November 13, 20192009.
That was the last time the Floyd Central football team earned a sectional championship and brought home the hardware to show for it.
The Highlanders have had their chances in recent seasons, but never could quite get over that hump to add to their trophy case. That all changed Friday night when Floyd Central put the visiting Jeffersonville squad through the ringer for a 31-7 Class 5A sectional championship win.
Floyd Central football coach James Bragg gets a cold shower from his team after the Highlanders earned their first sectional title in 10 years Friday night against Jeffersonville.
"This is big for us," said an excited Floyd Central head coach James Bragg. "It's 10 years since we've had that trophy here. It's big. We've kept getting there and getting there the past couple of years and couldn't get over the hump. This took us over the hump. It's amazing. The 14 seniors that's stuck around, this is huge for them. When they got into high school their freshman year, they didn't win very many games. Everybody questioned them all the way through and, for these guys to bring the sectional home, it's awesome."
The air was cold and stiff with temperatures already down in the 30s by kickoff. The Red Devils got the ball first, but the Floyd Central defense held Jeffersonville to three-and-out with Landon Deweese running the ball back to the 45-yard line on the punt return. A combination of running plays with junior Wenkers Wright and two solid passes by Tristan Polk moved the ball to the red zone. After two failed pass attempts, Cole Hussung came in to boot the ball through the upright for a 38-yard field goal and 3-0 Highlanders' lead.
Jeffersonville fumbled the ball over to the Highlanders late in the first quarter. Two minutes into the second period, Wright scored on a 37-yard run that gave Floyd Central a 10-0 lead.
Jeffersonville turned the ball over again on its next possession when Deweese intercepted a deep throw and ran the ball all the way back to the Red Devils' 29. The half ended with the Highlanders enjoying the 10-0 advantage.
"Our guys bought in this week to technique, on keeping our shoulders free, consume the football, especially early in the first quarter and first half," Bragg said. "I think every time they ran the football we had 11 guys there to the pile, so that's just huge."
Then came a scare for the Highlanders that left everybody on the field and in the stands silent. At the end of a play, Wright sat on the turf in obvious pain, holding his right leg. The Floyd Central training staff quickly came out to evaluate the star running back and eventually carried him off the field to the sidelines. It all unfolded less than 30 seconds into the third quarter.
Moments later, the Highlanders had to set up for a field-goal attempt by Hussung, but it was blocked. Anthony Mack picked up the ball block and ran 75 yards for the touchdown, making the score 10-7 following Gafred Altamirano-Picache's extra point.
Floyd Central junior Colin Cummins dives in for six during the Highlanders' sectional championship win over Jeffersonville in the fourth quarter.
"Cole Hussung hit that cleanly," Bragg said. "That's not on him. That's on our execution and, once again, we've got to go back to work. What stinks is that cuts it to 10-7, a three-point game again. Last week (against Bedford North Lawrence), we had a two-score lead and got it cut to three and in the second half."
Floyd Central junior Colin Cummins was then called in to fill the shoes of the injured Wright, doing so with authority. With a combination of throws from Polk and runs by Cummins, Floyd Central was able to move the ball downfield to the 39-yard line. On the next play, Polk threw a strike to Kaleb Quenichet for a TD. Hussung added the extra point, and the Highlanders breathed easier with a 17-7 lead at the end of three quarters.
"My heart dropped at first," Cummins said of seeing Wright being helped off the field. "I didn't care about the game. It was more of Wenkers Wright. That kid is something else. That kid is special. I was worried more about him than the game. I knew we could rally back and fight and win that game without Wenkers, but I was more worried about Wenkers' health."
It was the Red Devils who made the next mistake when they turned the ball over on a fumble less than a minute into the fourth quarter. JD McKay was there to scoop-and-score from 25 yards out to put the Highlanders up 24-7.
Jeffersonville fought to get back into the game, but the Floyd Central defense was determined to keep the Red Devils from scoring. It was only fitting that Cummins got the final touchdown of the game, after filling Wright's shoes, diving into the end zone from eight yards for the 31-7 final score.
"Wenkers goes down in the opening play of the second half," Bragg said. "We didn't have a look of shock but we were kind of 'What are we going to do?' We came out, and we threw the ball a little bit and we moved it, but, unfortunately we didn't go very far with it.
Then, insert Cummins.
"We came back to the sidelines and in the second series we put Colin Cummins in there," said Bragg. "He's run as tailback for years for us. He just came up huge for us. The linemen believed in him. We told those guys up front, 'Hey, he's a young one.' He didn't have any carries until tonight. I said, 'You guys have run the offense. Give him a hole to find, and we'll go to work.' So, we did a great job of opening up holes for him. We didn't panic. We stayed the course. We kept throwing the ball. We kept mixing it up in and out and, once again, we caught Quenichet deep on a pass that really opened it up for us the second half."
Cummins said it was a matter of just keeping his head in the game.
"Just play ball," he said. "I always play hard, and I knew what this game meant to my team and I had to step up and get some yards and get some first downs. That was my role, and that's what I did ... I feel like a million bucks. I feel like a sectional champ. I'm so happy that I could bring a sectional championship to my hometown. It just means everything to me."
Bragg said it was good to see his team rally around their star running back and pull themselves together to secure the win and bring home the trophy. Wright was walking on his own by the end of the game.
"He's a little banged up," said the Floyd Central coach. "That's the great thing about the team. We could have shut down there when our big dog goes out, but we rallied around Polk in the passing game and Colin Cummins comes in and every yard was huge."
Credit the defense as well.
"Our defense, I can't speak highly enough about shutting them down," added Bragg. "That's a good Red Devils team we played tonight. They'll be just as good next year, but, at the end of the day, we win; we move on. It's win and advance, and we did that."
The Highlanders will go to Bloomington South Friday night with the hopes of adding a regional win to their season.
"It feels good tonight, but I'm ready to move on," Bragg said. "These kids are excited. They're hungry. It will be a good game and, hopefully, we can bring home a regional now."
Jeffersonville 0 0 7 0 – 7
Floyd Central 3 7 7 14 – 31
FC – Cole Hussung 38 FG; FC – Wenkers Wright 37 run (Hussung kick); J – Anthony Mack 39 run (Gafred Altamirano-Picache kick); FC – Kaleb Quenichet 39 pass from Tristan Polk (Hussung kick); FC – JD Mc-
Kay 25 yd fumble return (Hussung kick); FC – Colin Cummins 8 run (Hussung kick).