BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Week one of the IHSAA football postseason is in the book and one team emerged with a huge victory – the Taylor Titans. Prior to the season, it was highly doubtful that anyone would have predicted that the only local football team to win in week one of sectionals week would be the Titans, but after ending its 38-game losing streak earlier last month, Taylor knocked off Blackford 38-7. Northwestern, Western and Eastern all lost in week one while Kokomo had a opening week bye.
The Titans started 2015 where it had left off in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 – with losses. For 38 straight games, dating to Sept. 16, 2011, Taylor walked off the gridiron with an L hanging over its head. Losses to North White and Tri-Central to start the season were misleading considering those two squads were 17-1 in the regular season. The losing streak ended with a 27-8 win over Frontier on September 4, and wins over Clinton Prairie and Eastern gave the Titans its most regular season wins since a 6-4 season in 2008.
Taylor then broke another losing streak last Friday when they earned the programs first sectional game victory since a 35-21 win over Alexandria in 2009 – ending a six game tournament losing streak. The Titans were on the road in the Class 2A Sectional 36 contest due to a new synthetic field being installed at Taylor High School.
Quarterback Darian Stone led the Titans with five touchdowns – three passing, one rushing and one receiving. Stone found Devin Schesser for a 10-yard pass to start the scoring in the first quarter. He then hit Eli Meadows for a pair of first half scoring strikes from 27 and 10 yards. Stone also had a 14-yard touchdown run as Taylor owned a 28-0 halftime lead. After a 36-yard field goal from Sammy Asami, Stone caught a 57-yard touchdown bomb from Stone Deckard to close out the scoring late in the third quarter. Deckard finished his sensational evening 13 of 18 for 224 yards.
Next up for Taylor (4-6) is a battle against No. 4 Eastbrook (10-0)
Northwestern 52 vs. No. 5 FW Bishop Luers 82
Wow! It is doubtful anyone would have predicted the shootout that occurred at Northwestern High School Friday night in Class 3A Sectional 27 action. Highly touted Fort Wayne Bishop Luers defeated the host Tigers 82-52 in what is now the highest combined score in the history of the IHSAA state tournament. The teams combined for 19 touchdowns in a shootout for the ages.
Ohio State recruit Austin Mack got the scoring started a mere 13 seconds into the game, taking the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Then, for more than three hours, the two teams tore up the field with one touchdown after another – averaging one score for every two-and-a-half minutes of the play clock.
Mack accounted for four first quarter touchdowns as Luers led 26-20. He scored on a three-yard run, a 36-yard pass from Jack Johnston and a 51-yard run. He added a fifth score with a 67-yard reception in the second quarter. The talented receiver finished with 100 yards on four catches.
But Northwestern posted its own impressive numbers and competed throughout the game. Following the opening kickoff return, the Tigers marched down the field and scored when Trey Richmond found Noah Dowden for a 20-yard strike. Richmond then ran the two-point conversion into the end zone to give NW an early 8-7 lead. Following Mack’s second score, Richmond hit Downden on a 34-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14 just five minutes into the game. Mack scored twice more before Richmond found Tim Blankenberger in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown, bringing an end to an entertaining 26-20 first quarter.
The Knights owned the second quarter, taking a 54-20 lead into intermission. Northwestern battled but could never get over the hump in the second half, trailing 75-36 after three quarters. Richmond, a junior, finished the game with six touchdowns and 538-yards passing on 32 of 56 accuracy (offensive stats courtesy of Pedro Velazco of the Kokomo Tribune). In the end, the two teams combined for 134 points and 1,335 yards of total offense. Northwestern (4-6) added 106 yards rushing while Luers (7-3) had 506 rushing yards and 185 yards through the air.
Western 6 vs. Lebanon 40
Turnovers will doom a football team. And that is what happened to Western as the Panthers tossed four interceptions in its first five possessions in the opening round of the Class 4A Sectional 21. Western dug itself an early 13-0 deficit against Lebanon (3-7) and simply could not get back into the game as they fell behind 30-0. Brooklyn Watters had a seven-yard score for Western (2-8).
Eastern 6 vs. No. 15 Winchester 62
Eastern knew it would have its hands full with Winchester (8-2) and Michigan recruit Kiante Enis in round one of the Class 2A Sectional 36. When the game was over, fans understood why he was a Big Ten Conference-caliber player as he posted 358 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on only 14 carries against Eastern. The Comets (3-7) cause was also hurt with injuries – runner Spencer Day suffered an apparent concussion and did not play in the second half while quarterback Scott Mullenix injured an ankle and missed the entire fourth quarter. Mullenix had the Comets only score, a four-yard run in the second quarter.