Things could not have fallen into place any better for East Central head coach Justin Roden and his players as they host Roncalli for the Indiana Class 4A semi-final.
The winner will play in the Class 4A state championship game next weekend in Indianapolis. Roden and his Trojans have motivation after falling to the Rebels 31-10 in the regular-season finale. Chasing a victory in front of the home fans and the seniors playing in their last ever game at Trojan Field just adds to the positive karma for East Central.
Roncalli has won seven in a row. The Rebels are extremely confident after opening the year 2-4. There will be lots to be said about the character of the winner of this affair.
RONCALLI REBELS (9-4) vs. EAST CENTRAL TROJANS (11-2)
Kickoff: Friday 7:30 p.m. at Trojan Field
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PLAYERS TO WATCH: A trio of seniors pace the Rebels’ offense. Quarterback Robbie Strader has thrown for 1,781 yards and 13 touchdowns. Running back Nate Fries has posted 1,223 yards on the ground and receiver Will Harris has 41 receptions for 605 yards.
Luke Patton is one of the Hoosier state’s best-kept secrets. The East Central quarterback has accounted for 2,923 yards of total offense (1,580 rushing, 1,343 passing) and 39 total touchdowns (31 rushing, eight passing). Senior classmate Doug Rosemeyer has rushed for 1,364 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Defensively, Dusty Ward has been a beast for the Trojans with 65 total tackles, 10 tackles for losses, five fumble recoveries and an interception. Dillon Watkins leads East Central with seven takeaways (four interceptions, three fumble recoveries). The Trojans have come up with 29 turnovers on the year.
TEAM TRENDS: Roncalli has been rock solid on defense, holding all of their victims to 19 points or less during their current seven-game winning streak. The Rebels are looking for their 12th semi-state title and first since 2005. They have won eight state championships with the last being in 2004.
East Central is averaging 44 points per game in the playoffs. The Trojans averaged just 31.4 points per contest during the regular season. The East Central program is playing in the semi-state championship for just the third time in school history. The Trojans won the title in 1993 and 1994.
RONCALLI’S KEYS TO VICTORY: This is a tough and tested Rebels’ squad. Expect them to handle the pressure of being on the road like veterans. The defense has been the star down the stretch and they need to step up once again. It all comes down to containing Patton. Getting him to throw the ball more than he runs will lead to a great outcome for Roncalli.
EAST CENTRAL’S KEYS TO VICTORY: The Trojans have been good at getting leads and building upon them with Patton and Rosemeyer pounding out yardage late in games. Building an early two-score advantage should mean good things as the affair wears on. Taking Fries and the Rebels ground game out of the equation is going to afford the Trojans defense more opportunities to make game-changing plays when Roncalli throws the ball. The East Central secondary has shown a knack for coming up with plays that turn the momentum of games.
Prediction: East Central 24, Roncalli 21