Senior staff writer
Roncalli’s football team unfortunately discovered a gridiron adage Friday night in a semistate championship game at East Central: A team cannot score without the football.
The No. 9 Rebels had the football for only 15 minutes, 19 seconds (slightly more than one 12-minute quarter), while the No. 11 Trojans maintained possession for 32:41. East Central ran 61 plays to Roncalli’s 34 and won 21-0.
The Rebels (9-4) had hoped to reach the 4A state championship game Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium and play ahead of the 6A title matchup between No. 1 Center Grove (13-0) and No. 4 Penn (12-1) at 7:30 p.m.
The loss was a complete reversal of Roncalli’s regular season 31-10 victory over the Trojans. Roncalli’s first encounter against the Trojans was undoubtedly its finest game, but the rematch turned out to be one of East Central’s best games.
Trailing 14-0 in the third quarter, Roncalli drove to the EC 6-yard line. Quarterback Robbie Strader threw a fourth-down pass to Will Harris at the 2-yard line, but he was tackled just short of the end zone.
The Rebels gave up 257 yards of offense while Roncalli’s offense showed a minus-29 yards rushing and only 91 yards passing as Strader hit on 11-of-22 passes. Roncalli running back Nate Fries was held to 17 yards on nine carriers.
East Central (12-2) scored on runs of 2 and 4 yards and a 15-yard pass play.
In their first meeting this season, Roncalli had 223 yards of offense and intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.
The loss ended Roncalli’s seven-game winning streak and opportunity to reach its first state finals since 2005. The Rebels, 11-3 in semistate games, dropped their first semistate road contest in eight trips. CG seeks second crown.
Center Grove goes after its second football championship in its third title game appearance.
During an interview on Channel 8’s “The Zone” on Saturday night, CG coach Eric Moore talked about the Trojans’ next opponent: “We are totally different teams; it’s a speed game, and we play more of a power game. They run a lot of option plays and can give us a lot of problems. It will be a hard game but we’re used to that.
“We try to take care of what we do and don’t let ourselves beat ourselves. The kids keep the pressure off even though we have been ranked No. 1 for awhile. We want to have fun, stay positive and play hard every down. If we have perfect effort, I have nothing to worry about.”
The Trojans average 308.1 yards on the ground and are led by junior running back Titus McCoy, who has 1,720 yards and averages 6.3 yards per carry with 25 touchdowns, and senior Jackson Hohlt, 985 yards, 8.0 yards per carry and 11 TDs.
Center Grove throws just enough to keep defenses honest. The Trojans’ wing-T offense is captained by third-generation football player Joey Siderewicz, who has completed 74-of-117 passes for 958 yards and nine touchdowns.
The defense is led by senior Jovan Swann with 60 tackles; Cameron Tidd, 57 tackles; and junior Nick Arbuckle, 40 tackles.