For the Daily Journal
If Roncalli’s football team hopes to repeat as state champion, there’s a good chance the Rebels will have to overcome adversity late in a game at some point along the way.
No one had provided the Rebels with that scenario all season. Host Fishers did Friday night.
When the Tigers’ H.L. Lewis scored a touchdown late in the third quarter, it gave Fishers a 21-17 lead, which stood into the fourth period. Roncalli answered with touchdowns on each of its next two possessions to pull away to a 28-17 victory.
The win extended the Rebels’ winning streak to 22 games, dating to the start of last season, when the Rebels went 15-0 and won the Class 4A state championship. Now in 5A, top-ranked Roncalli improved to 7-0 and dropped Fishers to 3-4.
When Fishers took the lead with 1:08 remaining in the third quarter, it was the first time all season Roncalli had trailed in the second half of a game, and only the third time all season it trailed at any point in a game.
The 11-point margin also was Roncalli’s closest win this season. The Rebels had defeated everyone they played by at least 14 points before Friday.
“It’s really a testament to those kids and how they believe in each other,” Roncalli coach Scott Marsh said of the comeback. “There were so many contributors.”
After Fishers went ahead, Roncalli responded with a methodical 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with an Elijah Mahan 1-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal with 8:46 remaining.
Earlier in the drive, Rebels quarterback Conner Gore connected with Jacob Luedeman on a leaping 23-yard reception on third down.
Gore completed 20 of 23 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns, including 10 straight completions to start the game.
“He’s unbelievable,” Marsh said of Gore. “He keeps getting better and better each week, and he made a couple of plays with his legs as well.”
Even after the go-ahead touchdown run, Roncalli’s lead wasn’t secure. Fishers drove the ball to the Rebels’ 42 before Ethan Newett won a jump ball on a pass, leaping for an interception at the Roncalli 25 with 6:55 to play.
“We were in man coverage, and they ran a crossing pattern, so I just went with the closest guy,” Newett said. “I saw the ball coming my way, and just jumped. Our whole team’s really solid. I knew after that we’d (run the clock) and put up points.”
The Rebels pieced together a seven-play, 75-yard drive that featured six runs and ended with a 17-yard Mahan touchdown run with 3:42 to play.
Patrick McManama had 32 of his team-high 112 rushing yards on that drive. Luedeman finished with eight catches for 77 yards.
The Tigers rallied from a 14-0 first-half deficit with 17 straight points.
“Physically, they were beating on us,” Marsh said of Fishers’ comeback. “It’s good to be in games like this, face adversity and rebound from it.”