Senior staff writer
Perry Meridian coach Scott Marsh and first-year Franklin Central coach Grant Lewis were in agreement Friday night after the Southside’s most thrilling football duel this season.
The host Falcons stopped winless Franklin Central just inches short of the goal line on the potential game-winning two-point conversion for a 35-34 homecoming triumph at Perry Stadium.
“They have to be the best 0-5 team in the state,” Marsh said after the breathtaking finish. “They are a tough matchup for any team.” Three of the Flashes’ losses have been by a combined 12 points.
The Flashes had just scored on Kajuan Coe’s 1-yard plunge, which capped a 15-play, 68-yard drive that took five minutes.
On the two-point conversion, Coe went into the middle of the line but the Falcons’ surge stopped him short of the goal line with less than a minute to play.
“We’re banged up, but this one really feels good,” Marsh said. “They really challenged us. We threw some big guys in there, but that put us at risk on the outside. They’re really physical and you have to pack it in to stop them.”
The Falcons (3-2) upped their lead to 35-21 on a 10-yard pass from Matt McCloskey to Christian Buchanan with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter.
The teams exchanged punts and the Flashes scored on Cody Jacob’s second TD pass to wide receiver Wilson Huber.
A costly 9-yard loss on a bad snap resulted in three-and-out for the Falcons to set the field for the Flashes’ last ditch TD drive and dramatic ending.
Each team attacked on offense in different ways. Perry Meridian gained 246 yards on the ground with McCloskey going for 113 yards on 25 carries. The Falcons threw for 229 yards as Jacob connected on 9-of-15 passes, highlighted by a 93-yard TD strike to Antoyne Jackson in the second quarter.
The Flashes later struck big on a Landon Arsenault’s 92-yard kickoff return for a TD and a 21-14 lead.
“I wish we could have gotten that W, but we’re getting better week after week,” Lewis said. “They’re working their tails off. Our kids will respond and be ready … like they say; we’re the best 0-5 team in the state.”
The Flashes have shown they can grind it out on long drives or score quickly with their offense and make stops with their defense.
“Our offensive line was extremely stout, but we were undersized because they had the bigger line,” Lewis observed. “It’s tough to change a team’s mentality, but our kids have responded well.”
Marsh praised McCloskey, who missed a game earlier this season due to a hamstring injury. “He is an unbelievable leader; the energy he brings each practice and each game keeps us going. This game showed how our kids rally around him.”
Four other Southside teams also won Friday.
Center Grove, No. 1 in 6A, remained unbeaten by defeating North Central 31-7 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Titus McCoy rushed for more than 100 yards, and Joey Siderewicz passed for 100-plus yards. The Trojans amassed 455 yards of offense while holding the Panthers to 130.
Greenwood moved to 4-1 by defeating 5A No. 10 Plainfield 42-23 in a Mid-State showdown. John Gallman scored two touchdowns and rushed for 91 yards while younger brother Seth Gallman threw for three touchdowns and 199 yards. Jackson Daugherty caught two TD passes and scored on an interception.
Roncalli’s defense held 2A No. 10 Scecina to 139 yards as the Rebels romped to a 31-7 win over Tech. Quarterback Robbie Strader completed 10 passes for 122 yards and one TD. Strader, Nate Fries and Kenny Gillum each ran for touchdowns.
Lutheran’s Andre Jones scored six touchdowns as the 1A No. 13 Saints stopped Park Tudor 56-24 in an Indiana Crossroads Conference game.
Previously unbeaten 4A No. 6 Beech Grove launched a furious second-half comeback that fell short as Howe upended the Hornets 30-25. Howe scored all its points in the first half as the Hornets held its fifth straight opponent scoreless in the second half. Beech Grove journeys to 3A No. 2 Monrovia in an ICC showdown Friday.