246 yards against in shutting out winless Northwest … four different Rebels had 40 or more rushing yards … Rebels held Northwest to 110 yards of offense. … Lutheran rolled over roster-thin Edinburgh with 350 yards and eight TDs … Saints scored four times on the ground, on two punt returns, a fumble recovery and a pass … held Edinburgh to 122 total yards. … Greenwood (4-6) finished with a five-game losing skid. … Manual, also with a thin roster, was crashed 57-0 by Triton Central to finish 0-9.