By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — NEW CASTLE — Tyler Welch had a slight hitch in his step as he walked off the field Saturday afternoon, the result of an upper thigh contusion suffered early in the third quarter.
Little else slowed the Anderson junior as he rushed 17 times for 235 yards and five touchdowns in the Indians' 49-7 domination of New Castle on homecoming at Huffman Field.
"It feels good," Welch said. "But I can't take all the credit. My offensive line was doing it, too. They were breaking holes wide open."
Even when Trojans defenders got their hands on Welch, it often made little difference. He routinely shook off tackles, turning even average plays into big gains.
His most important run came late in the second quarter, shortly after New Castle (0-6) scored to slice its deficit to 15-7. Welch took a handoff and sprinted to the left side. His blockers quickly got him into the second level of the Trojans' defense, then he shook off a pair of tacklers and sprinted 54 yards to New Castle's 7-yard line.
A few snaps later, Welch scored from the 4 and Anderson (2-4) took a 21-7 lead into the locker room. The scoring drive covered 79 yards in all and took just 1:22 off the clock, ending with 33 seconds remaining in the half.
It was a big momentum swing because the Trojans were scheduled to receive the second-half kickoff. When a punt on that drive was partially blocked, the Indians took over at New Castle's 32-yard line.
Senior quarterback Gaven Owens hit senior receiver Brandan Chapman in the end zone for a 3-yard score moments later, and the rout was on.
"This is the way we should've been playing all year," Anderson coach Randy Albano said. "I don't know what it is, I've been here four years, and we've started slow all four years. We've always finished strong and been real competitive with people. Hopefully, that's the way it's going to end up this year for us."
The win was Anderson's second in the past three outings, and it came in what could be the school's final visit to Huffman Field for awhile. New Castle is joining the Hoosier Heritage Conference next season — and is ineligible for North Central Conference competition this year — meaning the teams will need to work hard to find a place to continue the annual series on the schedule.
This edition of the rivalry started slowly with a scoreless first quarter. Anderson twice turned the ball over on downs inside Trojans' territory — the Tribe never punted in the contest — and New Castle's only serious threat stalled after a holding penalty wiped out a completion that would have put the ball inside the Indians' 20-yard line.
Welch broke the deadlock early in the second quarter, breaking several tackles en route to a 29-yard touchdown run. When Owens hit fullback Jarmell Graves on the 2-point conversion, Anderson led 8-0.
The Indians added to the lead a little more than three minutes later when senior Jerian Beard burst through the line and ran away from the New Castle defense for a 45-yard touchdown and a 15-0 lead.
Beard finished with 99 yards on 11 carries but left the game late in the second quarter with a leg injury.
"It's the same kind of injury he had before," Albano said, referencing knee and ankle injuries that kept the star running back sidelined for much of the first three games.
During the little time Beard and Welch spent on the field together, fans got a glimpse of the explosive offense Anderson can feature this season. Albano said plans were in the works for a three-back formation — including senior Logan Throesch — but those now will be delayed until Beard is again healthy.
Welch proved he's more than a handful for opposing defenses on his own. His strong second half — which ended early in third quarter — included a 77-yard sprint to the end zone as well as scoring runs of 2 and 6 yards.
"He's a great runner," Albano said. "He has football speed. He may not be the fastest track person, but on the football field he's hard to catch."
Anderson's defense also stepped up with its best performance of the season. Linebackers Bryant White and Zach Amos spearheaded an effort that limited the Trojans to 117 yards of total offense.
New Castle ran a read-option with quarterback Hank Neal, but by the third quarter White and Amos were routinely snuffing it out. Outside linebacker Robby Peal added a pair of interceptions — equaling the total catches of the Trojans' receivers.
"They came to play," Albano said. "I thought Bryant had a really great game. All four linebackers were outstanding. That's the best game they've played as a group this year."
Anderson returns to NCC play Friday, hosting Marion (1-5) on homecoming.