Four Downs: It all begins again

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Todd Wilkerson enters his 10th season as the Heritage Hills coach, and the Patriots are scheduled to open Friday at Mt. Vernon.

By Herald Staff

Here are the games for our teams this week, the first of the 2021 season.


2020 Record: 7-3

Opponent: At Evansville Memorial, Enlow Field, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Jasper defeated Evansville Memorial, 7-3

Series: Jasper leads, 25-20

Jasper had itself a quarterback competition going into 2021, but the Wildcats opted to go with senior Will Weinzapfel at the position to start the season. Weinzapfel will replace the graduated Blake Mann at quarterback.

The Wildcats have some players back from last year. However, Evansville Memorial returns 20 starters. Jasper coach Tony Lewis knows that’s a big number, but his players expect to win. The Tigers graduated Colton Pence at quarterback, with junior Caleb Ellspermann stepping in at the role full time this year. Lewis knows the Wildcats have to make him uncomfortable, and he cited their speed-based defense.

“We realize that we’re probably going to be the underdogs going into the game, and we like that,” Lewis said. “We like being the underdogs, and our kids are excited to go out and show what they’ve practiced for over the whole summer.”


2020 Record: 13-1

Opponent: At Linton-Stockton, 7:30 p.m.

Last Meeting: Southridge won, 28-0, Aug. 21, 2020

Series: Southridge leads, 7-0

1. Southridge will certainly have a different mix of players this year compared to the large senior class the Raiders graduated off of last year’s regional championship. However, Southridge coach Scott Buening noted this group plays hard and brings a lot to the table.

2. The Raiders scrimmaged Perry Central on Aug. 13, and Buening feels there’s a lot of things to clean up from the scrimmage. He believes his players are still thinking things instead of them becoming habits to them, but he pointed out that those things take time.

3. Southridge has never beaten Linton-Stockton, but the Miners, unlike the Raiders, return a lot of their group from last year. The Miners went 8-4 during the 2020 season, and made it all the way to the sectional championship game, losing to Evansville Mater Dei, 37-20.

4. “This Linton team will be one of the better teams we face this year, and it’s going to be a great test for us to see where we’re at here early in the season, and where we need to from here,” Buening said.

Forest Park

2020 Record: 6-4

Opponent: Versus Princeton, 7:30 p.m.

Last Year: Forest Park won, 20-7

Series: Forest Park leads, 3-0

1. Things have been going well for Forest Park these past couple of years. While the Rangers have yet to play in a sectional championship game, they went 6-5 in 2019 and 6-4 in 2020. Twelve seniors — a lot of experience — comprises this team.

2. Rangers coach Ross Fuhs has a good idea on Forest Park’s first-team players, but he’s also looking for those who can play at the varsity and level and trying to build the depth of this team.

3. When Fuhs looks at Princeton on film, he notices how fast the Tigers are. The Rangers will have to deal with junior twins Kaiden Ice and Kaleb Ice of Princeton, and noted that senior Colton Smith is a good blocker in the offense.

4. “I thought they blocked a lot better this year than last year,” Fuhs said. “They’re big, they average about 6’1, 250 across the board on their line. So, they got some really, really big guys that go foot-to-foot, and just make for you to get in there.”

Heritage Hills

Opponent: At Mt. Vernon, 8 p.m.

2020 Record: 4-6

Last Year: Mt. Vernon won, 24-14

Series: Heritage Hills leads, 13-6

1. It isn’t often that Heritage Hills suffers a losing season, but it did so last year after a large senior class helped the Patriots to state in 2019. Though the Pats did have a stretch of winning three out of four in 2020, they had their first losing season since 2013.

2. Pats coach Todd Wilkerson noted it’s been a great preseason for Heritage Hills, and has been pleased with the team’s options in the run game and also the things the defense showed in its Aug. 13 scrimmage at Jasper.

3. A lot of young players got experience for Heritage Hills last year. So, those players are back, but the Wildcats also return a lot of their players, too. He told The Herald they will be athletic, and seemingly have decent size and speed from watching their scrimmage on film.

4. “It’s going to be a true test,” Wilkerson said. “They definitely look like a team that’s putting it together, and we’ll have to go out there and play well to beat them. We’ll definitely show them respect, but we definitely want to come out and try to get a win.”

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