Playing in catch-up mode from the get-go, the Beech Grove Hornets were unable to continue their offensive onslaught over the past few weeks as they fell to the Triton Central Tigers 37-25 Friday night at Triton Central’s Tiger Stadium/Bud Mendenhall Field. And that was evident from the opening kickoff, in which the Tigers’ Brad Schultz returned Mike Fonseca’s kick 81 yards for a score to give his team a 7-0 lead just 13 seconds into the game.
The Hornets, however, bounced back as senior Gavin Mitchell completed a 10-yard TD pass to fellow classmate Garrett Esposito, climaxing a nine-play, 70-yard drive. It was Esposito’s 15th touchdown of the 2020 season. But Fonseca’s extra-point try went wide left of the goal posts as Beech Grove (5-3, 3-3 in the Indiana Crossroads Conference) trailed 7-6. Then, on its first offensive series, Triton Central assembled a seven-play, 58-yard drive, which consisted of all runs. Senior Hayden Kermode took the final carry in for the touchdown from seven yards out, making the score 14-6 with the extra-point kick by sophomore Brogan Winslow.
But this night belonged to Triton Central freshman running back sensation Ray Crawford, who rushed 25 times for a game-high 170 yards and one touchdown, which came with 2:52 left in the contest. Kermode complemented Crawford with 92 yards on 17 carries, adding a second touchdown in the third period on a 10-yard scamper. That touchdown came immediately after Beech Grove punter Gavin Mitchell was tackled for a 22-yard loss following a botched snap from center during punt formation.
Mitchell did all he could to keep his team in the contest, completing 16-of-27 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns. His other scoring tosses went to junior Damon Thompkins for 77 yards and to junior Braden Keen from 11 yards out. The Beech Grove quarterback led the Hornets with 55 rushing yards.
Triton Central (6-1, 4-1 in the ICC), which finished no worse than second place to champion Lutheran in the Indiana Crossroads Conference standings, mustered 345 yards of total offense, 294 of which came on the ground (rushing). The Tigers have now won the last three meetings against Beech Grove but still trail in the all-time series 10-7.
Beech Grove was plagued all evening by mental mistakes and costly penalties. It was penalized 13 times for 96 yards while the Tigers were flagged for eight infractions, costing them 75 yards in losses. The Hornets did not execute in critical moments, failing to move the football when they had a short field to work with (starting field position within 65 yards of the opponent’s goal line) at least twice.
Coach Mark Weller’s ball club saw its four-game winning streak come to a screeching halt. It will look to rectify the mistakes it made Friday night when it hosts Franklin County, which hails from the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference, at TCU Veterans Stadium next Friday in the regular season finale. Kickoff for that contest is set for 7 p.m. Franklin County, which opened in 1989, is a consolidation of Brookville, Laurel, Springfield Township and Whitewater Township High Schools.
News and Notes: In Thursday night’s State Football Tournament Pairings Show, which aired on IHSAATV.com, the Hornets drew Indianapolis Shortridge for their first-round contest on Friday, October 23, to be played at Shortridge. Beech Grove is in Class 4A Sectional 22, which also includes neighboring Roncalli, the likely favorite to win the sectional.