Posted: Saturday, August 22, 2015 1:04 am | Updated: 1:13 am, Sat Aug 22, 2015.
INDIANAPOLIS — Tim Able knew Park Tudor would be better.
The Triton Central football coach saw it on the film from last week’s scrimmage against Heritage Christian. The hard part was convincing his team.
After outscoring the Panthers 114-0 in the previous two meetings, it proved a hard sell. But the Tigers bought in just enough, again putting up big numbers offensively in a 57-42 win.
“Coach was talking all week about how good they were,” said senior Logan Kinnett. “Just basing off last year what I’ve seen, I mean I should listen to coach, but we’ll see. I’ll tell you what, those kids are quick. We have the scout team running (their offense) and (they) can’t match the speed.”
Junior Ben Thacker, in his debut as the team’s feature running back, did something big brother Jonah never did against the Panthers. He ran for 200 yards on 35 carries, rushing for two touchdowns, and breaking away for a 75-yard touchdown after recovering a fumble.
Jonah Thacker may have multiple school rushing records, but Ben wanted to make one thing clear in his second-career start — now it’s his turn.
“That’s the way we always looked at it in practice,” he said. “We were talking about how Jonah was and what we can do better from him.”
Thacker ran for 135 yards in the second half alone.
“Second half, oh my gosh, there’s a new Thacker in town. That’s not to put anything down on Jonah, but Ben played every play on defense and maybe seven plays, eight plays he was out on offense,” Able said, adding Thacker also is on special teams. “His endurance — he’s always been a well-trained athlete — was exceptional. And he got stronger as the game went on.”
His fumble recovery turned the tide of the game, giving the Tigers enough breathing room to hold off a much-improved Panthers team that is still half the size of Triton Central, but growing and improving.
With senior Jeremy Engle out, the Tigers’ secondary — featuring one freshman, two sophomores and Thacker — had a long night defending the speed and elusiveness of quarterback Jack Dassow’s targets.
Dassow, who Able compared to the size of a Division II right tackle which makes him tough to bring down, has some talent around him, particularly, junior receiver Brent Brimmage and junior running back Ahrod Lloyd.
Brimmage caught eight passes for 112 yards and four touchdowns while Lloyd ran the ball 13 times for 85 yards and one touchdown.
“When you add those three athletes alone … they’ve got some very skilled kids,” Able said. “How do you tell your kids (when the) last two years, it’s not been much of a game, and all of a sudden … to our kids’ credit, they battled back.”
Triton Central led the entire game, scoring on its first two drives.
The Tigers had possession of the ball for almost 10 minutes of the first quarter.
They chewed up 5:06 off the clock with an 11-play drive, scoring on a 10-yard run by Kinnett. Thacker pounded in the 2-point conversion attempt for an 8-0 lead.
After recovering a fumble on Park Tudor’s first drive, the Tigers scored again for a 15-0 lead. Thacker scored his first touchdown of the season with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone after an eight-play drive.
It was a shootout from there. The two teams combined for 815 yards of offense and 99 points.
Park Tudor tied the game with consecutive touchdowns in the first half, both on Brimmage catches, but Triton Central re-took the lead on an 8-yard run by sophomore fullback Mason Durrett.
An illegal block in the back on the first play of Park Tudor’s next drive sent the Panthers in the wrong direction and they didn’t get the offense churning the rest of the drive.
Junior linebacker Matt Mullen and sophomore lineman Tyler Vandiver were in on a sack on second-and-10, and Durrett nearly picked off a pass on third-and-18. Senior linebacker Bryan Beauchamp then nearly blocked the punt with the Panthers backed up deep.
That set up the Tigers’ final drive of the first half, a seven-play drive that ended with Beauchamp hauling in a 10-yard throw in the corner of the end zone from junior quarterback Jordan Crouse.
“Jordan Crouse had a monster night, too,” Able said. “Jordan was wonderful as far as accuracy and no turnovers, and just running the team, really came and made that step to junior maturity. He’s got a ways to go to where we know he can be, he’s got unlimited talent.”
Park Tudor scored on 5-of-7 possessions in the second half and Triton Central, 3-of-5. The Tigers turned the ball over twice in the second half and the Panthers once, on an interception by Durrett.
Ross Flint is a Staff writer for The Shelbyville News.