BY AARON PATTERSON firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — VEEDERSBURG, Ind. —It takes hard work, a lot of time, and a deep level of commitment for a team to continue a legacy that was started decades ago.
It also takes heart. Living up to those very expectations left by the current team’s predecessors might be all it needs to drive the team to success.
The Fountain Central Mustangs could probably win on talent alone, or by being coached up by an experienced staff. But keeping the program’s football tradition alive might give this year’s players all the fight they need.
After two years of failing to hoist a postseason trophy, the Mustangs added another piece of hardware to their trophy case on Friday. But more importantly, they continued the Fountain Central football tradition by winning the program’s ninth sectional title, defeating the Attica Red Ramblers 48-12.
“We’ve talked about tradition here and these kids, whether it was their dads or uncles or brothers and just friends that have played football here,” Fountain Central coach Brian Moore said. “When it’s your time and you have all of this tradition — and there is a lot of tradition here at Fountain Central through a lot of great, great years, and through the decades. When it’s your chance to come out and play on Friday, this is such a big deal.”
It was the Mustangs’ first sectional title since 2010, and they have found success despite the absence of arguably one of their best players, senior Jack Bolin, who has never played a down this season because of an offseason injury.
Bolin’s presence on both sides of the ball was expected to play a big role in Fountain Central’s success. But with other players stepping up, the Mustangs (11-1) used their defense to advance to a regional game for the fourth time in the last eight years.
Moore saw his already stifling defense take another step toward dominance following the Mustangs’ loss to North Vermillion during the regular season.
“We definitely come out butting heads now,” Fountain Central senior running back and linebacker Daniel Harrison said. “Before the North Vermillion (game), we were pretty high up there. We thought we were really good. Every game, we kept falling and falling with how physical we were. Then after that, we just (picked it up).”
And on Friday against Attica (8-4), Fountain Central showed just how focused it was by holding senior quarterback Brady Sheridan and the Red Ramblers to negative-two yards of total offense in the first half.
“We just played really well defensively,” Moore said. “I think we got them out of their rhythm. We covered them very well. Defensively, we played really well in the first half. That whole time, we only had one miscue when they scored on us. In all honesty, we just flew around and took away their running game early. They were throwing and we covered very well. They struggled throwing, and we just got three-and-outs, and they didn’t get any rhythm.
“Our line, offensively and defensively both, just knocked them off the ball and we ran hard, and we’re sectional champs.”
The defensive line kept the Red Ramblers off their game while the Mustangs’ offensive line opened up holes for a running attack that produced a total of 358 yards.
Harrison ran for 207 of those yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns. By the end of the first half, Harrison had rushed for 139 yards and all three of his touchdowns. His first carry of the game was good for 41 yards and led to the Mustangs’ first of seven touchdowns.
Jared Fishero ran for 45 yards on 12 carries, had 39 receiving yards, and scored three touchdowns. Trevor Loveall caught four passes for 45 yards, and quarterback Koby Pierce ran for 56 yards while passing for 102.
Pierce completed three passes to open the game for a total of 20 yards, and Moore had two more pass plays built into the game plan. They didn’t need them. The Mustangs saw an opportunity to launch their running attack, and they executed the game plan to perfection.
The first running play of the game was Harrison’s 41-yard sprint to the left side, and once that was successful, the Fountain Central coaches gained confidence in their backfield.
The Mustangs’ defense forced three fumbles and recovered two, and got an interception from Harrison. They scored immediately following each of the turnovers.
Attica’s offense did, however, find 101 passing yards from Sheridan including a screen to Carson Davis early in the second half that turned into a 66-yard completion for a touchdown. The Red Ramblers still could not find success on the ground as they finished the game with negative-14 rushing yards.
The Mustangs will attempt to take their defensive success into next week’s regional game against top-ranked Linton-Stocton. But for now, they will take a moment to reflect on winning another sectional title and continuing the program’s winning tradition.
“This means a lot,” Harrison said. “I was growing up in the eighth grade and I watched them go to state and everything that year. I always wanted to be a part of that. Then, my freshman year, I wanted to be a part of it, too. Being a freshman, I didn’t start. Then this comes along and it’s just been great that we’ve been able to do this my senior year.”