Four Downs: Kickoff is here

Herald File Photo
Senior Lance Dawkins and Jasper will open the season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against defending Class 4A state champion Evansville Memorial.

Here’s a look ahead to the return of Friday Night Lights for our local teams.

Tigers @ Wildcats

Teams: Evansville Memorial (0-0) at Jasper (0-0), 7:30 p.m., Alumni Stadium.

Series: Jasper leads, 24-20

Last season: Evansville Memorial won, 35-20, Aug. 23, 2019

1. The Wildcats will open their season against the Tigers for the 24th season in a row. Evansville Memorial won its second state championship in the last three seasons in 2019, and did so in its first season moving to Class 4A. Multiple polls have Memorial atop the Class 4A rankings heading into the season.

2. Second-year Wildcats coach Tony Lewis told the Herald on Tuesday that Saturday’s annual scrimmage went more smoothly for the team than last year’s did. He believes his players know what to expect on offense and defense, and that they played better this year. Lewis is hoping both the offensive and defensive line will come off the ball low and hard.

3. The Wildcats will be dealing with a formidable Tigers quarterback in senior Colton Pence, who tossed 24 touchdowns to complement his 2,137 passing yards in 2019. Such numbers helped him earn a First-Team All State selection in Class 4A. He threw for two touchdowns and 110 yards at Jasper’s expense last year. Lewis knows how important it is for the Wildcats to get pressure on him, be it with a blizter or a four-down lineman.

4. “They do a great job of running what we call funnel screens to the sidelines and letting our defensive linemen come upfield,” Lewis said. “And our defensive linemen last year did a poor job of redirecting and getting flat down the line of scrimmage to be in and help on those screens. We did not  do a good job of being prepared for that. I think that will be a key this year is being able to play Memorial’s various screens.”

Miners @ Raiders

Teams: Linton-Stockton (0-0) at Southridge (0-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday,  Raider Field.

Series: Southridge leads, 6-0

Last season: Southridge won, 28-20, Aug. 23

1. Southridge coach Scott Buening liked what he saw in his team’s Saturday scrimmage against Perry Central. He liked the Raiders’ enthusiasm in how hard they played and how excited they were. Buening is hoping the Raiders work on their timing, and added that Southridge is still trying to work on some depth, but he felt the scrimmage was an overall success.

2. Buening knows the challenge Linton-Stockton presents as a hard-nosed, physical football team. He told the Herald on Wednesday that one comment that went around after watching the Miners on film was that they’re a difficult football team. The Raiders handed them their only regular season loss last year, 28-20. Southridge has opened against Linton-Stockton each of the past three seasons, with two of those wins, including during the Class 2A state championship season, being a 17-16 win.

3. He noted the Miners have good, strong players upfront, and good athletes at their skill positions. Buening added that Linton-Stockton has a scheme that puts a lot of pressure on the opponent with the ability to come at the opposition and push the ball down the field. He knows the Raiders must play good, team defense that starts with the linemen and finishes with effort.

4. “Two things — and I think these two things really determine the winner each year, and that’s turnovers and big plays,” Buening said. “Explosive plays we consider 25-yard plays one way or another, and I think between turnovers and those, generally the team that wins the turnover battle and wins the explosive play battle, I really think that’s the team that’s going to win Friday — especially with not being able to have some of the time we had this summer this year, I think turnovers are going to be a big deal.”

Rangers @ Tigers

Teams: Forest Park (0-0) at Princeton (0-0), 7:30 p.m.

Last Meeting: Forest Park defeated Princeton, 41-19, Aug. 23, 2009

Series: Forest Park leads, 2-0

1. This will be the first time ninth-year coach Ross Fuhs will be getting a look against Princeton, who joined the Pocket Athletic Conference in an expansion this year. Last year, the Tigers boasted only one regular season win, but flipped a switch in the sectional round, making it to the sectional championship before falling, 34-21, to Vincennes Lincoln.

2. Fuhs thought his players ran the ball well in their Saturday scrimmage against Paoli. It’s now just a matter of communication. He thought the effort was good and the Rangers knew where to go, but not always whom to block. The team is emphasizing a need for their backs and ends to talk when they get to the line in practice this week. Fuhs noted Princeton has some size on the offensive and defensive line, but is hoping Forest Park can overcome that with its quickness.

3. He liked the decision making junior quarterback Cooper Uebelhor showed in the scrimmage against the Rams. Fuhs noted that Uebelhor found the end zone and made good passes rolling out. He also thinks senior Jake Begle has adjusted well in going from wing back to fullback, citing how well Begle has known the offense from before. Fuhs added it’s a work in progress because the Rangers missed the whole month of June, but his backs are more comfortable with the motions and reads they have to make.

4. “It’ll be just interesting to play somebody different, somebody new,” Fuhs said. “Like I said, just watching them on film, they have some really big guys on their line, and some really athletic guys on the outside. So, it’s going to be a week where we just have to be really, really disciplined and do the little things right.”

Wildcats at Patriots

Teams: Mt. Vernon (0-0) at Heritage Hills (0-0), 8:00 p.m., the Jungle

Series: Heritage Hills leads, 13-5

Last year: Heritage Hills defeated Mt. Vernon, 36-0

1. Heritage Hills coach Todd Wilkerson thought the Patriots ran the ball well in their scrimmage on Saturday against Jasper. They didn’t show much and just ran their base plays, but he was pleased with how well they ran it. He liked the way junior Evan Bowling looked at the fullback slot. Fellow junior Owen Schaad isn’t big, but runs hard for his size, while another junior, Luke Rickelman, is going through an adjustment in switching from quarterback to running back.

2. Speaking of quarterbacks, Wilkerson thought senior Jacob Schmidt did a decent job in the scrimmage. The run-heavy Pats didn’t pass much, but Wilkerson wants Schmidt to know what his check down options are on pass plays and what to do when his receivers are not open. He lauded Schmidt for having a nice scramble in the scrimmage, and added he has been looking good in practice.

3. Heritage Hills has gone hard with the tackling drills in practice this week, since Wilkerson thinks the Pats can do a better job of tackling and pursuing. It won’t be easy preparing for a Wildcats team with a new coach in Luke Messmer. If that name sounds familiar to some, he was previously an assistant at Southridge. Wilkerson noted that Mt. Vernon’s ran Southridge’s offense during its scrimmage when looking at it on film.

4. “It’s good that we are familiar with the Southridge offense, but we don’t know if 100 percent that that’s what they’re going to come out and run exactly like Southridge runs it,” Wilkerson said. “So, I think it’s good that we’ve seen some film. We kind of have an idea of what we think they might do, but again, that first week, you don’t know, but that familiarity is good.”

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