PENDLETON — It was run vs. pass. Run won.
Led by two 100-plus-yards rushers and three touchdowns on the ground, Pendleton Heights improved to 3-0 on the season (1-0, Hoosier Heritage Conference) with a 30-26 victory agianst New Castle at John Broughton Field on Friday.
It was also the second win of the season on home turf.
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Ethan Ross rushed 30 times for 192 yards and put the Arabians ahead 14-12 with a second-quarter 4-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Luke Candiano ran for 116 yards on 22 carries with two scores. He opened the team’s scoring with a first-quarter 4-yard score, then put his club ahead 21-12 with a 23-yard dash to the end zone in the third period.
While the running game was dominant, an Arabian pass play helped seal the victory.
The Arabians went up 28-12 in the fourth quarter on a Candiano to Isaac Wilson touchdown pass. The Pendleton defense added a fourth-quarter safety.
Candiano completed 11-of-17 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
“Offensively, it was our best production of the season,” Pendleton Heights head coach Jed Richman said. “We had over 400 yards of offense. The kids did a good job of executing.
“It started with Luke (Candiano) and Ethan Ross had another big game, but there were multiple guys contributing. I was very proud. Our starting center was out, so Sam Mossoney did a heck of a job moving from his tackle position to offensive center. Will Kaster, very unselfishly, played left tackle the whole game instead of his normal tight end position.
“We did all that production with guys out of position. I was really proud with how those guys competed.”
New Castle ran the ball only eight times for 12 yards. The Trojans did most of their offensive work through the air.
Trojans quarterback Eli Cooper completed 20-of-34 passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair of late scores to make the game close.
Both quarterbacks had one interception.
Quintin Boatright intercepted a Candiano pass and returned it for a touchdown to give New Castle a 12-7 lead.
Another key for the Arabians was the point-after game. Dom Apo hit on all four of his PAT attempts.
New Castle made one two-point conversion, but failed on all of its other PAT attempts.
It was the second straight game the Arabians gave up a couple of fourth quarter scores to make the game much closer than they would have liked.
“It’s growing pains,” Richman said. “I’m not going to make any excuses. We’ve got to be better. It didn’t have to be that close. Our conditioning is great. Our attitudes are great. We’re coachable. It’s just some miscues here and there that cost us. We’ve got to continue to get better in some areas.”
Pendleton Heights was one of three Hoosier Heritage Conference teams to open its league season with a victory.
Along with the Arabians win over New Castle, New Palestine defeated Yorktown 42-14. Mt. Vernon downed Greenfield-Central, on Saturday, 42-21. Due to COVID-19 protocols the Shelbyville-Delta game was canceled.
Greenfield-Central is next up for Pendleton Heights. It will be the Arabians third home game of the year.
Pendleton Heights beat G-C twice last year, both times on the Cougars home field.
In the regular season matchup on Sept. 11, 2020, Pendleton Heights came away with a 35-18 win. At G-C on Oct. 23, in the first round of Class 4A Sectional 21, the Arabians won 42-6 and have defeated the Cougars six straight times. Greenfield-Central’s last win against Pendleton Heights came in 2016.
“They’re a heck of a ball club, defensively, too,” Richman said of the Cougars, in their third year under coach Travis Nolting. “They are stout and they are really good at point of attack. They are stronger and faster. We have our hands full this week. It’s going to be physical. It’s always physical with Greenfield. We have a ton of respect for them.”
The Arabians are looking to go 4-0 for the fourth time since 2017. They also had 4-0 beginnings in 2018 and 2020.
“We’re winning and that’s the ultimate goal,” Richman said. “We’re not necessarily doing it in a flashy or the prettiest way sometimes. We’re getting better and we’re getting it done and that’s most important.”