KNIGHTS WINNING IN A BIG WAY

The 39th Annual IHSAA Football State Tournament presented by the Indianapolis Colts moves into semi-state play on Friday. Colts.com is taking a weekly look at players and teams to watch as the tourney advances to the state championship games at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. This week, we spotlight Lafayette Central Catholic, its three-year winning streak and Knights star Danny Anthrop.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Few players have dominated the small-school ranks of Indiana high school football like Lafayette Central Catholic's Danny Anthrop.

Anthrop, a strong candidate for the state's Mr. Football award, has scored 47 touchdowns this season as a rusher, receiver, safety and kick returner. Because defenses focus on Anthrop, Knights Coach Kevin O'Shea makes sure his team's star is a moving target on offense, positioning him at tailback, in the slot or at wide receiver. When Anthrop gets the ball, he glides as much as he runs,  spinning, sliding, churning, always with an uncommon balance and swiftness.

However, even as Anthrop leads Central Catholic in its push for a third consecutive undefeated and state championship season in Class A, another trait about him stands above the rest. He is the Knights' humble superstar. Polite and softspoken, he is a leader by example on a team that refers to itself as a "band of brothers."

"We're all best friends," said Anthrop, who has committed to play at Purdue next season. "There's no drama amongst the team. Everybody is rooting for everybody. All year long, our motto has been brothers. We just thought that would be a word to characterize our team."

The Knights moved their 2011 record to 13-0 and their three-year winning streak to 42 games last Friday with a 54-0 regional victory at South Newton. Central Catholic took a 40-0 halftime lead and Anthrop took a seat after rushing for 145 yards and four touchdowns. That's often been the case in 2011 as the Knights outscored nine regular-season opponents 385-69 and have accumulated a 226-20 margin in four postseason games.

Anthrop's statistics -- 1,368 rushing yards and 786 receiving yards -- could be off the charts if he played more. But even occasional observers understand his effect on a game and appreciate his considerable skills.

At South Newton, a woman stopped Anthrop as he walked off the field and playfully scolded him for running all over her hometown Rebels. Then she congratulated him with a hug. As Anthrop continued to make his way to the locker room on a cold and blustery night, fans and South Newton players delayed him every few steps to wish him luck with the rest of the season and his career at Purdue.

"I have never met a person who did not like Danny Anthrop," O'Shea said. "He is humble, respectful and thankful for his ability. He would sit down and have a conversation with anybody."

As for Mr. Football, an award given yearly by the Indianapolis Star to the state's best player, Anthrop takes the race in stride as his team attempts to dial in another state title.

"Mr. Football would be great, such an honor," said the 6-1, 180-pound senior. "I think it would be like an honor for the whole team."

The Central Catholic team has grown and developed with Anthrop as the linchpin.

"Offensively, our growth has come in that we have other kids making plays now," O'Shea said. "Early in the year, it was Danny Anthrop making all the plays. Now we've balanced ourselves out a little bit."

When the Knights need to loosen up a defense, quarterback Austin Munn has the arm to do it. He has passed for 2,073 yards with 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions. At South Newton, Munn completed all nine of his passes for 202 yards and a pair of scores. Timmy Mills, Jake Churchill, Brad Schrader and Matt Burks all have developed into playmakers as pass-catchers or runners.

On defense, Anthrop sets the tone at safety, but he gets formidable help in the front seven from linebackers Ross Corcoran and Burks and defensive lineman Jacob Matson.

"Defensively," O'Shea said, "our growth has come from our maturity and our trust in each other as far as doing individual jobs for a team defense. We don't tout a lot of stars on defense. But I believe our varsity has given up one touchdown since about the third game of the season. … The other scores have come against our second-unit kids."

At Central Catholic, O'Shea said, the ongoing success also stems from factors such as team speed, the players' disciplined approach and ability to thrive on high expectations, and strong parental involvement.

This week, Central Catholic will play host to Sheridan (10-3) in the semi-state round. Sheridan was the last team to defeat Central Catholic -- a 34-28 outcome in sectional play in October 2008.

"In 2008, we had a barnburner," O'Shea said, smiling. "We drove the ball inside the 10 in the last 30 seconds of the game."

This week's rematch will pit the Knights, the state's winningest program over the last seven years, against Sheridan Coach Bud Wright, the state's winningest coach of all time. Wright is 371-160 in his 47-year career.

"It's fun to get to coach against a legend," O'Shea said.

There are connections between Central Catholic and Sheridan. On O'Shea's staff are his father, Frank, and his brother, Tim. Frank O'Shea and Wright were college roommates for a year at Ball State. The O'Shea and Wright families are longtime friends and competitors. Also, Sheridan's 45-game winning streak from 2005-08 is just ahead of Central Catholic's current 42-game mark.

As for that streak, Kevin O'Shea said he never mentions it to his players. "Not a word," he emphasized.

"I'm sure they probably have (talked about it), but not around me," O'Shea said. "About the only thing we've talked about is winning the next one. When you try to win the next one, the streak happens. Our players know they're trying to keep this streak going because of the players before them."

Anthrop confirmed that.

"It's what we try to do every week, we try to get better," he said. "You can't slip up, or everything you've worked for for three years is gone."

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