Indianapolis — For the first time since 2001, the football sectional championship trophy is heading to Western Boone.
After a back-and-forth first half, the Stars poured it on against Park Tudor, out-scoring the host Panthers 33-0 in the second half en route to a 46-7 win.
“This feels pretty good,” Western Boone head coach Justin Pelley said. “In the first half, I was a little concerned, but we did what we needed to in the second half. We have waited a long time for this. Our kids bought in to what we were doing and fought for it. This is pretty special.”
Neither team was able to score in the first quarter.
Western Boone took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 12-yard touchdown by Garrett Miller, but it looked like the Stars were going to go into the half tied when Anthony Safford Jr. found Kamron Ferguson for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:28 to play before the half, but on the ensuing kickoff, Joe Hendrix returned it for a touchdown down the left sideline to give Western Boone a 13-7 advantage.
The second half was no contest.
Western Boone started out with possession, and scored seven plays later on a 12-yard run by Spencer Wright. After an interception on Park Tudor’s next drive, Western Boone made it 27-7 on a 6-yard run by Peyton Young and the route was on.
“It was really important for us to get points on the board right away,” Pelley said. “That is what we talked about at the half. We only had four series in the first half, and we had three three-and-outs. We were able to run the ball early, and that was big to carry that momentum.”
Western Boone added a 7-yard pass from Wright to Jack Gilliam, a 1-yard run by Wright, and a short run by Sam Grinstead to cap the scoring.
Western Boone had six full series in the second half, and scored on five of them.
“We just had to get back to doing what we do,” Pelley said. “We work on a lot of things during the week, and sometimes it takes a while to get going. I like what we are doing, we just have to take what they are giving us. We did a better job of that in the second half.”
It wasn’t just the Western Boone offense that was dominate in the second half.
The starting defense allowed just 19 yards of offense on the Panthers first five drives of the second half, and the back-ups kept the hosts off the scoreboard on the final drive of the game.
In the first half, the Panthers had 184 yards of offense.
“Park Tudor has some really good players,” Pelley said. “Ferguson is a really good receiver, and we had to move some things around and put (Logan) Benson on him and fixed some things. I have a lot of respect for Park Tudor. They don’t have a lot of kids, but they fight and they showed that tonight.”
Coming off a big win against previously unbeaten Tipton last week, Pelley said there was some concern heading into Friday’s game on how his team would respond against the Panthers.
But at the end of the day, they played the way they were capable for long enough.
“It is a big concern, because even though their record isn’t great, they play some really good people,” Pelley said. “On film, it is tough to read. But that is what makes sectionals fun, because you don’t know what you are going to get. It was a concern, getting our minds right, but our guys were well prepared.”
The Stars rushed for 255 yards on 39 carries on the day.
Miller led the way with 70 yards on seven carries, but eight different Stars carried the ball. Playing without leading rusher Ryan Solomon, who broke his arm against Tipton, Pelley said he was extremely proud of the way people stepped up to the plate in new roles on Friday.
“I really proud of a lot of our kids,” Pelley said. “Connor Hole played some offense today, and he hasn’t done that much all year. Dalton Brown stepped up. It’s just next man up across the board. You can’t replace Ryan Solomon, and we don’t try to. But we have to get better, and we have to put kids in there and hope they rise to the occasion. They did tonight.”
The Stars will host the regional next Friday against Scecina, who beat Triton Central 14-0.
The Crusaders are 11-1 on the year.
“You can’t be satisfied and I don’t think our kids will be,” Pelley said. “This was big for our community, and you saw the turnout tonight. It’s been 16 years since the last one. We play football to win championships, and our kids did that tonight. We will enjoy this tonight, and we will start with Scecina tomorrow. It’s a grind and we just have to keep going.”