INDIANAPOLIS -- Lawrence Central quarterback Dre Townsend waited his turn. He didn't complain. He didn't pout.
Townsend patiently watched and learned while serving as the backup for two seasons to Tre Roberson, Indiana's Mr. Football in 2010.
"Tre was the best quarterback I've seen come out of the state of Indiana since I've been growing up," Townsend said about the former Lawrence Central standout, who led the Bears to the Class 5A state title game last year. Roberson went on to win the Indianapolis Star's Mr. Football award, which goes to the state's top player, and he is now playing at Indiana University.
"I sat behind him for two years; it was a learning process," Townsend said. "I wasn't sulking. Sometimes I was on the field playing running back and tight end, but I also watched him and the great things he did."
Now it's Townsend's time. If he felt any pressure in replacing Roberson this season, his words and deeds belie it. Townsend said he is mostly concerned about being a senior leader on a Lawrence Central team that is 3-1 overall and 2-0 in Conference Indiana. He is also one of the top passers in the state with 757 yards.
On Saturday, Townsend and the Bears will meet Columbus North (2-2, 1-1) in the Horseshoe Classic: Conference Indiana Challenge, hosted by the Colts and presented by Herff Jones at Lucas Oil Stadium. That 5 p.m. matchup is one of four league games planned at the stadium that day. The others are Southport (3-1, 1-1) against Boomington South (1-3, 0-2) at noon; Bloomington North (3-1, 2-0) vs. Pike (1-3, 1-1) at 2:30; and Perry Meridian (1-3, 0-2) against Franklin Central (1-3, 1-1) at 7:30.
Townsend showed the right stuff for Lawrence Central, ranked No. 7 in the Class 5A state coaches' poll, in last Friday's 35-32 comeback victory over Pike. The Bears trailed 32-28 when they took possession at their 27-yard line with 3:35 remaining. Townsend managed the clock, methodically marched his team down the field and then completed the game-winning, 4-yard pass to DaShawn Wortham after faking and rolling to his left.
"What a classy kid," Lawrence Central Coach Jayson West said about Townsend. "To have to sit behind Mr. Football for two years and wait his turn, a lot of kids can't handle that. I'm really proud of him, just as a young man. He's very gifted. He could have played about anywhere last year. He's ours, and he's proud to lead this team."
The Bears have a formidable lineup to go with Townsend. Running back Marcellion Gardner amassed 275 yards on 14 rushing attempts in the win over Pike. Three Lawrence Central players are listed on Scout.com's 2011 Indiana Top 100. Offensive and defensive lineman Wes Rogers was No. 23, defensive back Kevin Brown was No. 33, and linebacker Shemiah Townsend was No. 57.
Coach Tim Bless' Columbus North team will come into the game against Lawrence Central with a hot quarterback of its own. Kyle Kamman passed for 224 yards and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 34-28 win last Friday over Franklin Central.
Kamman is sometimes overshadowed in Columbus by East High School's Gunner Kiel, who is one of the nation's top-rated quarterbacks and has verbally committed to Indiana University. But Kamman has credentials of his own, having passed for 1,845 yards and 19 touchdowns last year and for 732 yards and five scores this season. His leading receivers this year are Christian Williams with 20 catches and Trace Fetterer with 15.
For Lawrence Central, Saturday's game in Lucas Oil Stadium will likely bring back some memories of last year's state championship game there, which the Bears lost to Fishers 38-19. It obviously wasn't the outcome that Townsend wanted, but he said the opportunity to play on the home field of the Colts and Super Bowl XLVI is always special.
"It's just a wonderful experience that not everyone gets to have," Townsend said. "We just live the dream that every kid wants to have and move forward with it."
Here's a look at the other Conference Indiana games at Lucas Oil Stadium:
Southport vs. Bloomington South: Southport Coach Bill Peebles led the Cardinals to an 8-4 record in 2010, his sixth season there. Linebacker Kenneth Hawkins is rated 64th on the Indiana Top 100 list. The Cardinals, whose only loss this season was to Pike, rushed for 146 yards in a 28-27 overtime win over Perry Meridian last Friday. Bloomington South is coming off a 21-7 loss to rival Bloomington North. Kirk Kennedy, in his second year at South, coached his team to a 21-19 victory over Martinsville earlier this season, but Southport has totaled just 27 points in its three losses.
Bloomington North vs. Pike: Bloomington North is coached by Scott Bless, brother of Columbus North's Tim. Onyi Afoaku leads the Cougars' defensive line and is rated No. 50 on the Indiana Top 100 list. The Cougars lost their opener at South Bend Washington but have rolled to three straight victories. Pike, which tied with Lawrence Central for last year's Conference Indiana championship, lost 40 seniors from that team. The Red Devils are starting nine freshmen and sophomores. But Coach Derek Moyers can rely on the talents of senior quarterback Aloyis Gray, who passed for one touchdown and ran for another in the loss to Lawrence Central last Friday. Gray is ranked No. 7 on the Indiana Top 100 list, with Pike defensive back Jonathan Reed at No. 25 and offensive and defensive lineman Pierre Aka at No. 26.
Perry Meridian vs. Franklin Central: Perry Meridan won this matchup in overtime in 2010, but the Falcons are coming off an overtime loss of their own last Friday against Southport. Coach Scott Marsh's Perry Meridian team, which finished 4-7 last year, is hopeful that eight returning starters on offense as well as defense will push the Falcons to continued improvement in 2011. Franklin Central coach Burt Austin is in his first year. Senior Aaron Bruning rushed for 204 yards and four touchdowns last Friday against Columbus North and the Flashes totaled 341 rushing yards in that loss. Defensive back Griffin Elbert is rated No. 96 among the Indiana Top 100.