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November 8, 2013

CLASS 5A SECTIONAL: No. 3 Whiteland ends Highlanders’ season

Warriors prove their worth in 41-20 win over Floyd Central in 5A Sectional 14 final

WHITELAND — On paper, Whiteland is one of the best teams in Class 5A in Indiana.

The Warriors ended the season ranked third in The Associated Press Class 5A poll. They entered Friday night’s Class 5A Sectional 14 championship game against Floyd Central at James Sleighter Field with the fifth-highest scoring offense in 5A at 37 points per game.

Once Friday’s championship game started, the Warriors showed the Highlanders they were as good as advertised.

Whiteland broke a 20-20 tie midway through the third quarter with 21 unanswered points and for a 41-20 victory and its first sectional championship since 2006.

The Warriors (9-2) will host fifth-ranked and defending three-time Class 4A state champion Indianapolis Cathedral (7-5) next Friday. The Irish beat host Anderson in the 5A Sectional 13 final on Friday, 56-13.

Despite the loss, Floyd Central finished the season with an 8-3 record, which made Highlanders’ coach Brian Glesing proud of his players after they went 2-8 in 2012.

“A lot of people would love to have 8-3,” Glesing said. “If you asked me at the beginning of the year that you were going to finish 8-3 and be sectional runner-up, I’d say I’ll take it. It wasn’t pretty last year. Our kids fought and we got to the final game. Hopefully, our goal is to win it next year.”

Floyd Central drew first blood at the 6:29 mark of the opening quarter. On second-and-7 at the Whiteland 28-yard line, Highlanders’ quarterback Colton Kimm threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Gaige Klingsmith on a skinny post pattern to put Floyd Central up 6-0. But Highlander place-kicker Ryan Lenz missed the extra-point kick to keep the lead at six points. Lenz’s missed point-after-touchdown kick was one of several special teams miscues by Floyd Central on Friday night.

On the ensuing kickoff, Whiteland junior Isaiah Calloway returned the ball nearly 80 yards to put the ball at the Floyd 9. Then senior running back Jeffery Wooten ran the ball the full 9 yards into the end zone to put the Warriors up 7-6.

Whiteland extended its lead to 10-6 when freshman kicker Jacob Ballain nailed a 22-yard field goal from the right hash mark.

On fourth-and-3 at the Highlander 45, Floyd Central made its third crucial mistake in the kicking game. Lenz, who was the Highlanders’ punter, saw the snap go over his head, as he covered the ball at the Floyd 18.

On the next play, junior Brandon Benson hit paydirt with an 18-yard TD run to extend the Warriors’ advantage to 17-6 at the 3:37 mark of the second quarter.

The Highlanders had a quick answer to the Whiteland score. Klingsmith scored his second touchdown of the night with a 37-yard run on a sweep left to pull Floyd Central to within 17-12 with 2:55 in the first half. Senior Brandon Stout followed Klingsmith’s TD with a pass to junior wide receiver Adam Wallace on the two-point conversion, slicing the Warriors’ lead to 17-14. Whiteland got its lead back to six at 20-14 thanks to a Ballain 25-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

“In the first half, I thought we played great defensively. We held them to a couple of field goals in the red zone. But we gave up the big play on the kickoff, which hurt us,” Glesing said. “But in the first half, I thought we played defensively real good against that spread offense they got.”

Floyd Central got the ball first in the second half and took full advantage of it. The Highlanders marched 67 yards on 13 plays, which was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown scamper by senior Gabriel Kennedy to tie the score at 20. Lenz missed another PAT to keep the game deadlocked.

Whiteland made Floyd Central pay on the ensuing kickoff again as sophomore Shaw Cloud returned the ball about 40 yards to place the ball at the Highlander 20. Following a 17-yard run by Calloway, Cloud had a 3-yard TD run to give the Warriors the lead back at 27-20.

“We had the momentum and then we didn’t have it,” Glesing said. “Scheme-wise, they got us in a couple of bad positions.”

Whiteland quarterback Donnie Richard increased the lead to 34-20 with a 3-yard TD run on a keeper with 8:31 left in regulation. The Warriors’ final score was a 37-yard touchdown run by Cloud. Glesing felt if Whiteland did not make the two long kickoff returns and his team did not have the bad snap on the punt in the first half, it would have at least made the Warriors work harder for their points.

“It would have at least made them go the length of the field. I can’t say that it would’ve made the game different, but it didn’t help us,” Glesing said. “We had been covering kicks pretty good all year. But for whatever reason, we didn’t have that tonight.”

Floyd Central said goodbye to 28 seniors, but it has some critical players back next season, including Kimm and Klingsmith.

“We’ll find a way somehow, some way,” Glesing said. “Those young kids will work hard and they’ll get it done. I have confidence in them.”

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