For the Daily Journal
Roncalli football coach Scott Marsh stopped short of saying the Rebels made a statement Friday, but the way their Circle City Conference opener played out, he’d have had a strong case.
The Rebels, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, held longtime rival Chatard to just 74 first-half yards and kept the Trojans scoreless for the game’s first 42 minutes en route to a 21-7 victory at Brebeuf.
Roncalli improved to 3-0 overall and won its 18th straight game, dating back to last season’s 15-0 4A state championship season. It was also the Rebels’ first road win against Chatard since 2000.
The Trojans, fifth in 3A, fell to 1-2 in a matchup between programs that have a combined 22 state titles.
“We hope so,” Marsh said about the win making a statement to the Rebels’ opponents. “(Chatard) has such a strong program, and we knew they weren’t going to quit. They’re going to be all right.”
Roncalli rushed for 213 yards but took advantage of great field position for its first two touchdowns. A Pete Baker interception at the Chatard 26-yard line set up quarterback Conner Gore’s 6-yard touchdown run two plays later for the Rebels’ first score, which came with 1:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Their second touchdown, a Patrick McManama 5-yard run with 7:21 remaining in the first half, came after the Roncalli defense forced a three-and-out at the Chatard 9-yard line. After the punt, the Rebels took over at the Trojans’ 48, and Gore’s 35-yard run on Roncalli’s first play from scrimmage set up that touchdown.
McManama also scored the Rebels’ third touchdown, a 2-yard run off left tackle that capped an 11-play, 76-yard drive with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Chatard piled up yards in the second half (187), but couldn’t score until Mark Nondorf found Andrew Sowinski in the end zone with 5:33 to play. The Trojans had another shot at the end zone, driving to the Rebel 8 with 40 seconds left, but back-to-back incomplete passes ended the threat. Roncalli held Chatard to 2 for 6 on fourth-down conversions.
Marsh lauded the defense, which is averaging just over 10 points allowed per game so far.
“They sold out; I can’t say enough about our secondary,” Marsh said. “I don’t know if we had a sack, but our pressure forced the ball to come out quick. We’re assignment-sound, and we’re not trying to do too much.”
Roncalli didn’t have a 100-yard rusher, but Elijah Mahan (85 yards), McManama (65 yards), Gore (38 yards) and Hunter Miller (28 yards) combined for 214 yards. Gore also completed 7 of 13 passes for 77 yards.
“Being able to run fresh bodies is such a luxury,” Marsh said of the running game. “We can pound it and be patient.”
Roncalli hosts Plainfield next Friday.