(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTO BY STEVE PAGE)
Friday’s Class 5A Sectional 13 championship game at Devere Fair Stadium was all about adjusting.
After a free-wheeling first half that saw Decatur Central and visiting West Lafayette Harrison combine for 38 points, the Hawks altered their defense.
“We knew there would be an adjustment,” said DC defensive coordinator Max Goodin. “We felt once we settled in, the goal was to make them drive on the ground.
“At the half, we reset some things and we added a defensive back.”
The Hawks outscored the Raiders 13-0 after intermission, winning the sectional title by a 34-17 score. It’s their first such championship since 2018, when they advanced all the way to the Class 5A state championship game.
DC, now 9-2, takes its seven-game winning streak to the regional round, where it will host Mid-State Conference rival Whiteland, 7-4, at 7 p.m. Nov. 10.
“Winning a sectional championship for only the third time in school history proved that this team and this senior class is one of the very best in DC history,” said Hawk head coach Kyle Enright. “This team has had something to prove since they walked off the field November 4th, 2022, at Plainfield High School, and everything they did for 365 days led to this night. The dedication, discipline and commitment to be good people, good students and good teammates paid off in a big way, and as their coach, I am blessed to be able to lead such great young men.”
DC won this on both sides of the ball.
Four running backs totaled 331 rushing yards, with KC Berry gaining 141 on 14 carries, N’Po Dodo 14 rushes for 80 yards, quarterback Bo Polston 16 for 71 and Halbert Aguirre 7 for 49. Polston, who scored two running touchdowns, also threw scoring strikes of 37 and 3 yards to Berry and Aguirre, respectively.
“Offensively the entire unit demonstrated what it means to run the damn ball: 51 attempts for 341 yards and all four ball carriers ran through the tacklers’ faces all night,” said Enright. “The offensive line road-grated Harrison up front. Javian Jones, Alec Surber, Nate Calahan, Garrett Smith and Tyler Cooper had their best performance of the year against a good defense and put the offense on their backs.”
“The game plan was to run the ball,” Polston said. “We saw the way their defense lined up.”
The defense stopped Harrison’s outside running threat, throwing running backs for repeated losses in the second half.
“We executed,” said defensive back Mykul Campbell, who was in on several tackles for losses. “We finally started playing football the way we can, hyping each other. We fixed it up in the second half. We executed.”
After a rough start, in which the Hawks lost a muffed punt and the Raiders scored, DC responded with a 16-play, 85-yard scoring drive that ate up 7:23 of the opening quarter. Polston capped the surge by scoring from the 1, and Ashton Vogel kicked the conversion.
On the Raiders’ second possession, the Hawks recovered a fumble at the Harrison 37. On the first play from there, Polston found Berry racing alone down the right sideline, hitting him with the TD toss. Vogel added the conversion.
“That’s a play we designed this week,” Polston said. “KC lined up outside, and I hit him deep.”
After Alex Stene kicked a 30-yard field goal for Harrison, the Hawks drove 80 yards in eight plays, with Polston racing around the right end from seven yards out. Vogel’s conversion pushed the lead to 21-10.
After both teams forced punts, Harrison quarterback Gailix Dillon found Jackson Gavin behind the secondary for a 33-yard score, closing the gap to 21-17 with 1:47 left in the half.
The Raiders intercepted Polston at the DC 48, and drove to the Hawk 18. A missed 34-yard field goal there ended Harrison’s last real threat.
The Hawks took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards in 13 plays, with Dodo scoring from the three.
In the fourth quarter, Harrison drove to a fourth-and-nine at the DC 26, but the Hawks batted down Dillon’s pass at the line of scrimmage.
DC used nine plays to drive from there to the end zone, with Polston hitting Aguirre with a TD toss with just six minutes to play.