Roncalli’s first football game on Tippecanoe County soil in 16 years proved unforgettable.
Start with 10 lead changes, sprinkle in Baron Huebler’s monster game and the defense coming up with a timely interception late, and it adds up to a wild 49-45 victory at West Lafayette Harrison on Friday night.
Ranked seventh in Class 4A, Roncalli led when it mattered most, quarterback Aidan Leffler supplying the winning points on a 1-yard sneak with 50.3 seconds remaining. The win improved Roncalli to 4-1 and dropped the Raiders, a 5A school, to 3-3.
Harrison took possession on its 12-yard line with 45.1 seconds left, but on second down, Roncalli linebacker Sean Sinovic stepped in front of a Tyler Knoy pass to seal it.
“I’m really proud of them,” first-year Roncalli coach John Rodenberg said of his players. “I was so scared of Harrison’s triple option. We had only a week to prepare for it. Typically, I’ll prepare for an option all year long, and the ace in the hole is they threw the ball so well.
“For what our guys did offensively and some guys playing both ways, the character of our football team, we’re getting stronger and stronger each week.”
Huebler, Roncalli’s 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior whose starts, stops and spins frustrated the Raiders all night, carried the ball 38 times for 232 yards and four touchdowns. Leffler called his own number for three scores, including the game-winner.
Asked if Huebler was driving the team bus home as well, Rodenberg said, “You know, he could and he would, because he is a total warrior. He’s all for the team and he’ll put the team on his back if he has to. He’s got a big heart, I’ll tell you that.”
The game marked Roncalli’s first trip to Tippecanoe County since it handed McCutcheon a 46-18 loss in the second round of the sectional in 2004. The program’s lone previous meeting with Harrison took place a year earlier, with Roncalli handing the Raiders a 28-7 postseason loss.
Friday’s outcome represented the most points ever allowed by a Roncalli football team in a victory.
Roncalli used three Huebler touchdown runs in the first half to take a 28-24 lead into the locker room.
The senior’s 2-yard burst at 6:29 of the first quarter opened the scoring, but the Raiders used their quick-strike ability to answer with two touchdowns to go ahead 14-7. The first was receiver Zion King’s 21-yard run on an end-around; senior back Omarion Dixon then motored through a huge hole up the middle on a run covering 61 yards.
Controversy reared its head on Harrison’s next possession, as Knoy, in the grasp of a Roncalli defender, looked as if he intentionally threw a pass 10 yards in front of Dixon. Alertly, defensive back Dominic Brown scooped up the pigskin and ran it to the Raiders’ 5.
The game officials conferred for a few minutes, eventually awarding Roncalli the football. Huebler scored on the very next play to tie the score, 14-14.
Back and forth the squads went the remainder of the half, a 17-14 Harrison lead giving way to Roncalli surging to a 21-17 advantage. The teams traded touchdowns to complete a half that saw the Raiders hold a 293-179 lead in total yardage.
Roncalli finished the game with 364 yards to Harrison’s 475.