On a night when four Howard County high schools fell in sectional football (Kokomo had a bye), Western’s Andy Ashburn and Andy Ault bring down Mooresville runner Josh Branford in the first quarter. The Panthers lost a 26-23 heartbreaker. (Herald Photos/Randy Messner)
On a night when four Howard County high schools fell in sectional football (Kokomo had a bye), Western’s Andy Ashburn and Andy Ault bring down Mooresville runner Josh Branford in the first quarter. The Panthers lost a 26-23 heartbreaker. (Herald Photos/Randy Messner)
It was a night most fans of Howard County high school football would soon forget. On the opening night of the state high school football tournament, Howard County squads went 0-4 and local teams were 1-6 on a tough Friday night. Only the Tri-Central Trojans were victorious while Kokomo is still alive courtesy of a bye.

The closest any county team came to winning was the Western Panthers in the IHSAA Class 3A Sectional 21. In a thriller, the host squad lost to Mooresville 26-23. In a true battle, the Panthers could not find the end zone on its final possession after a fantastic stop by the defense in the final minute. 

The Panther defense stopped Mooresville (2-8) inside the five, and the visiting squad elected to take a safety (with a free kick) instead of punting out of its own end zone. The strategic move paid off. With 34 seconds left at midfield, the Panthers gained a first down but simply did not have enough time to score. 

Tyler Knepley led the Western offense with 255 passing yards, one throwing touchdown to Andy Ashburn and two touchdowns on the ground. Western finished its season 3-7.

The Class 3A Sectional 27 opener was a rematch of last year’s 82-52 sectional opener, and No. 14 Fort Wayne Bishop Luers (5-5) showed they still have the offensive firepower in a 42-15 victory over Northwestern. On its first two plays from scrimmage, Tyreeon Hambight caught a 57-yard touchdown and ran for a 57-yard touchdown to set the tone early as the Tigers were down 28-7 at halftime. Evan Cardwell had a seven-yard scoring run late in the first quarter and a 17-yard touchdown late in the fourth stanza. The Tigers finished the season 6-4.

In the Class 2A Sectional 36, The Comets kicked a field goal on its first possession of the game for an early 3-0 lead, but the No. 2 Eastbrook (9-1) scored the final 44 points. Eastern (4-6) trailed 23-3 at halftime.

In Class 2A Sectional 36, it was a game in which one of the teams would earn win number one on the season. But for the fourth time in five seasons, it was not Taylor as Blackford (1-9) picked up its first victory by a score of 28-6. Down 16-0, Anthony Townsend had a 32-yard run for the Titans only score of the contest. Despite a 4-7 campaign last season, Taylor is now 9-73 since its last winning season in 2008.

In the Class 1A Sectional 44, Tri-Central entered the game knowing it could overwhelm Anderson Prep Academy, and it did with a 60-7 victory. Without throwing a single pass, three Trojans went over the 100-yard mark: Cowen Moulder had 129 yards rushing and a touchdown, Jarron Grubb had 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns and Shawn Rouse had 102 yards rushing and two scores. Leading rusher Kyle Colbert had 57 yards rushing and a score while playing QB.

In Class 2A Sectional 34: Lewis Cass (1-9) could not carry the momentum of last week’s victory into the state tournament as the Kings fell to Winamac 28-8. In the second quarter, Brady Johnson scored on a 10-yard run and a two-point conversion made it 8-0. Winamac (6-4) answered with 12 points to lead 12-8 at halftime and put the game away with two scores in the third stanza.

In a Hoosier Conference battle, No. 3 West Lafayette (8-2) showed why it is one of the best teams in Class 3A by scoring two unanswered touchdowns in the first quarter and two more in the second for a 28-0 halftime lead. The Red Devils would top Tipton (5-5) 48-7.

No. 13 Kokomo (6-2) had a bye week in the opening round of the Class 5A Sectional 12. The Kats travel to Huntington North (2-7) on Friday night at 7 p.m. Anderson (1-8) travels to Muncie Central (6-3) in the other game of the four-team sectional.