SHARPSVILLE — The outcome came as no surprise because the two Hoosier Heartland Conference rivals had been there before, most noticeably a few weeks ago when Tri-Central drubbed Clinton Central, 35-0.
It was a near repeat here Friday night, but the 37-6 Trojan victory didn’t have nearly the zing as the first success mainly because TC roared away to a 21-0 command in the initial 10:42 of the contest and the Trojan defense totally dominated the CC offense.
Thereafter, the No. 8-rated Trojans settled for single touchdowns in the second and fourth quarters and added a safety early in the final segment.
The Bulldogs ventured into Trojan territory only twice the entire game other than their lone score at the end of the first period that came when quarterback Keenan Orr hit Jordan Petty for a 35-yard payoff, a play on which the Trojan defender fell down to clear the way.
Defense was the main Tri-Central ingredient as TC held the Bulldogs to 79 yards rushing in just 17 attempts, 25 of those yards came in the final moments when quarterback Keenan Orr broke away to the outside. Prior to that CC was thrown for six losses totaling 24 yards.
The Trojan defense made first downs a premium for Clinton Central as the Bulldogs managed just six in the first half — including just one via the rush — and they scratched out just three in the last two segments.
The victory was the ninth straight for the Trojans, a bit of history in that no TC team had ever won nine football contests in succession. Now sitting 9-1, the Trojans find themselves heading to Sheridan next Friday for a second time in three weeks.
“It’s tough to beat any team twice, but our defense was outstanding and controlled CC all the way,” TC coach George Gilbert said. “But after we got that 21-0 lead we got a little complacent, and we sure can’t play that way next week at Sheridan.
“Our backs ran hard, our offensive line did a tremendous job and quarterback Cody Howell did a great job running the offense. But we didn’t take very good care of the football.”
Tri-Central lost two fumbles that ended potential scoring drives.
“Our defensive backs played very well,” Gilbert said, pointing to two pass interceptions by Seth Blunck and another theft by Cale Hindman, the latter coming at the TC two-yard line that chilled a likely CC scoring drive.
TC got on the board in the first 1:34 when Dillon Smith went 12 yards in two trips after Cody Colbert had ripped off 32 yards. Tri-Central pushed the lead to 14-0 with 2:25 left in the first act when Garrett Kelley went 41 yards for the first of his two touchdowns.
The lead stretched to 21-0 at 1:18 of the first quarter when Howell hit Jade Pickett over the middle for a 25-yard payoff.
It was here that Clinton Central made its first and only impression when Orr found Petty for that 35-yard score.
All that remained was for Lake Baumiller to nail Orr in the end zone for a safety at 11:51 of the fourth period and Kelley to go two yards for his second TD with 6:47 left in the game to complete the 37-6 final.
Kelley led the Trojans with 143 yards on 21 carries; Smith had 29 yards in eight trips and Colbert had 58 and 12 carries.