Robbie Strader did a little bit of everything Friday for the Roncalli football team.
The senior quarterback was a record-setting passer, a runner, decoy receiver and quite an effective intermittent punter. In fact, it was one of his kicks that helped seal the Class 4A No. 13 Rebels’ 30-14 upset win over Class 5A No. 7 host Decatur Central.
With Roncalli up 20-14 and in possession of the ball inside Hawks territory with just over 5 minutes remaining, Strader dropped back on fourth-and-3 from the 41 and pooch punted the ball. Will Harris chased it down, corralling it at the 1-yard line.
The Hawks had a chance to drive the length of the field to win the game. Instead, the Rebels crashed on Decatur Central quarterback Bryce Jefferson, forcing a fumble that senior Cole Copsey recovered in the end zone to give the Rebels a 27-14 lead.
On the Rebels’ next series, Strader punted from the offensive formation again, with Harris again downing it at the 1.
“We’ve kind of got a nice little system set up,” said Strader, whose first quick-kick try early in the game hit the pylon on the corner of the end zone before rolling for a touchback. “Pinning them down inside the 1 twice was huge.”
The Rebels came out utilizing their misdirection running game with quarterback options, end-arounds and quick hitters to Nate Fries. Twice Fries popped through the hole up the middle for scoring runs of 19 and 6 yards to give the Rebels a 13-0 first-quarter lead. The senior finished with 128 yards on 19 carries.
Roncalli (4-4) initially had a 14-0 lead but coach Bruce Scifres sent the offense back out for an unsuccessful two-point try after a Decatur Central (6-2) penalty on the second extra-point kick. The Hawks almost made the Rebels pay for it, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 14-13 halftime lead.
The Rebels’ defensive pressure on Jefferson bit them when the sophomore scrambled away from the rush and found fellow sophomore running back Tyrone Tracy open for a 38-yard touchdown for the Hawks’ first score. After forcing Roncalli into a three-and-out, the Hawks drove again with Jefferson keeping it for a 1-yard touchdown. Decatur Central looked like it was rolling.
The Rebels got the ball to start the third quarter and just two plays in, they took advantage. Strader – who hadn’t completed a pass in only two first-half attempts – found Harris open down the sideline for a school record 84-yard touchdown and 20-14 lead.
The Roncalli defense did the rest, stifling the young Hawks down the stretch. Decatur Central had no passing yards and four turnovers in the final two quarters.
“We’re extremely young, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse,” said Decatur Central coach Justin Dixson. “We’re here to win now.”
Senior linebacker Jake Franklin led the charge with a pair of sacks and fumble recoveries for the Rebels, who kept the Hawks in the shadow of their end zone all night and limited them to 156 yards. Meanwhile, more than half of Roncalli’s drives started in Hawks territory.
“Our defense just did an awesome job of containing their offense,” Scifres said. “We knew with their speed and athleticism, our game plan was to keep them in front of us … and bottled up.”
RONCALLI 30, DECATUR CENTRAL 14
R – Nate Fries 19 run (Patrick Sandler kick)
R – Fries 6 run (run failed)
DC – Tyrone Tracy 38 pass from Bryce Jefferson (Logan Crum kick)
DC – Jefferson 1 run (Crum kick)
R – Will Harris 84 pass from Robbie Strader (Sandler kick)
R – Cole Copsey fumble recovery in end zone (Sandler kick)
R – Sandler 42 FG
Rushing — Roncalli: Strader 9-25, Harris 1-(-1), Fries 19-128, Jacob 2-36, Gillum 5-9, Parker 1-1. Decatur Central: Jefferson 15-(-6), Tracy 15-58, Whitlock 2-0, Barnes 3-9, Thomas 4-1.
Passing — Roncalli: Strader 3-7-0 106, Harris 2-2-0 5. Decatur Central: Jefferson 7-19-1 94.
Receiving — Roncalli: Harris 1-84, Strader 1-(-4), Jacob Fryar 1-11, Jacob 1-11, Morgan 1-9. Decatur Central: Barnes 2-24, Kahre 3-24, Tracy 1-38, Thomas 1-8.