By GENE F. CONARD Kokomo Tribune
---- — SHERIDAN — The first shocker happened two weeks ago, a 33-27 Tri-Central triumph over Sheridan that most people considered an upset — except it wasn’t. Domination has a way of looking very convincing.
So here Friday night in the semifinal round of Class A Sectional No. 44, the No. 8-ranked Trojans repeated themselves with a totally dominant 35-7 Trojan victory over their Hoosier Heartland Conference rivals that was was even more convincing and really not as close as the final tally indicates.
Getting four touchdown passes from quarterback Cody Howell and 118 yards and a TD in 22 rushes by Garrett Kelley, the Trojans are now in prime position to capture their second sectional crown and first since 1991 when they host Clinton Prairie next Friday.
TC buried the Gophers, 54-0 back on Sept. 13 en route to an unbeaten Hoosier Heartland Conference championship. But TC coach George Gilbert refused to think in terms of a blowout or a pushover, saying: “We’re taking nobody for granted. Prairie has improved considerably since that first game.”
In Friday night’s game, the Trojans dominated the Blackhawks on both sides of the ball, 186-168 on the turf and 117-38 through the air. Sheridan got 64 of that 168 total when fleet junior running back Austin Hoover went the distance on the Hawks’ first offensive move of the second half. Other than that the Hawks managed a menial 104 yards in 32 carries (3.3) and for the game suffered a minus-42 in six other trips.
Granted, the TC offense was too much for the Hawks, or as Sheridan coach Bud Wright said afterward: “Tri-Central just outplayed us because they were better than us. We couldn’t stop their veer offense. We tried but couldn’t stop them.”
Gilbert heaped praise on both the effort of the offense and defense with: “Our offense was great and coach [Shane] Arnold had a great game plan and coach [Memo] Perez’s defense was the big difference, especially in the second half and set up several of our scores. Hoover is a terrific back, but he had just one big play the entire game. [Assistant coaches] Jason Tolle and P.J. Hatcher also had a big hand in that defensive effort.”
Howell had one of his best performances of the year. He mingled the running games of Kelley, Cody Colbert and Dillon Smith that produced 186 yards and then made six pass completions account for 117 more yards and four touchdowns.
The two rivals battled to a scoreless tie in the first period, but the Trojans went 45 yards in six plays early in the second period, Howell hitting Bryce Dowell for a 25-yard payoff. TC made it a 14-0 command at halftime when Howell hit Seth Blunck for a 16-yard touchdown, and a Howell fling to Kelley added the two-point conversion.
Sheridan managed just three first downs in the first half; had just 47 yards rushing in 23 carries and missed its only two pass attempts.
Hoover gave Sheridan a momentary lift with that 64-yard TD jaunt to open the second half. But thereafter the Blackhawks fought a losing cause, seven penalties and two fumbles adding to their dilemma.
The Trojans went about the business of putting Sheridan down for keeps when Howell hit Colten Leininger for a 12-yard touchdown pass and then upped the spread to 28-7 with another Howell pitch to Dowell for 25 yards. Kelley scored TC’s final touchdown with a one-yard bolt with 3:09 left in the contest.
A pleased Gilbert further commented: “Nobody has ever defeated Sheridan twice in the same year. But we did because we played as a team and everybody contributed. Howell had a great game, but Leininger, Dowell, Jade Pickett and Blunck did a great job defensively.”
The Trojans have now won 10 straight games which is a school record, and Howell nabbed his eighth pass interception which is another Trojan record.