NEW CASTLE -- Following one of the worst halves of football for Triton Central in the Tim Able era, the Tigers clawed their way back to the lead at New Castle then went into ground-and-pound mode to salt away a 24-17 victory Friday.
The Class 4A Trojans (1-1) had 37 yards of offense in the first half yet held a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter. By then, Class 2A, No. 9 Triton Central had amassed six penalties and botched its first two punt attempts of the season.
“I can’t remember any game where we executed worse,” said Able. “We have two of the best snappers in the world and we have two bad snaps? It’s not because we don’t practice it. We did it all summer long and they are great snappers. People have bad days and we had it.”
The Tigers’ offense turned to senior Brad Schultz for a spark – and he delivered. Schultz had six receptions on a 65-yard scoring drive to cut New Castle’s lead in half at the break.
“That gave us some hope,” said Triton Central quarterback Jace Stuckey (photo). “We knew we were that team. That put in our head that we can score. We drove all the way down the field and our offense needed that. We needed that little spark.”
New Castle had one offensive drive all game that lasted more than six plays. Yet, the Trojans ran 14 plays in the red zone. Triton Central’s defense stepped up and ended one drive with a Levi Dewey interception in the end zone and another with a Hadyn Ball trip up of New Castle quarterback Tyson Lewis inside the 10-yard line on fourth down.
“Our defense just dominated,” said Able, now in his 10th season in Fairland. “We had a great game plan and the kids executed it. We have that depth on the defensive line and we just kept bringing bodies in and wearing them down.”
Triton Central’s defense limited the Trojans to 127 total yards, benefited from two safeties and produced three interceptions.
“Our defense, you can’t ask for much more,” said Stuckey. “Three turnovers. Two safeties. Let’s give them credit.”
After a scoreless first quarter, a high snap on TC’s second punt attempt of the game set up New Castle’s offense at the TC 13. Lewis needed two plays to find Quintin Boatright wide open in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Triton Central opted not to punt on its next series and turned the ball over on downs at its own 34. New Castle needed five plays for Lewis to once again connect with Boatright to make it 14-0.
The Tigers responded with a 12-play drive that ended with Stuckey finding Schultz in the end zone from 11 yards out. Dewey provided the extra point to give life to the visitors.
“We finally finished a drive,” said Able. “We had multiple drives early and penalties and our mistakes. It was at every different kind of position there were mistakes. (Saturday) is going to be a long film day because there is so much we have to fix.”
New Castle’s best drive of the game opened the third quarter. It was benefitted by another bad punt snap that Aidan Bradley pulled in and ran left for 38 yards and a first down.
A Jared Schweitzer (photo) sack preceded back-to-back incomplete passes in the red zone. Chase Chandler had an interception in the end zone on fourth down but the Tigers were flagged for pass interference that gave the Trojans another fourth-down play.
Lewis looked to the end zone again then tried to run for the touchdown but Ball tripped him up behind the line of scrimmage.
When Ball did get a good snap, he delivered booming punts. Triton Central’s next drive halted at the 37-yard line and Ball delivered a 54-yard punt down to the New Castle 9-yard line.
On the next play, Lewis dropped back to the end zone and threw the ball away as the pocket collapsed on him. Intentional grounding was called which netted the Tigers a safety.
TC’s next possession went nowhere and Ball punted down to the New Castle 20. A holding penalty on first down and an 8-yard loss on a bad snap set up third-and-27 from the 3. That snap sailed over Lewis’ head and TC had a second safety that cut the lead to 14-11.
Stuckey started the next drive on his own 39 and narrowly avoided being sacked, then delivered a laser across the field to Mason Compton, who found the sideline and raced 57 yards down to the New Castle 4.
Ray Crawford reached the end zone on the next play and Triton Central had its first lead of the game, 18-14.
“To our kids credit, we came back in the second half and played like we are capable of,” said Able.
Luke Faust collected his first interception early in the fourth quarter to stop another New Castle drive and the Tigers went into finish mode.
Starting at its own 33, Triton Central rolled off 15 plays that killed off over eight minutes of the final quarter. Dewey (photo) delivered a 36-yard field goal to set the final score.
Stuckey completed 21 of 32 attempts for 168 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 27 yards on 13 carries.
Schultz finished with nine catches for 79 yards and a touchdown – his fourth of the season. Crawford racked up a hard fought 78 yards on 17 carries.
Triton Central now prepares for an Indiana Crossroads Conference showdown in week three against Class A, No. 1 Lutheran (2-0, 2-0 ICC). The Saints, the defending state champions, travel to Fairland next week after routing Indianapolis Ritter Friday, 71-0.
TRITON CENTRAL 21, NEW CASTLE 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
TC (2-0) 0 7 11 3 -- 21
NC (1-1) 0 14 0 0 -- 14
NC – Boatright, 12 pass Lewis (Barrett kick), 8:22
NC – Boatright, 7 pass Lewis (Barrett kick), 5:30
TC – Schultz, 11 pass Stuckey (Dewey kick), 1:15
TC – Safety (Lewis intentional grounding), 5:52
TC – Safety (Snap out of end zone), 3:01
TC – Crawford, 4 run (Dewey kick), 2:25
TC – Dewey, 36 field goal, 1:30
Rushing: 34-116 23-60
Passing yards: 168 98
First downs: 16 11
Fumbles-Lost: 0-0 0-0
Interceptions: 3 0
Penalties: 8-65 5-50
Rushing (Individual): Stuckey 13-27, Crawford 17-78, Wilkins 3-12, Schultz 1-(-1) (TC); Eberhart 12-27, Bradley 1-38, Thrine 2-1, Lewis 8-(-6) (NC).
Passing (Individual): Stuckey 21-32-168 (TC); Lewis 9-23-98 (NC).
Receiving (Individual): Schultz 9-79, Faust 6-18, Compton 1-57, Kemper 1-12, Crawford 3-(-10) (TC); Boatright 6-67, Bradley 3-31 (NC).