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Central Catholic found out a few things Friday night in its final nonleague football game of the season at Gallagher Stadium.
The value of its own senior playmaker Nate Hobbs, the strength of the Mishawaka Penn defense, and the big-play ability of visiting Kingsmen running back Gary Downey.
Those factors added up to a 17-7 Irish loss to Indiana's top-ranked Division 5A (big school) team.
Downey carried 22 times for 159 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown run that followed his 83-yard TD pass reception in the second quarter as Penn moved to 4-0 and the Irish dropped to 2-1 entering City League play.
"The second quarter's been our [key] quarter all three games," Central coach Greg Dempsey said. "We had a bad stretch in the second quarter against Bowling Green, we had a great stretch [30 points] last week against Dublin Scioto, and now another bad stretch here tonight.
"What we really have to work on is consistency. We've shown flashes of being a good football team at times, but we need to do it on a consistent basis and eliminate big plays."
What had been a defensive stalemate for most of the first half took a game-breaking turn in Penn's favor during a span of 6:22 late in the second quarter.
First, Hobbs, Central's top offensive, defensive and special-teams playmaker (QB-WR-CB-PR) was lost for the game with a turf-toe injury to his left foot with 8:03 remaining before halftime after returning a punt.
"Losing Nate took a lot out of us in the sense that, when we had to throw it around, if he's in there that draws coverage off of other guys, which is huge," Dempsey said. "It affected us when he wasn't able to play quarterback, receiver and special teams."
The subsequent Irish drive went backward, necessitating a punt, and the Kingsmen needed just one play to break things open.
Penn quarterback Jared Melander (5-of-8 passing, 118 yards) rolled right while Downey carried out his run fake through the line and upfield. Melander fired a strike to the wide-open Downey near midfield, and Downey covered the remaining distance with 5:51 left in the half.
Central, pinned back to its 7 on the ensuing kickoff, was stymied again by the Penn defense, and an Irish punt left the Kingsmen 44 yards from the end zone.
Four plays later, Downey bolted through the middle, broke a tackle and streaked the 32 yards for another TD and a 14-0 lead 1:41 before the break.
Penn produced 137 of its 180 total first-half yards in that six-play, second-quarter span.
"With their tough, physical defense, we were hoping to bust one, maybe two big plays," Penn coach Cory Yeoman said, "and luckily we were able to pull that off."
Riding the feet and right arm of senior quarterback Dave Walender (eight carries, 83 yards; 9-of-24 passing, 92 yards), the Irish scored with 7:51 left in the game.
Two Walender completions plus his 16 and 6-yard scrambles got Central to the Penn 11 at the start of the fourth quarter. But his fourth-and-8 pass to Josh Stump fell incomplete to end that drive.
Following a Kingsmen punt, however, Walender's weaving, 39-yard run around right end set up his eight-yard TD pass to Divelle Costen to get Central within 14-7.
But, Downey's third big play of the game - a 59-yard run on the right side on Penn's next play - took the Kingsmen to the Irish 17, and set up Alan Sinclair's 25-yard field goal with five minutes left.
Penn outgained the Irish 320-217 in total offense. The Kingsmen have allowed just 13 points in their four wins.
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