Though unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 4A, the Roncalli football team hadn’t piled up a slew of lopsided victories during the regular season.
The Rebels opened the playoffs with one.
Derek O’Connor passed for three touchdowns, Patrick McManama ran for 159 yards and a pair of scores, and Roncalli’s defense smothered visiting Northview in a dominating 35-14 victory on Friday night.
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“At this point in time, every win is a huge win,” Rebels coach Bruce Scifres said, “because it means that you get to practice and play another week. I was overall very pleased with how hard our kids played and the things they got done tonight.”
The Rebels (10-0) will travel to Lebanon, a 62-48 winner against Beech Grove, for a sectional semifinal game next weekend.
Roncalli’s vaunted defense barely needed a minute to make its mark. Gabe Otley intercepted a Trey Shaw pass on Northview’s third play from scrimmage, setting up a quick scoring drive that was capped when Aidan Parker bulled across the goal line to finish a 15-yard touchdown catch.
On its next possession, Roncalli methodically marched 91 yards, taking a 14-0 lead on Patrick McManama’s 22-yard scoring run with 31 seconds left in the opening quarter. The junior added a 6-yard touchdown with 6:13 to go in the second, and Derek O’Connor’s second TD pass, a 30-yarder to Luke Smock, gave the Rebels a 28-point halftime lead.
After being stopped on its first drive of the second half, Roncalli took advantage of a short field on its second. O’Connor connected with Jacob Fryar for a 4-yard touchdown, pushing the margin to 35-0.
O’Connor finished 10 of 15 through the air for 133 yards. The quarterback added 47 yards rushing on five carries.
The Knights finally got on the board with 8:07 to go, coming up with a safety one play after a punt pinned Roncalli inside its own 1-yard line. A pair of touchdowns in the final 3:40 helped the Northview offense — which mustered just 37 yards in the first three quarters — save some face.
“The defense had some big sticks tonight, and that always gets us pumped up on the sideline,” O’Connor said. “It’s always awesome on third or fourth down or on a punt when one of the guys on defense gets a stick and then we’re all pumped to go out there.”
The victory was Roncalli’s 200th all-time home win.