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By Al Stilley
A night of pageantry and rivalries unfolded on opening night of the 2019 football season Friday.
The rivalries continue into the second Friday of action with the Battle of Perry Township as Southport travels to Perry Meridian and Franklin Central visits Roncalli.
In pre-game ceremonies on opening night, Franklin Central officially designated its field as Coach Chuck Stephens Field in honor of the Flashes four-time state championship mentor.
And at Roncalli, the Rebels introduced their first-ever coach Bob Tully and announced that the field is to be named in his honor. Signage will be in place at Roncalli’s homecoming game against Brebeuf. In another ceremony, the host Rebels honored Southport running back RaShawn Haskins, who was killed in a traffic accident last year, with a donation to the family through the Hoops for Haskins drive.
Southport spoiled 4A No. 11 Roncalli’s home opener as senior quarterback Ryan Lezon ran for 142 yards and a TD with three of his six completions going for TDs. The two teams battled evenly in the first half, but Southport turned it with an interception by Ben Morlan on the Rebels 39 that resulted in a TD pass on the next play for a commanding 20-3 lead. Southport’s Jordan Tweedy capped the win with a 35-yard return of an intercepted pass in the fourth quarter.
Franklin Central, under fifth-year coach Grant Lewis, further honored Stephens with a 30-13 upset against county foe 5A No. 4 Decatur Central. Josh Ruley scored first on a 19-yard run in the first quarter and again on a short run in the second quarter. The big first-half play came from Aiden Evers’ 36-yard “pick six.” FC showed a defense that bent but did not break.
At Lutheran, the 1A No. 1 Saints downed neighbor and Indiana Crossroads Conference opponent 3A No. 22 Beech Grove, 27-22 in a thriller. Beech Grove’s Keyonni Washington scored on a short run and a two-point conversion that put the Hornets ahead 22-21 in the fourth period. Later, Marcus McFadden scored on a short run for the crucial conference win. Lutheran held the Hornets on downs to end the game.
In a battle of 6A powerhouses, No. 4 Center Grove’s final drive ended on the 6-yard line as host No. 2 Warren Central won a 21-14 thriller. Three turnovers by the Trojans were crucial. CG scored first when Harrison Luck recovered a WC fumble in the end zone. Mitchell Evans’ 47-yard run put the Trojans ahead 14-7 but the Warriors rallied. CG’s outstanding running back Carson Steele left the game early with an undisclosed leg injury.
Greenwood, Manual and Perry Meridian dropped their season openers.
(Note: Online Editor Nathan Pace and photographer Brett Hickman contributed to this article.)