By MICHELLE GARMON
For the Kokomo Tribune
---- — TIPTON — Senior Mitch Witteveen’s 67-yard punt return with 1:06 remaining in the game lifted Class 2A No. 3-ranked Lafayette Central Catholic to a 14-7 Hoosier Conference victory over Tipton on Friday night.
Central Catholic coach Kevin O’Shea said it was the first time in his 21-year coaching career that he’s won a game on a punt return late in the fourth quarter.
“We were trying to set up a wall that we thought we had set up a couple of times before that and never got to it,” O’Shea said. “This time our special teams coordinator Jim Schrader made sure we got to it and Mitch did a great job of getting the wall, our kids did a nice job of sealing things off and Mitch was an athlete. We spent enough time shooting ourselves in the foot as we got down toward the red zone anyway I told Mitch ‘thanks for bailing us out.’”
The Knights improved to 5-1 overall and 4-0 in the conference, keeping their drive for a repeat HC title alive. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, fell to 1-3 in the conference and 3-3 overall.
“I felt our kids battled [Friday],” Tipton coach Aaron Tolle said. “We played well defensively; we gave up about three plays all night defensively. Offense was better, we made some plays, we extended some plays but they just made two or three more plays than we did.”
The two teams battled to a scoreless tie in the first half. The Blue Devil defense came up with a pair of big fourth down stops.
Central Catholic was the first to reach the end zone scoring on a 13-yard middle screen pass from Ty Preston to Joe Smith. Sam Milazzo’s PAT put the Knights up 7-0 with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter. The TD pass capped off a 3-play, 42-yard drive that was set up by Jackson Anthrop’s 22-yard punt return and aided by a defensive pass interference penalty against Tipton.
The Blue Devils responded with a 7-play, 73-yard drive that actually covered 84 yards because of a holding penalty. Freshman Kellen Woods, making his first varsity start at quarterback, was a perfect 3-for-3 on the drive. He began the drive with a 19-yard completion to Cory King and ended it with a 28-yard touchdown pass to King. The pass came on a fourth-and-8. Woods took the shotgun snap, rolled to his right and finding his first two options covered, he threw back across the field to King, who caught the ball at the 7, broke a tackle at the 4 and ran into the end zone. Jake Tragesser’s PAT evened the score at 7-all with 8:18 remaining in the game.
“He’s a heady little player,” Tolle said of his freshman QB. “We obviously put him in a difficult spot but I thought he reacted really well. He’s a gamer but the biggest thing he gave us [Friday] is he extended some plays. He was in the pocket and things didn’t happen, he used his feet to extend the play a little bit. He made some gutty throws and I thought he did a whale of a job for his first start.”
Woods finished 10-of-20 for 112 yards and a TD. He also was intercepted three times. Dell led the ground game with 21 carries for 67 yards and Hein added 55 yards on 13 carries. King caught 4 passes for 74 yards and a TD.
Preston completed 20 of 36 passes for 205 yards and a TD. Ben Tharp was his favorite target, catching 9 passes for 110 yards. Smith rushed 10 times for 76 yards.