BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — Tri-Central’s football team moved up to No. 8 in Class A this week based on last Friday’s victory over Sheridan.
Today, the Trojans begin their quest to make even bigger waves. Tri-Central (8-1) hosts Clinton Central (1-8) at 7 p.m. in the opening round of play in Class A Sectional 44.
Also in Sectional 44, Indianapolis Arlington (3-4) visits two-time defending sectional champ Sheridan (4-5), Indianapolis Tindley (2-7) faces Indianapolis Shortridge (6-3), and Clinton Prairie (3-6) visits the Indiana Deaf School (5-4).
“I know it’s kind of hard to get up for teams that are 1-8, but we’ve only beaten Clinton Central three times in the last 28 years,” TC coach George Gilbert said. He was formerly coach at CC and still teaches there. “So we have no laurels that we can sit on. We’ve won some but the big goal is still sitting out in front of us for us to achieve.
“We really think if we can win the sectional, we feel we could be the Cinderella team. But we’ve got to take care of business and the Sheridan game was a hard-fought game last week. Sheridan is very good. I still think they beat most teams in Class A. We have to hopefully work through Clinton Central and keep everybody healthy and we would love to win that game and then get the opportunity to play Sheridan again.”
To get that chance, the Trojans must handle a Clinton Central team that TC beat 35-0 in the regular season. Gilbert stressed CC is dangerous due to playing a difficult schedule and a passing game that can lead to big results when clicking.
“Oh man, they’re throwing the ball all over the place,” Gilbert said. “They’ve got a freshman QB [Keenan Orr] but he’s a big kid. He offers some complications, and they have speed at the corners. Plus they have the [Cole] Simmons boy. They’ve got a real nice kid up front, they have a couple linemen that are tough kids. They’re going to give us their best.”
Orr has completed 58 of 150 passes for 913 yards with nine TD passes and 10 interceptions for CC. Simmons has 391 receiving yards on 28 catches and Jake Gascho has 374 on just 15 receptions. Jordan Petty has run for 444 yards.
On the TC side, Primary back Garrett Kelley has run for 1,113 yards, and Cody Colbert has another 473. QB Cody Howell has hit on 61 of 99 passes for 1,067 yards with 16 touchdowns and just two picks. Seth Blunck has 19 catches for 389 yards, and Jade Pickett has 18 catches for 286 yards.
Carroll (5-4) plays at North White (5-4) in an instant rematch after the Cougars won 26-6 at North White last week. This game offers unknowns as both squads held back on their full arsenal last week, and North White lost its quarterback to a broken leg in last Friday’s game.
“I think both of us were playing that game pretty vanilla,” Carroll coach Steve Keown said. “The one thing you look at and one thing we’ve got to figure out is their option. We didn’t do a really good job on that I didn’t think.
“I guess the biggest thing you find out is ... you get an idea of how they’re going to line up defensively. They ran two different defenses, one in the first half, and one in the second.”
With NW missing its quarterback, that throws a lot of unknowns into the game. Keown is concerned that North White may change things on offense as a result and that makes it hard to prepare. Carroll knows something about that situation as Cougar QB Jared Miller was injured in Week 2 and returned to action two weeks ago. During the time he was out, they had to change out of what they’d expected to do offensively since preseason practice.
Carroll has won both games since his return and won four of five going into sectional play.
“Having him allows us to get Brandon Dillon out wider,” Keown said. Dillon, a receiver, had to fill in at QB in Miller’s absence. “The biggest lift is just in practice. I told our coaches ‘he’s been practicing for about three weeks solid. We’ve had two really good practice weeks and you can just feel it, the kids, it lifts them having him back.’”
Miller has hit on 21 of 35 passes for 356 yards in four games. Kreed Switzer leads the receivers with 477 yards on 22 catches. Carroll has rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a team with Jaden Reneau leading the way with 1,091 yards. Dillon has another 560.
Also in the sectional, Seeger (3-6) visits No. 9 Pioneer (7-2), South Newton (1-8) visits Frontier (1-8), and Tri-County (4-5) visits Caston (2-7).