WALTON — Going into Friday night’s game against visiting Maconaquah, the Lewis Cass football team found itself in an unusual position — looking up at the Braves in the Mid-Indiana Conference standings.
Mac entered the game at 4-1 in league play with its title hopes very much alive, while the Kings were 3-2. But for the 15th straight time and 20th time in the last 21 contests between the MIC foes, Cass came out on top, 36-14.
The heroes were many for Cass, and five turnovers by the Braves were too many to overcome. Combining stellar defense and a consistent rushing offense, Cass held Mac at bay.
In a first half that saw both teams squander goal-line opportunities, Cass built a 14-0 lead on a four-yard scoring plunge by Brendan McGehee and a 14-yard TD run by Hunter Clark.
The key moment in the game came in the third quarter. After the Kings lost a fumble at their 22 on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, the Braves quickly took advantage, scoring five plays later on Cody Hicks’ eight-yard run off right tackle to cut the margin to 14-7. Mac seemed poised to make a challenge.
But Cass (5-3 overall, 4-2 MIC) answered with a nine-play, 60-yard march that reached paydirt when McGehee skirted right end from 28 yards out for his second TD to put Cass back in front by two TDs and kill Mac’s momentum.
Cass coach Scott Mannering noted, “That was probably the turning point. I know they had a lot of confidence after they got that first score in, and to be able to answer that was just huge.”
Mac (5-3, 4-2) never quit. The Braves drove from their 40 to the Kings’ 25, but diminutive sophomore Conner Zeck, who grabbed three interceptions on the night, picked off Kyle Dinn’s pass to end the threat.
Zeck gave credit for his hat trick of interceptions to his teammates.
“It wasn’t just me,” he said. “I had all my teammates there with me, cheering me on. I couldn’t have done it without them. Our [defensive] ends did some work and our linemen went hard [rushing the passer] like they do every Friday.”
Cass enhanced its lead early in the fourth when McGehee broke loose again, this time from 24 yards, to make it 28-7, and Payton Young ran in the two-point conversion. But Mac answered quickly when K.J. Walton returned the ensuing kickoff 68 yards for a score to make it 28-14 with 7:35 to play.
But another interception by the 5-foot-4, 135-pound Zeck stopped Mac, and a two-yard TD plunge by Gabe Welch five plays later made it 34-14. On the conversion, 285-pound senior lineman Brady Barber played running back and capped the Kings’ senior night with a two-point run up the middle.
Maconaquah coach Mark Hartman was disappointed in his team’s performance.
Coming in on a four-game win streak and bidding for their first five-game winning streak since 1991, the Braves hurt themselves with mistakes.
“It’s a simple fact,” he said, “we did not execute. We played well in spurts, but when you’re playing a team as well-coached and disciplined as Cass, you can’t play hit-and-miss football. You have to have all cylinders firing, and [Friday] we did not.”