Rensselaer C. runs past Evansville Mater Dei, 45-21, to claim school's 1st state championship



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INDIANAPOLIS — Rensselaer Central claimed its first state sports championship 110 years after joining the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

The Bombers (15-0) stayed with what led to their perfect season as their Class 2A team record-setting 383 yards on 67 rushes propelled them past Evansville Mater Dei, 45-21, on Friday to win the Class 2A state football finals.

"It's a dream come true," said Rensselaer Central coach Chris Meeks. "There's a lot of history and tradition. But we've never been to the finals. Once we got here, we made the decision to go for it."

Mater Dei (14-1) had just played its best two defensive series, forcing a three-and-out and getting an interception, to give the Wildcats a touchdown that tied the game at 7-7.

But Rensselaer did not seem fazed.

Trevor Hill started the drive with a 43-yard off-tackle scamper and Jake Steinke capped the five-play 70-yard drive off with a 15-yard go-ahead touchdown run around the left end.

Hill, a senior, averaged 4.5 carries entering the game, and finished with 13. He ran for 99 yards and had two touchdowns.

"I wasn't expecting to carry the ball that much," Hill said. "I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my football team become state champions."

Rylan Arihood was the workhorse for the Bombers as the senior had a game-high 149 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Quarterback Dylan Wright threw just four passes, completing one and had an interception. The senior did have a two-yard rushing touchdown on the game's first drive.

But it was not just the offense for Rensselaer Central that dominated. The Bombers' defense held one of the state's top offenses to just 71 net rushing yards, 186 yards less than their season average.

"It was a dominating performance," Meeks said. "They had a couple plays, but I thought it was a dominating performance."

The leader for the Bombers' stingy defense was Austin Fleming. The senior defensive lineman had six tackles and 1.5 sacks, while forcing a fumble and recovering one. He also broke through on the offensive stat sheet with 26 yards on four carries.

"The plan was to get pressure on the quarterback," Fleming said. "That messes up their timing and their routes. And if you get pressure on the quarterback, you're there for the run, too."

Mater Dei stayed close and looked to shift the momentum its way after Luke Neitzke scored on a 77-yard kick-off return with 4:35 to play in the third quarter to narrow the gap to 28-21.

But a pair of fourth down stops by Rensselaer's defense and a late interception kept the Wildcats from crossing midfield in the fourth.

"It had the makings of a great game, but we just got beat by the better team," said Mater Dei coach Mike Goebel. "They beat us in every phase of the game. They won, and they deserved it."

Neitzke accounted for one of two offensive scores for the Wildcats when the senior recovered a Drayke Richardt fumble that bounced to him in stride and ran it in from the four-yard line to pull within 21-14.

Richardt led the Wildcats with 108 on the ground and quarterback Kurtis Wilderman was 10 of 16 for 145 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Julian Weidner finished with 114 yards on five receptions.

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