Senior staff writer
Roncalli’s defense could smell it.
Leading 21-0 in the second quarter, the Rebels had Franklin Central pinned on its 5-yard line, where a punt by Michael Hill went out of bounds. Roncalli’s defense, led by senior Cade Morgan in his first game this season, stopped running back Michael Pitz for no gain and quarterback Dylan Bishop for a loss of 2 yards.
Roncalli used an outside blitz and inside pressure as Morgan tackled Bishop on third down in the end zone for a safety.
“We were prepared to pin them (safety),” said Morgan, who returned to action after recovering from a stress fracture in his lower back. “Those were the first points by our defense this season and it gave the whole team a big boost.”
Roncalli (2-0) has won 17 straight games, the state’s longest winning streak, and seven in a row against the Flashes (1-1).
Morgan, senior linebackers Luke Hanley and Jones Asher and junior linemen Ethan Lockard and John Harris struck quickly and often. Morgan is called a “game changer” by first-year Roncalli coach Scott Marsh.
“We didn’t see any of their running backs going forward; they barely had any positive yardage,” said Morgan of a defense that held the Flashes to only 19 yards rushing. “We lost a lot of starters from last year but our senior class is really talented and we’re getting a lot of help from the class behind us.”
The Rebels scored on all but two drives in the first half to build a 30-7 lead. Roncalli scored first on a 12 play, 75-yard drive and then on a nine-play, 59-yard drive. Roncalli broke it open with a deep slant pass from quarterback Connor Gore to Dill for a 48-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
“We watched film and found gaps in their defense that we could take advantage of and we did,” Dill said. “There was a lot that was open. We ran a lot more than we passed in our first game, but we realized we could throw against them.”
Gore completed 16-of-18 passes for 198 yards and two TDs. Running backs Patrick McManama gained 67 yards on 16 carries, Elijah Mahan 57 yards on 12 carries and Hunter Miller 37 yards on nine runs in the 37-21 win.
“I couldn’t be happier with how we executed,” Marsh said. “Our first half was tremendous. We have an offense that doesn’t have to keep doing one thing all the time. We have a quarterback who can throw, an offensive line that is getting better every day and good running backs and receivers. And our defense was fantastic.”
Franklin Central entered Roncalli Stadium after an impressive 31-20 opening night win against Decatur Central. The Flashes finally scored on their final possession of the first half on a 14-yard pass from Bishop to Austin Benner. The duo also combined for TD passes of 13 and 36 yards in the second half; the latter catch making it 37-21 with 3:10 left.
Bishop completed 14-of-24 passes for 225 yards; Benner caught seven passes for 114 yards.
“We got off to a slow start and had a few breakdowns in the first half,” Franklin Central coach Grant Lewis said. “Take away that second quarter, and we have a different game. Roncalli was fast, physical and well-coached. This was only Week 2, so we’ll be able to correct those mistakes and get ready for South (Bloomington).”
Three Southside teams posted their first wins Friday.
Center Grove, No. 5 in 6A, dominated Whiteland 41-0 as freshman running back Carson Steele ran for 157 yards and four TDs on 14 carries. The host Trojans led 27-0 at halftime. Center Grove out-gained 5A Whiteland 301-158 on the ground.
Beech Grove scored three touchdowns in the second half to pull away from Park Tudor 42-13 in an Indiana Crossroads game. Quarterback Jordan Reel threw two touchdowns, and Isaiah and Sergio Hulse each ran for two scores.
Manual gained more than 450 yards on the ground in defeating host Indiana Deaf School 39-8. Running back Deangelo Dean carried 27 times for 302 yards and scored two TDs. Coadie Barnett added 114 yards.