Sep. 18—Western's football team built a 28-14 halftime lead against visiting Hamilton Heights on Friday by making the Huskies pay for mistakes.
The Panthers nearly let the lead slip away in the second half by letting scoring opportunities slip away. The Panthers had three trips inside the red zone and came away with no points.
The Huskies scored with :35 remaining to draw within 28-20, then recovered the onside kick. But the Panthers' defense responded. Rhett Berryman had a sack on second down and Garrett Lupoi stepped in front of a pass on third down for an interception. Lupoi returned it 65 yards for a touchdown at :05 to seal it.
The result: Western had a 35-20 homecoming win and a 1-0 start in the Hoosier Conference East Division.
"It's a big win for us," Western coach Alex Stewart said. "This was the one [division] team that beat us last year."
Western (3-2 overall) looked ready to bury Heights early. Quarterback Dylan Bryant's 41-yard touchdown run capped a quick opening drive and when Heights lost a fumble on its third play from scrimmage, the Panthers' Cade Epp recovered. Three plays later, Bryant scored on a 4-yard run.
But the Huskies (3-2, 1-1 HC East) responded with a 16-play scoring drive to cut the Panthers' lead to 14-7 — and when Western fumbled away the kickoff, the Huskies ripped off a five-play scoring drive to draw even.
Following an exchange of punts, Western regained control in the final 5:00 of the second quarter. First, Bryant found running back Deaglan Pleak on a wheel route for a 30-yard gain and Bryant followed with a 2-yard TD plunge. Heights then went three-and-out and had a breakdown on its punt attempt. Ryln Simpson tackled the punter as he tried to scramble and Western took over on the Heights 25. The Panthers quickly scored right before halftime with Bryant crashing the end zone on another 2-yard run for his fourth TD.
Western had three chances to break the game open in the second half. First, after Heights fumbled a punt, Western marched to the Heights 1-yard line only to turn the ball over downs. After forcing Heights to punt and having a short field, Western drove to the 5-yard line, but the Huskies blocked Pleak's 21-yard field goal attempt with 8:11 remaining. The Panthers' final drive reached the 6-yard line, but they again turned it over on downs, with 2:07 remaining. From there, the Huskies' comeback bid began.
"We could never quite put the nail in the coffin and close it out," Stewart said. "We had several red-zone trips come up empty. I think it's just execution on the offensive side of the ball. [The Huskies] were stacking the box and they were coming hard. They did a good job defensively to make those stands. But I think we missed some blocks at key moments."
Stewart loved Lupoi's interception in the final minute.
"I believe that players win games," he said, "and he stepped up and made a play that really sealed the win for us."
Bryant led Western with 117 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Pleak had 28 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving and was 4-for-4 on PAT attempts. Linemen Evan Stout and Epp along with Lupoi highlighted the defensive effort.
Western visits Cass next Friday.
TIPTON 42, LCC 28
Tipton's Class 2A No. 4-ranked Blue Devils passed their first big test of the young season Friday night. Hard-nosed running by Eli Carter, timely passing from Vince Hoover and an aggressive, opportunistic defense led the Blue Devils to a 42-28 victory over Lafayette Central Catholic on Friday night at Lafayette.
Hoover's strip sack and fumble of LCC quarterback Clark Barrett on the third play of the game gave the Blue Devils the ball at the Knight 19-yard line. Carter later scored on a 10-yard run. It was the first of three touchdown runs by the Tipton junior, who finished with 137 yards rushing. Nick Hughes converted the first of six PAT kicks and Tipton led 7-0 at the 9:43 mark of the first quarter.
Carter scored on a 5-yard run at the 3:31 mark of the first quarter and his 38-yard run on the first play of the second quarter put Tipton up 21-0.
Barrett's 1-yard run got the Knights on the board but Hoover countered with a 69-yard TD pass to Nate Powell for a 28-7 Tipton lead. Barrett's 4-yard run made it 28-14 at the half.
LCC picked off a screen pass on Tipton's opening possession of the third quarter and the Knights cashed in with a Baylor Smith 1-yard run to cut the lead to 28-21 with 9:17 remaining in the third quarter.
Hoover scored on a 1-yard run on a fourth-and-goal and the lead was 35-21. With just under five minutes to play in the game and faced with fourth-and-5 at their 14, LCC went for it and Barrett was sacked by Kipper Barnett for a 9-yard loss and Tipton took over at the 5. Hoover scored on a 5-yard run and the lad was 42-21 with 7:31 remaining.
Barrett's 32-yard TD pass to Brinn Robbins made it 42-28 with 6:32 remaining. Tipton's defense then came with a pair of fourth-down stops to preserve the victory.
Hoover had 11 rushes for 35 yards and two scores and was 5 of 9 for 117 yards and a TD and in interception passing. Powell had four catches for 105 yards and a TD.
The Blue Devils (5-0) host Northwestern next Friday.
Michelle Garmon, Tipton Tribune
PERU 48, MAC 20
Peru used a strong ground game (322 yards on 27 attempts) to beat Maconaquah in a Three Rivers Conference shootout.
The Bengal Tigers improved to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the TRC while the Braves dropped to 1-2 and 1-2. Peru owns a 29-21 all-time advantage in the rivalry series, which began in 1963.
Peru led 14-0 after the first quarter. Alex Ross' 75-yard interception return for touchdown with 2:32 left in the second quarter sent Peru into halftime with a 27-6 lead.
Maconaquah QB Braxton Birner completed 24 of 39 pass attempts for 345 yards and two touchdowns. Brayden Betzner had six receptions for 146 yards and a TD and Kaleb Shelton had six catches for 105 yards and a score.