Balanced offense, dominant defense propel Rebels against Flashes

Daily Journal Sports Correspondent


The Roncalli did nothing to contradict its Class 4A No. 5 five ranking Friday night, dominating the line of scrimmage and possession in earning a 34-7 win against visiting Franklin Central.

The Rebels took control early and, save for one miscue that led to a Franklin Central defensive touchdown, never looked threatened.

Senior running back Nate Fries led the way in rushing for Roncalli with 68 yards, while quarterback Robbie Strader completed 7 of 14 passes for 124 yards.

Perhaps the key number was on the defensive side, where the Rebels held Franklin Central to just more than 100 yards in total offense for the night.

Roncalli’s defensive front was particularly strong, with middle linebacker Christian Brueggermann and defensive tackles Tyler Lucas and Tyler Reed stifling the Franklin Central running game.

“They’re not big guys, but they are fiery, play hard and play with a lot of tenacity,” Rebels’ coach Bruce Scifres said. “We probably do (stunt more) than other teams because we don’t match up that well compared to the size of the offensive lines we typically see, but the kids make up for it with tenacity.

“Our defensive coordinator Pat Kuntz played like that, and he has his kids playing the same way.”

After forcing Franklin Central to punt from deep in its own end on the game’s first possession, Roncalli took advantage of a short kick and started its first drive at the Flashes 25-yard line. Strader kept the drive alive with a third down pass to Will Harris, and three plays later Fries scored on an 8-yard run.

A mishap later in the quarter allowed Franklin Central (0-2) to tie the game. Strader was hit as he attempted a pass, and the resulting wobbler was intercepted by the Flashes’ Alec Bryan, who returned it 60 yards for a tying touchdown.

Scifres said he had warned the team during the week that Franklin Central was blessed with some athletic ability that could translate to big plays, and to not let any lightning strikes get the best of the team emotionally.

“We told them when they make plays we can’t sulk and hang our heads, but we have to strap it up and forget about it by the next play,” he said.

Roncalli (1-1) responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive keyed by Fries, who capped the effort with a 5-yard touchdown run.

He carried the ball on seven of the drive’s 12 plays, with a 34-yard pass from Strader to Chad Ramsey the other key play of the drive.

Roncalli closed the half with another 80-yard drive that ended with a 33-yard field goal from Patrick Sandler as the half expired to make the score 17-7. The Rebels’ ground game was aided by the offensive line of Justin Hornek, Garret Schura, Louie Hibner, Luke Pohovey, Will English and tight end Jacob Fryar, who consistently cleared the way for Fries and running back Kenny Gillum.

Roncalli’s domination of the first half was reflected in time of possession (18 minutes for the Rebels to six minutes for the Flashes) and plays from scrimmage (35 for Roncalli and 11 for Franklin Central)

Roncalli picked up where it left off in the third quarter.

This time Gillum led the way on the ground and a 40-yard drive ended in another 33-yard field goal from Sandler to make it 20-7.

Things went from bad to worse on the next possession for Franklin Central when a bad snap on a punt was recovered deep in the Flashes territory by Roncalli’s Gabe Otley. Three plays later Fries punched it over from the 1 and Sandler’s kick made it 27-7.

Roncalli’s reserves got into the action in the fourth quarter as sophomore Patrick McManama handled all the ball carrying on a 35-yard scoring drive, including a 5-yard touchdown run which, combined with sophomore kicker Merrick Strykowski’s extra point, made it 34-7.

Roncalli plays Chatard on Friday at Lawrence Central High School.