Trojans outlast Cats in opener
NEW CASTLE – Thanks to a flurry of flags dropped by the officiating crew Friday night in New Castle, the season opener between the host Trojans and visiting Franklin County wasn’t decided until well past the 10 p.m. point. In the end, New Castle pulled out its second straight win in the lid-lifting series, 26-21.
In the bigger picture for the Wildcats, starting junior quarterback Quinn Gillman will be hard pressed to see more action as signal caller this season after suffering a serious hand injury while tackling his counterpart Tyson Lewis in the first period.
“He’s more than likely out for the year,” said his father and 6th-year Wildcat head coach Wes Gillman. “He needs pins put in his thumb and reconstructive work done. There’s an outside chance they could hard cast it and he could play defense only, but that’s the farthest thing from my mind. Regardless, he won’t have use of his throwing hand the rest of the season.”
Enter Wyatt Bowling, 6-foot, 135-pound sophomore, who filled in admirably the final three quarters and helped give the Cats a chance to win game one. Bowling went over 100 yards on the ground and scored a pair of touchdowns, the second one putting the guests up 21-14 at 4:42 of the third quarter.
“He did what he could and did a solid job running the ball,” said his coach. “Next step for him is to become a quarterback. Teams are now going to stack the box and force him to throw it.”
Still up by one in the fourth after a failed point-after touchdown by NC, Bowling and the Franklin County offense were driving and had the pigskin within inches of the goal line. A holding call set the Cats back 10 yards before the Trojan defense got around the edges to Bowling three consecutive times for a total loss of eight yards. The QB’s 4th-down pass out of a timeout was incomplete to Hunter Weartz.
“We should have won it but had a lot of mental mistakes,” said Gillman. “We had 1st-and-goal from the 1 … if we punch it in there, we go up eight late in the fourth.”
With that small victory, the Trojans went to work on offense. Though it wasn’t all their ability to move the football that led to the game-winning score. The Wildcat defense surrendered 30 yards on penalties – facemask and personal foul – that put NC at the 11-yard-line. From there, Tylin Thrine – an unbeaten state wrestling champion – rushed in to make it a 5-point game.
Thrine wasn’t done making plays for the hosts. The sophomore fell under a Bowling tipped pass intended for Kayden Kerr on the next series. After a Trojan punt went into the end zone for a touchback, FC had one last chance but with just 1:31 remaining and no timeouts. Thrine picked off a Bowling aerial and returned it for a score that was neutralized by a holding penalty. NC then ran out the clock.
Gillman credited his defense with keeping the team in the game.
“We had (under 200 yards) of offense and those two interceptions,” he said. “We should’ve had a few more interceptions (on defense) but we’re playing with young kids who in reality should be playing junior varsity this year. That’s the situation we’re in when you have a senior class with only nine players and a junior class decimated by injury.”
Both teams punted to start the game. New Castle then needed six plays to open scoring. Lewis connected with Gavin Frazier on a 29-yard strike. FC had a three-and-out on Gillman’s final series under center. After a turnover on downs by NC, the Cats punted away early in the second frame.
Two plays on a short field gave the Trojans 1st-and-goal at the 7. Two plays later, though, Ben Becker got to Lewis for a sack; a bad snap on fourth down gave the ball back to FC. After a Wildcat punt, Breck Bohman recovered a fumble at the NC 26. On a 3rd-and-2, Bowling went up the middle for 18 yards and Weartz’s extra point tied the game at 7-7.
FC forced the home team into a 1st-and-40 situation on the ensuing drive, followed by a punt. The Cats, however, punted it away again late in the half. New Castle then went 88 yards in just over a minute, aided by two facemask calls on the Wildcats. From the 40, Lewis landed a wobbler into the hands of Cade Logston for the go-ahead score.
NC recovered its own kickoff at the Cats’ 31, but Jack Dirkhising prevented another score by picking off Lewis just before the break.
FC tied the game again early in the second half, going 62 yards on seven plays. The big push was a 37-yard keeper by Bowling. Jared Moore later scored from two yards out. After a Trojan three-and-out, returner Keegan Clark gave the Cats great field position at the NC 28. A few plays later, Bowling went in from two yards away.
New Castle moved the ball 60 yards to inch closer to the Cats, a big play being a 30-yard pass to Neil McMartin. A key facemask call on FC gave the Trojans 1st-and-goal. On 4th-and-goal from the 6, Lewis found an open Thrine for an apparent touchdown; holding on NC put the ball back to the 18. Lewis promptly scrambled for a TD. FC punted to end the third stanza.
New Castle turned the ball over on downs to begin the fourth. The Cats then embarked on the ill-fated drive mentioned earlier.
“We have to look at personnel and see if we’re going to make this team young, then go all the way young,” said Gillman. “If we’re getting the same production out of a sophomore as we are a senior, we’ll go with the sophomore.
“I will say they’re giving everything they have,” he added. “Our offseason weights and conditioning program worked because we had zero cramping to New Castle’s several. We’re just really young and just became even more inexperienced. There’s one thing I can guarantee you, though, this team will play hard every week.”
NC – Frazier 29-yard pass from Lewis, Owen Barrett kick. 4:16
FC – Bowling 18-yard run, Weartz kick. 4:49
NC – Logston 40-yard pass from Lewis, Barrett kick. 1:12
FC – Moore 2-yard run, Weartz kick. 9:33
FC – Bowling 2-yard run, Weartz kick. 4:42
NC – Lewis 18-yard run, kick wide. 1:03
NC – Thrine 11-yard run, conversion failed. 4:31
Total yards: NC 378,FC 191
Passing: NC 173,FC 32
Rushing: NC 205,FC 159
First downs: NC 13,FC 8
Fumbles/lost: NC 1/1,FC 1/0
Penalties: NC 13-120,FC 13-134
New Castle – Rushing: Lewis 22-126, Thrine 10-39, Frazier 2-17, Caleb Clapp 7-23. Passing: Lewis 11-23-173 (Int). Receiving: Thrine 4-35, McMartin 1-30, Gavin Anderson 3-26, Logston 2-53, Frazier 1-29.
Franklin Co. – Rushing: Gillman 3-6, Moore 15-40, Bowling 13-107, Carter Dozier 2-4, Kaden Welch 1-2. Passing: Gillman 2-3-15, Bowling 3-14-17 (2 INT). Receiving: Dozier 1-6, Seals 4-26.
Up next: FC visits Connersville Friday, 7 p.m., in an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference “Big School” matchup. The Spartans got by Richmond 19-13.
“As much as New Castle wanted to spread it out and throw the ball all over, Connersville wants to run it,” said Gillman.