By TRIBUNE SPORTS STAFF
---- — A 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior perhaps played the biggest role in Friday night’s Hoosier Conference showdown between Class 2A powers No. 3 Tipton and No. 7 Rensselaer.
But not in the way most people would expect. It was the leg of Luke Robertson that helped the Bombers to a mild 9-7 upset over the visiting Blue Devils.
Robertson’s 41-yard field goal accounted for the only points of the first half. His two first-half kickoffs and punts also helped the hosts win the field position battle.
“Their kicking game won that football game to be honest,” Tipton coach Aaron Tolle said. “They had the field goal to start off, consistently punted the ball deep and put a couple of kickoffs in the end zone which means we had to drive 80 yards which is a big deal in high school football.”
Robertson’s kickoff to start the game resulted in a touchback. Rensselaer then forced Tipton into a three-and-out and the Bombers began their first drive at their own 48. Six plays later, Robertson split the uprights with that 41-yard boot that would have been good from 50. An 18-yard pass from Dylan Wright to Avery Walker set up the kick that put the hosts up 3-0 with 6:42 remaining in the first quarter.
“Starting the game off with the touchback, our defense digging in and kicking the field goal to put points on the board was big,” Rensselaer coach Chris Meeks said. “Converting a 40-plus yard field goal and getting up 3-0 was really important.”
The first half became a defensive battle. Tipton had just 61 yards of offense and four first downs in the half and two of those first downs came with time running out.
Rensselaer had 75 yards of offense and three first downs in the first 24 minutes.
“I thought whoever won the line of scrimmage would win the game,” Tolle said. “They teed off on our running game to their credit. Both defenses were outstanding tonight. We need to find more offense, but that said we were only one play away from winning it.”
Neither team found the end zone until the fourth quarter.
On the very first play of the quarter, Brody Dell scored on a 1-yard run. Jake Tragesser’s PAT gave Tipton a 7-3 lead with 11:55 remaining in the game.
On that drive, Tipton unveiled its version of the wildcat, lining Dell up at quarterback. Tipton went 79 yards in 11 plays, all on the ground. Nate Hein had six carries for 49 yards. Dell kept the ball the other five times. He had runs of 11 and 22 yards. He also fought for a half yard on a fourth-and-short to give the Blue Devils a first-and-goal at the 1.
Rensselaer, however, put together a nine-play, 54-yard drive to retake the lead. Rylan Airhood had a big 26-yard run on the play. But the Bombers had to convert on fourth-and-goal from the 2. They did as Wright connected with Dalton Souders on a short out rout for the TD. A bad snap prevented Robertson from tacking on the PAT but the hosts led 9-7 with 4:08 left to play.
Tipton was forced to punt but the defense held and the Bombers punted the ball back to Tipton. The Blue Devils had the ball at their own 20 with 1:21 remaining and no timeouts.
Jack Critser completed passes of 4, 35 and 16 yards to Jake Devendorf, Nate Friend and Dell to give Tipton a first down at the Rensselaer 32 with :05 left to play. The Devils elected to kick a field goal but Tragesser’s attempt was no good.
Dell finished with 22 carries for 108 yards and Hein had 15 for 60. Critser was 4-for-8 for 67 yards.
— Michelle Garmon
AROUND THE AREA
Tri-Central thumped Clinton Prairie 54-0 in Hoosier Heartland Conference play at Prairie. Further information on the game was not available at the Tribune’s deadline.
Also in HHC play, Sheridan beat Carroll 46-13. In non-conference play, Clinton Central dropped a 46-0 decision on the road to Cascade.