Senior staff writer
Underdog Franklin Central frustrated 6A No. 9 Center Grove somewhat Friday, but not enough as the visiting Trojans walked from Ray Skillman Stadium with their eighth consecutive sectional trophy. Lutheran won its fifth straight sectional title with a 32-13 win over visiting Hagerstown and faces South Putnam in a regional championship game Friday.
Center Grove (8-3) goes for its 12th regional title Friday at home against No. 7 Avon (9-2), while Lutheran goes for its third straight regional crown at South Putnam (6-6). The 1A No. 7 Saints (9-3) are riding a six-game winning streak.
At Franklin Central, the Flashes cut CG’s lead to 16-6 with seven minutes left on a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dylan Bishop to wide receiver Bryce Durm. FC, winners of only two regular season games, then kicked onsides but for only 5 yards (a penalty), and CG’s Carson Steele scored two plays later on a 6-yard run.
After a holding penalty, the Flashes connected on passes of 9 and 13 yards, but Trojans’ D-back Lucas Roehling intercepted the next pass on the 40. The final count was 23-6, which left CG coach Eric Moore relieved. “Franklin Central played great; they are going in the right direction,” Moore said. “This was a physical game.”
FC’s leap from Conference Indiana to the Hoosier Crossroads Conference resulted in only one win in seven league games and a nonconference win against Roncalli.
Trailing CG 13-0, FC opened the third quarter by marching 58 yards in 13 plays to the 22 before the drive stalled on a fourth-down incomplete pass. Steele gained 219 yards on 31 carries and scored all three of the Trojans’ TDs. Luke Eckert put CG up 16-0 on a 44-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
The Flashes produced 254 yards of offense with Malieki Parks running for 57 yards on 17 carries. FC coach Grant Lewis emphasized the improvement in one season.
“The record (3-8) didn’t look great, but this team and this conference make us a better football program overall. We’re proud of the growth. We’ll go back and work harder and harder, and before you know it we will have one of the best programs in the state.”
At Lutheran, the Saints spotted Hagerstown an early touchdown but then scored two TDs and two safeties in the second quarter for a dominating 32-13 win. Saints quarterback Blake White connected on TD passes of 4 and 11 yards to Ben Settlemyre and Luke Snow, respectively.
Meanwhile, junior running back Marcus McFadden scored the Saints’ first TD on a 53-yard run and wound up with 160 yards on 25 carries. Lutheran’s defense rose up and held Hagerstown to 81 yards on the ground. The safeties came on a tackle by linebacker Payton Knight and when the Tigers recovered their fumble in the end zone.
At Mooresville, Greenwood fell victim to the Pioneers revenge motive. The senior-laden Woodmen thumped Mooresville 59-32 for the sectional title last year, but the 4A No. 8 Pioneers reversed it this time, 49-14. Mooresville (11-1) scored five unanswered touchdowns before Greenwood (4-8) scored in the third quarter on Nick Willham’s 5-yard run.
Willham led Greenwood’s ground game with 109 yards in 31 carries. The Pioneers rolled up 400-plus yards of offense.