Southridge support unending, weather or not

Photo by Jacob Wiegand/The Herald
Southridge junior Kade Allen and his girlfriend Pike Central senior Breana Cowan cheered for the Raiders during the team's 24-7 Class 2A semistate victory against Indianapolis Scecina on Saturday in Indianapolis.


INDIANAPOLIS — As the time for the game drew closer, Southridge took to Howard Longshore Stadium on Saturday in Indianapolis in anticipation of a victory and the right to challenge for the Class 2A football crown.

But we are not talking about the football team.

Rather the Southridge faithful who rose up early to send the team off on its trek north and braved the elements mixed with traffic to follow the same path and play their role as the emotional support on which the Raiders could rely for energy and inspiration.

“We came up last night, and got here early today hoping for a good game,” said Tom Pratt of Ireland. He had been following the Raiders since the start of the season. “They have been very impressive this year. Their defense against the run is just phenomenal.”

While all fans believe in the high hopes and dreams of their local high school football team at the start of their season, very few get to reach the point of watching their teams continue to play at the doorstep of a state title game.

Jack Nuekam, who’s son, Kyler, is a junior tight end and defensive end for the team, said he saw the legendary potential of the team in how they worked, trained and conducted themselves in the offseason.

“Coach (Buening) worked them hard all summer. Pretty early, they seemed like a pretty special group of kids,” Jack said.

For others, like Dennis Gerber, the father of special teams player Cort Gerber, it took a little more convincing.

“Early on, I didn’t think they were that good,” he said with a dry smile. “The (second) game of the season, they (lost 28-21 at) Jasper, and they didn’t look that good. But they just jelled as a team, and as the season progressed, every game it felt like they got better. They’re peaking now at the right time.”

Tammy, Gerber’s wife, had slightly more sunny take than her husband.

“They just looked really good all year and won most of their games by a big margin,” she said.

JD Wibbeler said there had been a lot of talk and excitement in Huntingburg in anticipation of Saturday. A lot of the discussions inevitably turned to chances for winning and what exactly Southridge had to do in order to beat Indianapolis Scecina.

“They’re a very strong program,” Wibbeler said. of the private school east of downtown Indy. “Usually they’re more of a passing team, but they do have a strong running back this year also. So it’s going to be a challenge.”

But Huntingburg had confidence in its Raiders. Wibbeler said the Raiders started to come together toward the middle of the season. The defense was always stout, but when the offense started to catch up, all the parts of the Southridge engine started humming right along with it.

“I’m just hoping we get the offense moving. We have a wide range of options to work with,” Wibbeler said as he described what he believed to be the keys for victory. “(We need to) minimize the mistakes we make, control what we can, avoid the turnovers and capitalize in the red zone.”

When the game finally started, things did not start out as some would have hoped.

The game kicked off at about 2 p.m., but when lightning struck during Scecina’s second drive, players and fans were instructed to exit the field for what became a two-hour weather delay.

But the Southridge fans were not discouraged and looked to the lightning as a kind of blessing in disguise from the football gods.

“We were just in the car trying to stay dry and warm,” Dennis Gerber said.

After the officials gave the signal to resume play, Scecina wasting no time in jumping ahead on the scoreboard after Mac Ayres connected with David Baker for a 36-yard pass. But the Raiders kept their composure and struck back with 24 unanswered points, including two passing touchdowns from Jayce Harter.

Nuekam said the early score made him a bit nervous, but he was proud of how the boys stepped up and responded.

“The little bit of research I did on the team, (Scenina’s) capable of moving the ball very quickly,” he said. “Defense stepped up, we stayed in it, and took over the game.”

Both Nuekam and Gerber could not contain there pride in watching their sons be part of team that became the fourth in program history to advance to the state finals, joining teams from 1982, 2002 and 2006. For them, the only thing that could be sweeter would be one more victory, this time at noon this Saturday against Woodlan.

They both cannot wait to make the trip back to Indy and cheer on the Raiders for one more Saturday.

“(It’s) completely awesome,” said Gerber. “Team win. Program win.”

“(We’re) looking forward to being at Lucas Oil (Stadium),” added Nuekam. “The kids have to be excited about it. It’s something they should really be proud of and it’s an honor to represent Huntingburg.”

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