HAMMOND | Anthony Mayers would not be denied his first sectional victory.
On a soggy field Friday night, the Bishop Noll junior led the Warriors to a 35-6 victory over South Newton in the first round of the Class A state tournament, finishing with 174 yards on 27 carries.
“We all came out ready to play tonight,” Mayers said. “It was a complete team game, and it feels great, but we know we need to come back tomorrow ready to work.”
Noll (5-5) blew the game open with five minutes left in the third quarter. The Warriors were leading 15-0 when Rebels quarterback Austin Drinski threw a perfect deep ball to a wide open receiver near the goal line, but the pass was dropped. Two plays later, Noll senior Jason Wedryk intercepted a Drinski pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw their quarterback roll out of the pocket, and I shadowed him to the flat,” Wedryk said. “He threw it in my direction, and when I caught it, I knew I had to score. I got a great block, and I was on my way. Our defense played a great game.”
After that decisive play, Noll relied on Mayers the rest of the second half to secure the victory. Mayers scored touchdowns on runs of 23 yards and 5 yards, respectively, and never gave the Rebels (3-7) any thought of getting back into the game.
“I have to credit my offensive line and the receivers,” Mayers said. “They opened up holes for me all night long.”
The Noll defense keyed on Drinski the entire game. Drinski finished with 71 yards on 18 carries, 50 yards below his season average. The complete team performance pleased Mike Juscik, who secured his first sectional victory in his sixth year as Noll’s head coach.
“I’m proud of our team,” Juscik said. “We’ve been building up to this point, going 5-2 in our last seven games. We have 20 seniors who have been hard at work in the weight room since October. They deserve this. It was a complete team victory.”
Noll jumped on the Rebels within the first two minutes of the game. Sophomore Nick Thrasher returned the opening kickoff 25 yards, and Mayers ran for 36 before senior quarterback Austin Solis scored on a 5-yard touchdown run.
For the next 20 minutes of the first half, nobody scored, but Solis connected with senior Jordan Taylor on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining in the first half. Noll holder Chad Mateja was successful on a two-point conversion, salvaging a botched snap and completing a pass to Wedryk for a 15-0 lead at halftime.
Noll will play at Winamac (7-3) next Friday in the semifinal of the sectional.