Senior staff writer
Roncalli sophomore Eric West wanted to play his best game possible Friday night against Franklin Central at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The 5-10 defensive back did more than that when he stripped the football from a Flashes back, picked it up on one bounce and ran 28 yards for a third-quarter touchdown and a 22-7 lead. The Rebels (2-0) went on defeat Franklin Central (1-1) 22-14.
“I was just trying to play my best out there,” West said. “I didn’t think anything like that would happen.”
The fumble recovery capped a quarter that Roncalli not only dominated but stole the late first-half momentum from Franklin Central in the 36th meeting between the rivals.
The Flashes trailed 9-7 at halftime but gained momentum with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped by quarterback Jon Arnold’s 9-yard run with 10 seconds left.
“We felt really good at halftime after starting slow,” Franklin Central coach Grant Lewis said. “We made a great drive to get momentum back, but we made some mistakes offensively when we opened the second half.”
Roncalli stopped the Flashes in three plays and forced them to punt. Then Roncalli rolled to a nine-play, 67-yard TD drive when game MVP Kenny Gillum scored from 8 yards for a 16-7 lead.
The Flashes later came back and pressured Roncalli when Arnold scored on a 1-yard keeper to cap a 66-yard drive with 6:50 left in the game. The teams exchanged punts with Roncalli controlling the ball for the final three and one-half minutes.
The Rebels outgained the Flashes 298 yards to 190 yards with quarterback Derek O’Connor completing 15-of 77-passes for 112 yards. Gillum rushed for 97 yards on 16 carries, and Patrick McManama gained 52 yards on 11 carries.
Most significantly, Roncalli converted on eight-of-13 third-down plays. “That is our plan,” coach Bruce Scifres said. “We want to eat up the clock, move the chains and throw a pass or two to keep our drives going.”
Franklin Central gained 128 yards on the ground with Michael Pitz running for 64 yards on eight carries, but the Flashes were stopped seven-of-nine times on third down.