Boys Varsity Football · Stars win conference outright with big second half

DOVER – The message was simple for the Western Boone football team Friday night at halftime of their game with Lebanon.

Down 7-0 to the Tigers, the Stars failed to get much going in the first half offensively, with just 119 yards of offense and had two drives stall in the red zone.

So in the locker room before the second half, head coach Justin Pelley stressed getting back to doing what the Stars do well and avoid the simple mistakes.

The message worked wonders, as the Stars out-scored the Tigers 27-0 in the second half, and finished a perfect conference season with a 27-7 victory over the Tigers.

“We were making really silly mistakes,” Pelley said. “It wasn’t anything crazy and there weren’t any magically plays, it was just mental mistakes from our older guys. We were trying to do too much. It’s Lebanon, it’s a rivalry game and once we got calmed down, and stopped pressing so hard, it started clicking.”

Western Boone took advantage of a short field to get on the board midway through the third quarter, when Spencer Wright found Cortez Stoudemire for a 23-yard touchdown to make it a 7-6 game after a missed extra point.

Down 7-6 after three, the Stars put the game away in the fourth quarter.

Wright connected with Connor Hole on a 37-yard screen pass for a touchdown, and Hole ran in the two-point try to make it 14-7 in favor of the Stars 9:29 to play.

After a Lebanon 3-and-out, the Stars went 67 yards in 10 plays, with Wright sneaking it in from a yard out to make it 20-7 with 4:53 to play. Robby Taylor added an 11-yard touchdown to cap the scoring in the fourth.

“It just never seemed like our offense and defense could click together,” Lebanon head coach Jeff Smock said. “If our offense could going a little bit in the second half, it may have been different. Unfortunately we didn’t pick up some key third downs, were forced to punt and credit Western Boone, they finished it off.”

Western Boone running game took over in the second half, carrying the ball 19 times for 165 yards.

Caleb Irion finished the day with 120 yards on 12 carries, the third different Star running back to go over 100 yards in the last two weeks.

“He has really grown up from last year to this year,” Pelley said. “He wasn’t ready last year, and he came out this year and has been very, very serviceable. It’s not by accident we have three different guys run for over 100 yards, because the guys up front are huge. I don’t want to take anything away from Caleb, but the common denominator is those five guys up front.”

The first half was filled with missed opportunities on both sides.

The Stars turned it over on the Tigers’ 10-yard line on their second possession, and Lebanon drove down to the Western Boone 12, but saw the drive stall there.

Lebanon capitalized on a short field on its next possession, when Garrett Harker connected with Michael Reese for a 5-yard score with 9:00 left in the second quarter, but that was all the Lebanon offense could produce in the game.

“We really liked our physicality early on and what we were doing,” Smock said. “We came out and did what we wanted to do early on, but didn’t finish off all our opportunities. If you don’t take advantage of your opportunities when they are there against Western Boone, they are going to storm back, because they are a great football team.”

Lebanon got the second-half kickoff and drove to the Western Boone 27, but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-2 and never got the ball in the Stars territory again.

The Tigers managed just 79 yards of offense in the second half, including 19 through the air.

Harker was 9 of 29 for 108 yards in the game. Leading receiver J.C. Reese had two catches for 38 yards.

“What you try to do is take their best thing away,” Pelley said of the defense. “They still caught some big passes down field, but we have some pretty good kids back there too. Cortez Stoudemire and Connor Hole are pretty good, and Spencer was back there as well. We tried to make them get out of their main attack.”

Wright finished the game 9 of 17 for 134 yards.

Easton Williamson had 26 carries for 101 yards for the Tigers, who now have two weeks to prepare for their opening round sectional game against Western.

“It is going to be a good week for us to dig into some film,” Smock said. “They are foot-to-foot, and do a lot of pin-and-pull action, which is something not a lot of teams run anymore. This gives us some time to prepare for that, and hopefully give us time to execute well and see what happens.”

With the win Friday, Western Boone finished off a perfect Sagamore Conference season for the second-straight year.

Pelley said it was a perfect senior night finish for the senior class.

“It speaks volumes for them and it was great because we faced some adversity tonight too,” Pelley said. “This senior class has been through a lot together, they have been great leaders and they are very smart football players. They deserve this.”

The Stars host Southmont in the opening round of the sectional next Friday.

While Western Boone won the regular season meeting 56-13, Pelley said it is going to be a challenging game for his team.

“They are a scary team,” Pelley said. “They run the same offense we do, and on any given night, if you get going a little bit, it’s tough to get off the field. They have done that to us before. You always have to be ready to go when Southmont comes to town.”

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter and Zionsville Times Sentinel. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.