After he lauded the effort of both his team and the opponent, Carmel High School football coach Kevin Wright broke it down like this:
“We were lucky tonight, to be honest,” he said Saturday night after Class 5A top-ranked Carmel survived for a 10-7 overtime win over Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Warren Central at Lucas Oil Stadium. “Our kids found a way to win, and that’s an attribute our guys have.”
It took something of a Houdini act for the defending Class 5A champs. The Greyhounds (7-0, 5-0) managed just 128 yards of total offense and were held without a second-half first down until the midway point of the fourth quarter.
The Carmel defense, put in tough spots all night, kept putting out fires. Warren Central (3-4, 2-3) hurt itself by missing two field goals (20 and 39 yards) and having a 32-yarder blocked with 1:39 left in regulation.
After the blocked field goal, Carmel linebacker Ryan Sondles returned the ball to the Warren Central 41. But the Greyhounds were unable to move the ball and the game went to overtime, where both teams get four downs from the opponent’s 10-yard-line.
Going into the opposite end zone as in the 2009 5A state title game — when Warren Central defeated Carmel 42-36 in double overtime — Carmel got the ball first, and reliable Billy Stumbo knocked through a 28-yard field goal to give the Greyhounds a 10-7 lead.
On the second play of Warren Central’s possession, from the Carmel 7, Anthony Cooper-Taylor appeared to complete a pass to receiver Darius Lee, who fumbled the ball as he reached over the goal line. But the officials ruled it an incomplete pass.
“On replay, it looked complete to me,” Warren Central coach Steve Tutsie said. “I tried to get (an explanation) but couldn’t get them.”
On third down, the left-handed Cooper-Taylor rolled left and fired a pass to tight end Zach Gegner. It bounced up into the air and Carmel junior linebacker Loukas Sinnis picked it off. Again there was confusion as one official motioned for an incomplete pass. But the call on the field was an interception, and the replay board at Lucas Oil Stadium showed Sinnis made it cleanly.
“It just fell right into my hands,” Sinnis said. “It was like magic.”
It was just the latest in a series of dramatic finishes between the teams. But this one may have come as something of a surprise with traditional power Warren Central unranked and coming off a 14-10 loss to Terre Haute North.
The Warriors nearly doubled the Greyhounds in total offense (238 yards) and were in Carmel territory on 10 possessions. But the only score came early in the first quarter on a 1-yard run by Cooper-Taylor after a Jamaal Bridges blocked punt started the drive at the Carmel 4.
“Very frustrating,” Tutsie said. “I’m dang proud of our kids and coaches. We had every reason to lie down, and we fought, fought, fought. I think we grew up as a football team this week during practice.”