Big run cements Roncalli win in opener

INDIANAPOLIS — Season-opening games have not been kind to Roncalli in recent times, but Friday’s contest at Southport proved to be different.

The Class 4A No. 3 Rebels stunned the Cardinals with an 80-yard touchdown pass in the game’s final seconds to pull out a 25-21 victory.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Roncalli (1-0) in season openers against Southport. The Cardinals (0-1) had also previously won five of the last six meetings between the two schools.

Southport had early success running the ball against the Rebels on Friday but surrendered a costly turnover on the sixth play of the game’s opening drive when Roncalli defensive back Alex Kuntz intercepted Cardinals quarterback Ed Schott on a pass across the middle of the field.

During their first possession of the night, which began on the Cardinals’ 36-yard line, the Rebels ran three consecutive rushing plays and moved the ball to the Southport 15 before lightning forced a game delay at the 8:33 mark of the first quarter.

When play resumed, Roncalli settled for a 39-yard field goal by junior Ben Miller.

The Cardinals answered quickly on their next possession when Schott connected with tight end Serg Slaughter on a 59-yard touchdown pass. But the Rebels carried a 10-7 lead into the second quarter following senior quarterback Derek O’Connor’s 2-yard touchdown run with two seconds left in the opening quarter.

Despite driving the ball deep into Roncalli territory late in the second quarter, the Cardinals failed to score, and the Rebels held their 10-7 edge going into halftime.

Roncalli totaled 68 yards on the ground in the first half while limiting Southport to 55. However, the Cardinals passed for 140 yards during the first two quarters and limited the Rebels to 34 yards through the air.

A 49-yard pass from Schott to Justice Bemers set up a touchdown pass to Blake Evans that gave Southport a 14-10 lead early in the second half. That was the only score of the third quarter.

Momentum continued to build for the Cardinals early in the final period, as running back Andrew Mattes scored on an 80-yard touchdown run at the 10:23 mark.

The Rebels added a late touchdown and two-point conversion when O’Connor hit junior Jacob Luedeman on a 27-yard scoring pass. After Southport turned it over on downs trying to kill the clock, Roncalli won it on O’Connor’s 80-yard bomb to senior receiver Nick Fischer.

Roncalli’s next game is Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium against Franklin Central. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

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Greg Seiter is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.