Dubois County squads hit the road to open tourney

Herald Sports Editor

The possibility of postseason home games looms. But for all three Dubois County football squads, it’s time to hit the road for the opening round of sectional week.

Two teams will visit Evansville as Jasper treks to Harrison and Forest Park plays at top-ranked Mater Dei, while Southridge will venture to Tell City. Heritage Hills was awarded a home game by Sunday’s blind draw for the IHSAA tournament, and the Patriots will entertain Evansville Memorial.

In Class 4A, sixth-ranked Jasper (7-1) has another first-round encounter at Harrison (1-6), which the Cats topped 35-7 in a first-round sectional matchup in 2011. That Warrior team was coached by former Wildcat player Brian Lewis, while this year’s Harrison bunch has a first-year coach in Cory Brunson, the former offensive coordinator at Evansville Reitz.

“They’re going to spread you out, they’re going to run sort of the Oregon offense, try to option the ball with their quarterback and their (running) back,” Jasper coach Tony Ahrens said. “And they’ve got some kids that are pretty fast. If they get those kids in open space, they’ll be tough to catch. We’re going to have to prepare well and play well in space defensively.”

If Jasper weathers that first-round matchup Oct. 25, the Wildcats are likely to host opponents for the remainder of the sectional in probable matchups against fellow sectional frontrunners Evansville Central (5-3) and Evansville Reitz (6-2).

“If we’re fortunate enough to get through that first game, to be able to play your next two games at home, that’s a definite advantage,” Ahrens said.

The Class 2A sectional features a rematch between No. 7 Southridge (7-1) and resurgent Tell City (5-3), which is on the verge of just its second winning campaign in the last 12 seasons. The Raiders met the Marksmen on Sept. 27 at Raider Field, overcoming a first-quarter deficit and clinging to a late lead to win 24-21.

The clash of Pocket Athletic Conference foes will “come down to fundamentals,” Raider coach Scott Buening said. “It’s not going to be a scheme-type game. ... Whenever you play a conference school, it’s going to be a tough, hard-nosed game.

“I’ve never been one to care who we play because to win a sectional, you’re going to have to beat good teams and win some tight games,” Buening added. “They’ve got a lot of experience and upperclassmen and we have a lot of experience and upperclassmen. So it’s going to be a hard, tough, physical game.”

In the bottom half of the 2A draw, Forest Park (2-6) was awarded the challenge of tackling the state’s No. 1 team in matchup at Enlow Field, and it only added to coach Ross Fuhs’ recent streak of clairvoyance. Last week, Fuhs kept telling his Ranger players that they were going to beat Heritage Hills 24-21 in overtime — a feat they pulled off Friday by the exact same count.

Fuhs again made the prediction Friday in talking about the upcoming draw with his wife, Cassandra, and Forest Park athletic director Doug Louden.

“I said, ”˜I’m sure we’ll play Mater Dei,’” Fuhs said.

“It’s obviously a big challenge for us, playing the No. 1 team in the state. It’s always a tough task, and they’ve been dominant this year. But like I told the kids last week, ”˜Just go and make history’ (in beating Heritage Hills for the first time in program history), and hey, it’ll be a chance for us to do the same thing, because we’re going to come in with a positive attitude and do the best we can.”

Heritage Hills, meanwhile, will stay in Lincoln City for a first-round collision Oct. 25 against Evansville Memorial. Right now, the Patriots’ foremost concern is playing with healthy forces, as leading rusher Gabe Konerding was set to have his injured ankle evaluated today while injured linemen Aaron Boehm and Andy Sickbert could rejoin the lineup this week or next.

“We sure need those guys, and we hope we can get back,” Patriot coach Todd Wilkerson said.
The Pats have lost three straight games and are set for a sectional battle against a Memorial team that’s also uncharacteristically struggling; the Tigers stopped a four-game slide with Friday’s overtime win over Harrison, though three of their defeats have been by eight points or fewer.

“They’re as good as usual,” Wilkerson assured. “They throw the ball really well, they’ve got a really nice running back and then they play that tough schedule in the city all season, so they’re going to be prepared. It’ll be a huge test for us.”

Herald Sports Writer Joe Jasinski contributed to this report.

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.

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