Roncalli remains unbeaten in shootout

INDIANAPOLIS — The game’s start and finish didn’t show it, but Roncalli’s home showdown against Decatur Central on Friday provided its share of drama.

The Class 4A No. 1 Rebels bolted to a 26-0 lead, watched as the 5A No. 7 Hawks score 19 third-quarter points, then counterpunched to stay unbeaten with a wild 43-25 victory against their Southside rivals.

Roncalli (8-0) hasn’t won its first eight since the 1999 squad went 15-0 and won the 3A state title. The Hawks, which had won six straight after dropping their season opener, fell to 6-2.

Decatur Central entered play averaging 42.3 points per game, including 50.4 in its last five games. The Rebels contained that offense, holding the Hawks to their lowest output of the season.

Roncalli built its lead to 26-0 on its first offensive possession of the second half, on Luke Smock’s 2-yard touchdown run. The Hawks then pieced together a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive — then recovered their onside kick and scored on their next play from scrimmage, a Calvin Thomas 36-yard touchdown reception.

After Patrick Sandler tacked on a 33-yard field goal to extend the Roncalli lead to 29-13, Hawks quarterback Bryce Jefferson faked a handoff on fourth-and-1, then ran it himself 48 yards. Decatur Central missed the two-point try, but it had still cut a 26-0 deficit to a 29-19 margin in a 5½-minute stretch.

“They’ve got some great athletes, they’re well-coached and they have a ton of speed, so we knew nothing was safe, even with a three-score lead,” Rebels coach Bruce Scifres said of Decatur Central. “They made things scary for a little while, but I’m proud of the way the kids hung in there.”

The Hawks recovered another onside kick after cutting the deficit to 10, but Roncalli stopped them at the Rebels’ 34-yard line. On Roncalli’s next possession, Smock’s 46-yard reception set up Patrick McManama’s 9-yard touchdown run, his second score of the night, which extended the Rebels’ lead to 36-19 with 8:29 left.

In the first half, Roncalli kept the Hawks’ high-powered offense off the field by dominating time-of-possession numbers. The Rebels held the ball 17:25 in the half to Decatur Central’s 6:35, and gained 230 yards overall.

Roncalli also rushed for a season-high six touchdowns. In addition to McManama’s two, quarterback Derek O’Connor ran for two, and Kenny Gillum and Smock each ran for one. O’Connor also completed 9 of 14 passes for 176 yards.

The Rebels intercepted Jefferson three times, with Dylan Williams, Gabe Otley and Josh Swan each picking off the Hawks’ quarterback. Otley and Williams’ interceptions led to Roncalli touchdowns.

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Adam Wire is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.