Southsider Voice correspondent
Center Grove ended Southport’s football season while Roncalli and Lutheran captured sectional championships Friday in the state tournament.
Host Center Grove claimed its fourth consecutive regional championship with a hard-fought 35-22 win over determined Southport in a 6A matchup. Roncalli defeated host Plainfield 24-17 for the 4A Sectional 22 title as the Rebels ended a nine-year football trophy drought. Lutheran continued its playoff domination in Class A Sectional 46 with a 49-14 thrashing of Howe on the road.
Friday’s games find No. 5 Center Grove (9-3) at No. 4 Ben Davis (10-2) in a semistate showdown between Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference teams and unbeaten No. 2 New Palestine (12-0) at upset-minded Roncalli (7-5) and No. 8 Lutheran (9-3) at unranked Eastern Hancock (10-2) in regional showdowns. All games start at 7 p.m.
Southport, which finished 9-3 for its seventh straight non-losing season, fell to Center Grove for the second straight year in a regional title game.
Last season the Trojans romped to a 56-14 win over mistake-prone Southport. This time the Cardinals led 10-7 on Edgar Aleman’s 21-yard field goal and Cardell Tucker’s short run before Center Grove struck for three unanswered touchdowns.
Southport quarterback Luke Johnston threw for 264 yards, but Center Grove’s defense completely stopped the Cardinals’ running game.
Beech Grove, shooting for its first football sectional crown and making its first appearance in the championship game since 2000, ran into turbocharged New Palestine, which walloped the Hornets 83-20 for the 4A Sectional 21 championship. The 20 points were the most scored against New Pal this season, and the Hornets amassed 427 yards of offense and 274 yards passing.
Those statistics would be good enough against most teams the Hornets face, but not New Palestine. The Dragons stormed to a 62-14 halftime lead after trailing 8-7. New Pal scored a dozen touchdowns, piled up 609 yards of offense, including 428 yards rushing (9.3 yards per carry). The 83 points are a school record and about 25 more than the team’s average.
The Hornets put New Palestine behind for only the second time this season. Sophomore quarterback Chase Andries and leading receiver Jamal Brumfield connected on a 69-yard touchdown, then Andries hit Ben Neff for the 2-point conversion and the Hornets’ only lead.
Three lost fumbles in the first half helped in dooming Beech Grove. Trailing 28-8, the Hornets muffed two consecutive kickoffs, which the Dragons quickly turned into touchdowns. A third recovered fumble led to a 55-14 Dragon’s lead shortly before halftime.
Andries wound up with 274 yards passing; Brumfield caught seven passes for 198 yards.
The Hornets graduate 15 seniors from coach Mark Weller’s fourth team at Beech Grove.
“I’m proud of our seniors, proud of what we accomplished this year,” Weller said. “The biggest thing is that the seniors really changed the culture. They brought a toughness to the program that we haven’t had and that was the goal when I came here.”
Then Weller made an ominous comment for Roncalli as it prepares to face the Dragons: “They are a fantastic football team, and they have no glaring weaknesses.”
Roncalli overcame two fumbles on kickoffs and held onto its 24-17 lead for the final 6:20 of the game. Patrick Sandler’s 26-yard field goal capped the Rebels’ scoring. The Rebels’ defense held Plainfield (4-8) to 152 yards of offense.
Lutheran won its fifth consecutive game against Howe. The rampaging Saints have outscored three sectional foes 151-21.
Coach Dave Pasch’s squad travels to Eastern Hancock, which upset No. 4 ranked Northeastern 21-20 Friday.