By JOSH SIGLER KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — TIPTON — With a potential rematch with Class 2A No. 2 Lafayette Central Catholic looming in the second round, Tipton’s football team had to first find a way to dispatch a Lewis Cass squad that Blue Devils coach Aaron Tolle know couldn’t be overlooked.
The No. 7-ranked Devils did not get caught looking ahead.
Quarterback Austin Hooker accounted for 334 total yards and five touchdowns, leading Tipton to a 38-13 victory over the Kings on Friday night in the opening round of Sectional 35 play.
“You better not overlook a Cass team,” Tolle said. “They have great history, great tradition and an outstanding coach. If you were ever to overlook them, you’d go home. I was impressed with our intensity out of the gate. We took charge from the beginning, so I’m proud of our kids.”
The Blue Devils (7-3) built a 21-0 lead by the early stages of the second quarter on the arm and legs of Hooker. Hooker scored on 10- and six-yard runs in the first quarter, and threw the first of three TD passes early in the second quarter on a 10-yard hookup with Nate Friend to put Tipton up 21-0 with 9:23 to play in the first half.
Hooker finished the night with 90 yards rushing on 11 carries. The 2012 KT All-Area Offensive Player of the Year was 13-of-22 through the air for 244 yards, three TDs and an interception in his fourth game back after suffering a broken non-throwing arm in Week 2.
“We’ve been holding him back a lot,” Tolle said of Hooker. “Two weeks before he came back he was practicing — he was throwing and running. We sat down and came up with a plan, and gave him five quarterback calls his first game back, 10 the next couple games after that, and [Friday] night we said, ‘Do whatever it takes.’ He’s been champing at the bit.”
A 66-yard run by Gabe Welch on the next play from scrimmage helped set up Cass’ first touchdown, a four-yard run from Brendan McGehee to pull the Kings (5-5) within 21-6 with 7:53 to play in the half.
Hooker hit Cory King with a 52-yard TD strike up the seam two minutes later, and 32-yard field goal from Jake Tragesser with just over a minute to play in the first half gave the Devils a 31-6 advantage at intermission.
Outside of Welch’s big burst, Cass managed 42 yards of offense in the first half.
“Giving up 38 points doesn’t surprise me, it doesn’t disappoint me,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said. “I was disappointed we didn’t answer. Offensively we didn’t play well enough to make it a game, and that’s discouraging. That’s been our issue against good teams this year, answering. I was disappointed we didn’t move the ball better offensively and make it a tighter game.”
The teams traded touchdowns in the second half. Hooker hit Jake Devendorf for a seven-yard score early in the fourth before Welch capped with scoring with a seven-yard TD plunge with 6:56 to play.
Welch finished the night with 116 yards on 11 carries in his final game for the Kings.
Nate Hein added 61 yards on 19 carries for Tipton. Friend led the receiving corps with four catches for 80 yards, while Devendorf added four grabs for 66 yards.
Tipton will host Central Catholic next week in a Sectional 35 semifinal. LCC (9-1) defeated North Putnam 51-0 Friday. The Knights defeated the Blue Devils 14-7 in Tipton in Week 6. Hooker did not return to the lineup until the following week, when Tipton topped Sheridan 27-24. LCC has won four straight Class A state titles, but was moved up to 2A this season with the IHSAA’s new success factor.
“It’s going to be a great ballgame,” Tolle said. “I think they’ve won 25 straight games in the tournament, which is close to a tournament record. They’ve won a bunch of close games this year. We’re going to have our hands full. They’re a team that is going to die really, really hard.”