If it seems like we were here just a month ago, you're downright crazy. It was actually 35 days ago that the top two teams in the state squared off, with Warren Central pulling out a 22-20 victory on a last-second field goal. Now the two juggernauts are back in the sectional finals, and the winner of this game is most definitely the favorite to win the Class 5A state crown.
No. 1 Warren Central (10-0) at No. 2 Carmel (9-1)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Warren Central — The Warriors can play any type of game. The offensive line is among the best in the state, so if Warren Central wants to grind it out, they can hand the ball to senior RB Deionte Buckley (1,439 yards, 26 TDs) or junior RB Shaquille Breeding (752 yards, nine TDs). If they want to throw it, senior QB Kyle Faunce has been steady all season (69.1 percent, 19 TDs, five INTs) and senior WR Kevin Davis is a big play waiting to happen (711 yards, 10 TDs). Put it all together and you see why Warren Central is averaging 44.7 points per game. On defense, it all starts up front with senior DT Sheldon Day. The Notre Dame recruit has nine sacks on the season, and he's flanked by talent on both sides. Behind him, junior LB Tim Kimbrough has made 92 tackles and recorded 6.5 sacks (second-most on the team).
Carmel — If there's one team that can match Warren Central's nasty defense, it's the Greyhounds. Carmel has allowed just 10.5 points per game this year, including four shutouts. The D-Line is led by senior Langston Newton, a Kentucky recruit, who can blow up running plays and get after the quarterback. Senior DE Shawn Heffern is an Indiana commit who can cause problems as well. On offense, Carmel isn't quite as multiple as Warren Central. The passing game isn't quite as diversified, but it's still effective. Senior QB Brandon Denning has had a great season, but he's more of a threat to hold onto the ball and make plays with his legs. The Greyhounds also have one of the best running backs in the country in senior Jalen Duncan.
The winner of this game will have eliminated its biggest competition for the Class 5A state championship. Bring this one home and follow the path to the Lucas Oil Stadium.
Coming into the season, I had Warren Central pegged as the best defense in the state. But I was wrong — Carmel's D has proven to be the best over the course of the season. In the Week 7 matchup between these teams, Carmel held Warren Central to 111 yards passing and picked off a pass, and I don't think that was a fluke. With no big plays through the air, this game will turn into another low-scoring, grind-it-out battle of wills. I've been riding the Jalen Duncan train all season, and I'm not about to jump off now. He ran for 151 and two touchdowns in the first meeting, and I think he's going to do even bigger things tonight. Duncan finds the end zone twice and the Carmel defense makes it hold up with their best performance of the season.
CARMEL 17, WARREN CENTRAL 10
To see all the picks from the rest of Class 5A, click here.
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