Raiders powerfully ditch road drought

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Southridge quarterback Luke Stetter rounded the corner as he beat Heritage Hills’ Logan Steckler to the end zone to score a touchdown during Friday night’s collision of Pocket Athletic Conference neighbors in Lincoln City. Class 2A No. 8 Southridge lit up the Patriots for 21 points in the final 9:11 of the first half and eased to a 34-8 victory, the Raiders’ first win at Lincoln City since 1981. For a gallery of more photos, click here.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

LINCOLN CITY — For Scott Buening, Beau Schneider and the entire Southridge football team, Friday had been engrained in their minds for quite some time.

As the Raiders toiled through a drill at the end of a summer practice, the Southridge football coach stood beside Schneider as the senior linebacker trudged onward.

“I just walked right next to Beau the entire time and said, ”˜You’re doing this for Heritage Hills. You’re doing this for Heritage Hills.’ And it was over and over and over,” Buening recalled. “And they’re sweatin’ and crankin’ and working. And we can talk till we’re blue in the face about ”˜We gotta do this, we gotta do this’ and this, that and the other. But the kids had to believe it.”

Label it belief, conviction or downright craze, Southridge brought it en masse Friday night to The Jungle in Lincoln City. From the beginning, the disparity in aggression, energy and enthusiasm shone lucidly. Even in the sludge left from an earlier shower, Southridge appeared to glide while Pocket Athletic Conference rival Heritage Hills searched for traction.

Before long, the margin was insurmountable for the Patriots, as the Class 2A No. 8 Raiders relished in a 34-8 victory a long time coming.

“Nineteen eighty-one,” Buening said was a smile.

It had been more than three decades since the Raiders (6-1, 5-0) last defeated Heritage Hills (2-5, 2-3) on its home turf.

“It’s incredible to see some of the emotion and how important this game was to our community. You watch the reaction of people,” the coach continued. “And we don’t want to make more out of it than what it was — it was a big PAC win on the road against a great program, which is great. But it was a little bit special to be able to come down here and win.”

With a five-game win streak and mettle to boot, the Raiders roll on.

“We have the utmost confidence in the world, that nobody can stop us,” Schneider said.

Southridge settled the skirmish with haste. The Raiders ran 50 times, accumulating 376 yards on the ground. They invaded the Pats’ 20-yard line five times and reached the end zone on each trip. They scored from far — a 60-yard scamper by Connor Craig (11 carries, 227 yards). They scored from near — four rushing touchdowns within the 6-yard line, two by Aidan Michel (10 rushes, 53 yards).

Southridge’s special teams units rendered more big plays. They recovered a punt that deflected off a Patriot to start the second quarter, and later swarmed a kickoff returner before slinging him down at the Pats’ 4-yard line. With the Raiders still preserving the shutout midway through the third quarter, Brett Nordhoff barged through the line to block a 38-yard field goal attempt.

The spirit exhibited on both sidelines was a dichotomy, leaving Patriot coach Todd Wilkerson to openly chastise his group’s showing on senior night.

“I told the kids at halftime, that first half was the most disgusting thing out of a Heritage Hills football team in a long time,” Wilkerson said. “They weren’t prepared, they didn’t really practice well. … It’s not surprising they came out and played the way they played.”

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Heritage Hills’ Zack Jones encountered a blockade of Southridge defenders as Luke Siddons, left, Alex Merkel, Aidan Michel, Brett Nordhoff and Jeremiah Mundy converged to make the stop.


Meanwhile, the Raiders hardly missed a beat, especially through the opening half when they constructed a 28-0 lead on Jacob Mundy’s 1-yard score with 15 seconds before halftime.
The defense piloted the parade.

The Raider front seven curtailed Patriot running back Gabe Konerding’s production to just 33 rushing yards on 13 carries after the senior burst for 138 yards on 12 touches against Southridge last season. In all, the Patriots managed 65 yards on the ground.

The effort against Konerding and company transferred from last week’s game against Tell City, Buening said. Last season, Rebel running back Elliott Brown scurried for 202 yards against Southridge. A year later, the junior mustered just 39 yards.

The strangle began up front. Lineman Andy Fischer registered a crucial third-down sack that preceded Nordhoff’s field goal block. Alex Merkel and Jacob Mundy personified the frontline rampart, with Merkel “becoming a guy that teams are going to have to deal with” and Mundy “really starting to take that next step,” Buening said.

Together, the defensive linemen have buried all doubts.

“To be honest, people really called those guys out before the season started,” Buening said. “We lost some pretty good kids up front last year, and (people asked) ”˜Man, who’s going to play this spot and who’s going to do this or get that?’ And these guys never let it bother them. They just went to work every day and said, ”˜You know what, we’re going to put our stamp on this team.’”

Wilkerson said he’s searching for similar commitment from his players. The Patriots found out they’ll be without lineman Davis Jochim for four to six weeks as he mends a partial MCL tear. And while Aaron Boehm and Andy Sickbert might return within the next few weeks, the improvement needs to happen now, Wilkerson stressed. Especially when faced with a challenge.

“Our problem over and over and over again is something happens, some adversity, and they don’t rebound from it,” Wilkerson said.

“We’ve got to get that attitude back that we refuse to lose. Right now, we’ve got an attitude of ”˜It’s OK to lose.’ And we can’t have that.”

Heritage Hills quarterback Logan Wilkerson connected on 11-of-19 passes for 171 yards and Sean Schaefer reeled in five catches for 71 yards, including a 28-yard diving grab that brought the Pats to the Southridge 1-yard line on the hosts’ lone scoring drive, capped by Jacob Pund’s 1-yard dive. Yet even the air assault became overshadowed by Raider resistance.

Again, Nordhoff stepped up.

The sure-handed junior jumped a route with about seven minutes left in the first half, intercepted the pass at the Patriot 40-yard line and barreled down the left sideline.

Green field ahead.

Alas, a Patriot defender caught up to the linebacker, and down he went.

“Ugh, I should’ve scored!” Nordhoff said with a laugh. “I saw the guy coming right behind me by the goal line. I was like, ”˜Oh man, I’m going to get to the 3 and get tackled.’”

The interception opportunity almost didn’t materialize. On the first play of the drive, which started on the Pats’ own 4-yard line, Logan Wilkerson slung a pass to the left, where Schneider roamed. The senior extended his right hand and batted down the ball. Had he made the catch, two steps would have landed him in the end zone.

Six plays later, Nordhoff secured his first career interception.

All in the name of selflessness, Schneider explained.

“He needs to get one, too, every now and again,” Schneider joked.

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com