(SPORTS JOURNAL WEB EXCLUSIVE)
BY DEAN HOCKNEY
NEW CASTLE – The Streak lives.
For the 32nd consecutive year, the Kokomo Wildkats topped the New Castle Trojans in North Central Conference varsity football. Not since 1979 have the Trojans knocked off Kokomo in what may be the longest streak of its kind in Indiana. And this year’s rendition yielded the same result of so many previous clashes – a Kokomo blowout, this time in an easy 55-21 victory.
Kokomo (3-2, 3-0 in NCC play) didn’t waste any time in jumping on the scoreboard. After forcing a Trojan punt, Gordon Jenkins ran the Kats second play from scrimmage 64 yards for a touchdown. Five minutes later, quarterback Tayler Persons scooted down the New Castle sideline for a 50 yard score. And less than three minutes after the Persons score, Armon Bridgeforth took the pigskin 30 yards to the end zone for a 21-0 Kokomo lead after one quarter.
“We just had a little better team, that is what it came down to,” said Kokomo coach Brett Colby. “We just made the plays that needed to be made.”
Bridgeforth then did what he does so well – electrify the crowd. After Adam Kranda scored one of his two touchdowns for New Castle, the Kokomo senior and NCC rushing leader blew the game open with touchdown runs of 64 and 88 yards in a span of four minutes, giving the Kats a 34-7 halftime lead. Bo Butler would add a third quarter score for Kokomo, and Will Haynes closed the door on New Castle with a 78 yards touchdown run and an 82 yard kickoff return. When the dust had settled, Kokomo had six touchdown runs of 30 yards or more, and five that went 50 yards for more.
The 2011 win for Kokomo was one for the record books as the Kats racked up a school record 514 rushing yards, breaking the previous record of 513 which was set just two years ago, also against the Trojans.
“We have speed, and it just isn’t Armon,” said Colby. “I am telling you, the other guys worked so hard while he was out (with an injury) that it is now paying dividends. The offensive line is not where it needs to be, but I still think this could be the best offensive line we have had.”
Bridgeforth, who missed the Kats first two games due to an injured hand, again led the Kokomo rushing attack with 228 yards and three touchdowns. In three NCC contests, he has tallied 624 rushing yards, eight touchdowns, a touchdown pass and a punt return for a touchdown. His 88 yard touchdown against New Castle (0-5, 0-3) was the fifth-longest run from scrimmage in Kokomo history. Haynes added another 112 yards on the ground, Jenkins 81 and Persons 80. Persons also led the defense with 14 tackles and an interception. Bo Butler added 13 tackles and Michael Copeland eight.
The win was also the 32nd consecutive NCC win for the Kats, who are now in the driver’s seat for a fifth consecutive outright conference championship.
Eastern 21, at Hamilton Heights 34
In a clash of Mid-Indiana Conference undefeated teams, the upstart Comets of Eastern had high hopes of downing the traditional MIC power Hamilton Heights (5-0, 3-0). But in the end, the Comets (4-1, 2-1) could not overcome the loss of its quarterback, who was suspended for the game after being ejected last week. All-State tight end Josiah Price, a Michigan State recruit, did an admirable job filling in the QB slot, and the Comets had a chance to tie the score late in the game. But a late turnover squashed the opportunity and Heights capitalized with a game-deciding touchdown in the final minutes.
Northwestern 42, at Taylor 3
Northwestern (4-1, 2-1) rebounded from a conference loss to Western last week by dismantling the Taylor Trojans (1-4, 1-2), who pulled an upset a week ago over Peru.
Western 64, at Maconaquah 0
In no surprise, Western (4-1, 3-0) continued on the road to a MIC title by cruising by Maconaquah (0-5, 0-3). But while Western may be looking ahead to an Oct. 7 showdown with Heights, the Comets of Eastern have Sep. 30 circled for a chance at a Panther upset.