CARMEL — Normally, when a quarterback throws four interceptions — three by the end of the first half — the outcome for his team isn’t a good one; especially when his team’s defense has allowed more points during the season than at any time over the previous decade.
So when Class 6A No. 2 Carmel entered halftime Friday tied with No. 11 Fishers, it was up to both quarterback Michael Viktrup and the Greyhounds defense to answer the bell in the second half.
Viktrup overcame his season-high four picks by contributing four touchdowns — three after the break — and the Carmel defense pitched a shutout in the Greyhounds’ 28-7 sectional championship win.
“From the first snap, we knew this would be a defensive battle and our defense would have to come out and win,” said defensive end Noah Burks, a Wisconsin recruit who was dominating along the line of scrimmage.
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Carmel (9-2) — which ended Fishers’ season for the third straight year — will travel to face Homestead (8-3) in next Friday’s regional at Homestead.
Some key defensive plays helped the Greyhounds close out what had been a close game.
Carmel led 14-7 after Viktrup opened the third quarter by leading the team on an eight-play, 73-yard drive that ended with him finding Tobias Watkins on a dump-off pass and Watkins doing the rest himself, weaving 37 yards for the score.
Fishers (7-4) was driving to tie the game midway through the third quarter when Rodney Haywood came up with a third-down sack that forced the Tigers to punt. Viktrup hit Nathan Melchi on a 49-yard strike on Carmel’s next play, setting up a 10-yard touchdown scamper by the Air Force recruit to give Carmel a 21-7 lead with 1:55 left in the third.
“Sometimes that happens and you have to deal with adversity,” said Viktrup, who also scored on a 12-yard run on Carmel’s opening series. “That was my bit of adversity, but the coaches made great adjustments in the locker room and when we came out in the second half, we had more focus and I had more focus.”
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The Carmel defense then forced a pair of turnovers on Fishers’ next two drives. The Greyhounds made the Tigers pay after the second, with Viktrup cashing in on a 3-yard run to effectively put the game away with 7:36 left.
“We’ve given up more points (this season) than we’ve given in the last 10 years,” said Carmel coach John Hebert. “But when you go back and look the tape, we’re playing well. We’re in the right spots. I think sometimes you just need a moment to step up and pull it all together. Tonight, I think with the turnovers, the defense challenged themselves to take charge and carry the team on their back. And I think they did that.”
Though Carmel only ran three more plays than the Tigers — 62 to 59 — the Greyhounds outgained them 486 yards to 286. Fishers’ only score came on a 55-yard interception return by safety Jeremy Chinn to tie the game at 7 in the second quarter.
“We were in it,” said Tigers coach Rick Wimmer. “I thought our defense was really good for three quarters of the game. They just got on the field too much as the game wore on. We were putting together drives offensively. We had a couple of opportunities where we had it down there, and just came up empty.”