The Bishop Kelly and Middleton high football teams finished Friday even in most of the major stat categories — total yards, first downs, penalties.
But Bishop Kelly dominated one category.
It forced five turnovers — including four on the Vikings’ first four possessions of the second half — while committing none to turn a one-point halftime lead into a 28-13 victory at Bishop Kelly High.
“We started off a little rough,” said junior wide receiver/defensive back Vince Sengelmann, who grabbed one of his team’s three interceptions. “But then I think we got our energy and came back strong in the second well, how we should have played from the beginning.”
The victory clinches the Knights (6-2, 4-0 4A SIC) their third straight conference title and a bye in the first round of the state playoffs. Bishop Kelly added a state title to its conference title each of the past two years.
“It’s just huge because it’s another week of recovery,” sophomore Rex Irby said of the bye. “We’ve worked all year for it, and the hard work is paying off.”
The game got off to a disastrous start for Bishop Kelly. Middleton (4-4, 3-1 4A SIC) senior Caleb Harrel returned the opening kickoff 37 yards. Then on the second play from scrimmage, Harrel took a dive up the middle and squirted out of the scrum for a 59-yard touchdown run.
But Bishop Kelly remained calm and responded with a 12-play, 71-yard drive that Jon Baumgardner capped when he hurdled in for a 1-yard TD run.
The Knights then capitalized on the Vikings’ first turnover, a botched handoff. Joe Sarabia jumped on the loose ball, and on the next play, Baumgardner pierced the heart of the defense for a 46-yard catch-and-run to the Middleton 8.
Two plays later, Ivan Torrez escaped around the right edge for a 4-yard TD run as Bishop Kelly converted Middleton’s first three turnovers into three touchdowns.
“It was key that we were able to put them into long-yardage situations where they had to throw the ball,” Bishop Kelly coach Tim Brennan said. “I know we got a couple fumbles. But they want to run the ball. And when they wanted to throw it, we put some pressure on their quarterback and were able to get some picks.”
Bishop Kelly nursed a one-point lead after Sengelmann’s interception set the Knights up at the Middleton 36 with 7 minutes, 35 seconds left in the third quarter. The Vikings stuffed Bishop Kelly on three straight plays inside the 5-yard line. But instead of kicking the field goal, the Knights opted to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 3.
Junior quarterback Bronson King scrambled to his right, where a Middleton defender turned him back inside. But King weaved his way back to the sideline, where he dove for the pylon. A defender stopped him short, only to watch King extend the ball to the pylon at the last second.
“Bronson is just a great athlete,” Irby said. “He has an ability to make plays on the fly, and he did that there and changed the momentum of the game drastically.”
Travis Allumbaugh recovered a Middleton fumble on the ensuing possession, and King rainbowed a 23-yard TD pass to Sengelmann in the back of the end zone to put the game away.