Roncalli coach John Rodenberg figured his team had one big advantage in second half.
“I think we wore them down; we’re a little bit bigger than they are,” he said. “We got to the second half and we got some looks we wanted to see. We ran the clock. We pride ourselves on being able to run it. Luke Hansen had some great runs.”
Hansen, a junior, rushed 30 times for a career-high 182 yards and three touchdowns Friday night to lead Class 4A No. 1 Roncalli to a 35-21 home victory over No. 4 East Central. Senior quarterback Aidan Leffler started to keep it on designed runs a lot in the second half, rushing for 92 yards on 20 carries.
“When we get to that situation we’re going to put the ball in Aidan’s hands,” Rodenberg said. “They did a nice job with their pass defense. We didn’t get the looks.”
Leffler completed 9 of 16 for 163 yards in a game played in an occasional light rain. Roncalli, the defending state champion, raised their winning streak to 21 and finished 9-0 in the regular season. It was the sixth time the Royals have completed an unbeaten season.
Hansen’s 3-yard touchdown run with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter gave the Royals a 28-21 lead. Hansen added a 42-yard TD run with 57 seconds to seal it.
Hansen’s 3-yard TD run put Roncalli ahead 21-14 with 5:39 left in the third quarter. The Royals drove the ball 80 yards, with the big play being a 26-yard pass from Leffler to Caden Gore, which put the ball on the 3-yard line.
The lead was short-lived as the Trojans’ Cole Burton connected with Eli Aston for a 77-yard touchdown pass, tying it at 21-all with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
“I don’t think it was as focused a game as we wanted,” Rodenberg said. “We played better as the game went on. But obviously we didn’t start off the way we wanted to. That’s something we’ve got to address, because now you are in the playoffs and you are one (loss) and out.”
The Royals drove the ball to the East Central 23 before Leffler was intercepted on the game-opening possession. The Trojans (7-2) capitalized, scoring on Samual Ring’s 5-yard touchdown run with 11:04 to go in the first quarter.
Roncalli tied it on Leffler’s 42-yard TD pass to senior Kyle Lockard. Gore had taken the snap and lateraled it to Leffler. It was Lockard’s 11th TD catch, setting a single-season school record.
The Trojans took a 14-7 lead on Ring’s 4-yard TD run with 1:28 left in the first quarter. That was set up by Ryan Brotherton’s 49-yard run.
The Royals had tied it a 14-all on Leffler’s 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Roncalli will open 4A sectional play at Western next Friday night. The Trojans will host Greenwood.