For the Daily Journal
Up the ladder they go. One more rung in the pecking order of IHSAA class football.
Winners of the 4A state championship a year ago with an unblemished 15-0 record, the Roncalli Rebels got off and running in their first game up in Class 5A with a season-opening 21-3 win Friday against visiting Southport.
It was Roncalli’s 10th straight victory at home and the first for new head coach Scott Marsh.
Marsh, the Rebels’ 2016 defensive coordinator under 27-year coach Bruce Scifres, has big shoes to fill.
So far, so good.
“It’s a credit to Coach Scifres, his staff and the maturity of these kids in how they’ve handled change,” Marsh said. “The new sheriff in town act certainly doesn’t go over very well. Our staff hasn’t changed for the most part, so it’s been business as usual.
“We talk time and time again about the concept of team first and selflessness. About those things that youth sports should be about”
Southport grabbed a 3-0 first-quarter lead on a 26-yard field goal by Hunter Cochrell, capping a 56-yard drive.
The Rebels’ run game, their bread and butter, got off to a slow start and was turned away on the first two possessions. However, a fumble recovery by Sam Sedgwick on a dropped pass put the Rebels back in business.
Five plays later, Elijah Mahan took it in from 6 yards out to give Roncalli a 7-3 lead.
Mahan finished the game with 80 yards on 15 carries.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Rebels workhorse running back senior Patrick McManama capped a 7-play, 25-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge, upping the lead to 14-3.
On the night, McManama rushed for 89 yards on 15 carries.
While the Roncalli offense got going in the second half, its defense was chasing Southport quarterback Eddie Schott all over the field.
The Rebels put the game away on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Conner Gore to Jacob Luedeman.
Marsh said the team’s immediate goals are for players to accept their roles, sustain a family atmosphere and develop that kind of mentality as the season progress.
Roncalli will be at home next Friday against another Class 6A southside rival, Franklin Central.