McCutcheon senior Charles Phinisee headed to the postgame bonfire and dance with two touchdowns in his pocket and the title of homecoming king.
More importantly to Phinisee, he and his Mavericks also walked with the swagger of a 38-7 victory over Richmond at Ellison Stadium. McCutcheon has won three of its last four after dropping its first two games to county rivals.
The reigning North Central Conference champions, now 3-3, say they’re building confidence — and momentum.
“If we want to be top in the NCC again, we know we have to win every game,” said Phinisee, who scored on passing plays of 78 and 43 yards. “If we want to go rolling into sectionals with confidence, we have to go in every time and win.”
Richmond drove 64 yards in seven plays on the game’s opening drive before McCutcheon’s Markeon Devine snagged the first of his two interceptions. That turned out to be the only red zone trip for the Red Devils, who lost starting quarterback Jordan Christian to a head injury just before halftime.
Richmond netted 75 yards of offense after the opening drive. Only Jawaun Claiborne’s 96-yard kickoff return touchdown, after McCutcheon led 38-0, prevented the shutout.
“Everybody was flowing to the ball hard,” McCutcheon defensive back Chris Robison said. “We played a lot harder than we have in the past.”
McCutcheon led 3-0 when it went for a fake punt on fourth-and-5 at its own 35. Dakota Loveless was stopped for a 4-yard gain, and Richmond took over in great position.
Instead, the Mavericks recovered a Richmond fumble two plays later. On the ensuing snap, Aaron Phillips found homecoming king Phinisee behind the Red Devil defense, and he turned upfield and raced for a 78-yard touchdown and a 10-0 McCutcheon lead.
McCutcheon scored off of all four of its takeaways.
“We shot ourself in the foot,” Richmond coach Matt Holeva said. “We had our shots early on and didn’t capitalize.”
Loveless had three catches on a methodical 13-play, 86-yard touchdown drive late in the first half. Yet the most crucial play was a roughing the passer flag against Richmond on a third-down Phillips incompletion. AJ Andrews plunged in from 1-yard out to make it 17-0 with under 40 seconds to play in the half.
Richmond opted not to kneel and run out the clock. Christian attempted to scramble for a first down, but a hard upper-body hit knocked the ball loose and McCutcheon recovered.
Christian stayed down on the field for about 10 minutes while being evaluated for a head injury by athletic trainers and paramedics. He was taken by ambulance to Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital. Holeva said Christian was cognizant and answered all the questions asked by medical personnel. Athletic director Frank Carr said Christian never lost consciousness and results of an MRI were not yet available.
“He had a little bit of pain, so they were just trying to be precautionary,” Holeva said.
McCutcheon went up 24-0 at half, opened the second half with a drive into the red zone that ended in an interception, then scored on its next two drives. Mavericks coach Ken Frauhiger said that was indicative of the strides his team is making.
“At Jeff, we’d have laid down in the third quarter,” Frauhiger said. “We’d have just kind of gone through the motions, and that didn’t happen tonight.”