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By Al Stilley
Southsider Voice correspondent
In a high school football rivalry among neighboring teams Friday, the Roncalli-Franklin Central tussle was indeed a game looking for a playmaker.
And Roncalli junior defensive back Justin Saylor stepped into that role in the third quarter at Ray Skillman Stadium.
With Roncalli holding a precarious 9-6 lead and with each team’s offenses stymied, Saylor intercepted an FC pass at the 50 and returned it for a touchdown and the final score of 16-6 lead to end the third quarter.
“We knew the play was coming (because) we had a good read on it,” Saylor said. “When I broke on the ball I pretty much knew it was going the other way (touchdown).”
The Rebels were trying to atone for an opening-night loss at Southport and did it with total defense.
“We worked extremely hard during the week to bounce back after last week’s loss,” Saylor said. “We took it personally; we got pushed around a bit. Our D-line and linebackers kept making plays (Friday) in their backfield. “
Roncalli’s defense held the Flashes’ potent offense to two first downs, minus 7 yards rushing on 30 carries, minus 2 yards total offense, two of 11 first downs on third down and leading rusher Aaron Austin to 1 yard on 15 carries.
“We just got beat up physically on both sides,” Flashes coach Burt Austin said.
Each team had 13 series, most of which ended in futility.
After a short Roncalli punt, FC opened the scoring with Austin running it in from the 1 on the second play of the second quarter. A bad snap spoiled the conversion, but the Flashes led 6-0.
Roncalli (1-1) got its first break when senior defensive back Eric Townsend intercepted a pass at midfield. Four plays later, bolstered by an 18-yard run by Nick Boehle, David Schott scored on a 2-yard run. Matt Cunningham’s PAT gave the Rebels a 7-6 lead.
The Rebels extended the lead to 9-6 on a safety as the entire Roncalli front line gang-tackled Austin in the end zone in the third quarter.
The Flashes (1-1) gained only 1 yard in three plays on the ensuing series.
Then the Rebels’ O-line took over, running nearly nine minutes off the clock while gaining 40 yards in an 11-play drive to ice their first win of the season and their fourth straight in the series.
“Our entire defense played exceptionally well; they really stepped up,” Roncalli coach Bruce Scifres said. “Our offense at times did some really good things but we were erratic, but our defense won the game.”
Extends passing record
Southport QB Luke Johnston threw for four TDs against Westfield, increasing his all-time record to 36. Teammate Cardell Tucker rushed for 108 yards. … Beech Grove rolled up 50 points against Park Tudor; last season the Hornets downed Park Tudor and Tindley 52-0 for their only wins and only times over 50 points. … Whiteland challenged visiting Center Grove but fell 14-13 on Nathaniel Snyder’s PAT kick midway in fourth quarter. … Lutheran stands 2-0 in Indiana Crossroads Conference after dominating Ritter. … The Battle of Perry Township, Southport vs. Perry Meridian, moves to 5:20 p.m. Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.