Four Downs: Locals hope to win sectional openers

Photo by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Assistant coach Steve Rust and Southridge will look to keep the Raiders moving Friday in the sectional opener at Mount Vernon (Posey).

Here are the details about the sectional openers for our teams on Friday.

Bears at Wildcats

Teams: Evansville Central (9-0, 9-0) at Jasper (7-2, 7-2), 7:30 p.m., Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium

Series: Jasper leads, 12-6

Last Meeting: Evansville Central defeated Jasper, 24-17, Sept. 25 of this year.

1. Evansville Central has proven to be a roadblock for Jasper in recent memory. The Bears eliminated the Wildcats in the Nov. 1, 2019 sectional semifinal game, 27-16. They also handed the Wildcats their first of only two regular season losses, this year, 24-17, albeit that was the only single digit win the Bears had in the regular season.

2. Coaches, regardless of what sport, tend to want their teams to be performing their best going into the sectional, and Wildcats coach Tony Lewis likes he sees. Lewis thinks Jasper had a good jump off point in its 48-0 regular season finale Oct. 16 against Vincennes Lincoln. He believes the Wildcats are comfortable in what they're doing on both sides of the football.

3. The Bears reeled off a 35-0 win Oct. 16 against Evansville North to complete the program's first undefeated regular season since 2006. Central showcased a balanced rushing attack, as senior Javonte Madison, a player the Wildcats did not see Sept. 25, went for 125 yards and two scores against the Huskies, while Tory Evans ran for 111 yards, also on two touchdowns.

4. "Defensively, our kids have keys that they've got to watch, and their eyes can't come off of those keys because those keys will take you to the football," Lewis said. "And if you don't have your eyes on your keys, and instead your eyes are in the backfield, then you're going to get yourself in trouble."

Raiders at Wildcats

Teams: Southridge (9-0) at Mount Vernon (Posey, 5-2), 7:30 p.m.

Series: Southridge leads, 1-0

Last Meeting: Southridge defeated Mount Vernon, in the sectional opener, Oct. 25, 2019, 43-14

1. Southridge coach Scott Buening believes his players are playing well heading into the sectional, citing how well the Raiders have expanded their toolbox on both sides of the ball. He’s seen an improvement in continuity, and also noted the team has adapted and evolved to how others have defended them and how they defended others.

2. It’s been a historical season for the Raiders, who won the first-ever Pocket Athletic Conference Small School Division this year, and also completed their first-ever undefeated regular season. Buening feels the undefeated season has been a byproduct of the team’s improvement, selflessness and playing to win every week.

3. The Raiders will get a look at former assistant coach Luke Messmer, who is now Mount Vernon’s head coach. Buening hasn’t caught up with Messmer recently, but told of having a “tremendous relationship” with him, and has a lot of respect for what he’s done. He felt Messmer had the intangibles to be a good head coach, and has already done a great job with the Wildcats.

4. “Certainly he’s very familiar with us, but honestly, so are a lot of the other teams in the area that have had coaching staffs that have been around for a length of time,” Buening said. “I really don’t think it’s going to be a factor one way or another. I think it’s going to come down to how well each team plays, honestly.”

Warriors at Rangers

Teams: North Knox (5-2) at Forest Park (6-3), 7:00 p.m.

Series: Tied, 1-1

Last Meeting: North Knox eliminated Forest Park from the sectional semifinal, 25-0, Nov. 1, 2019

1. Forest Park coach Ross Fuhs thought his Rangers were playing their best ball of the season prior to the Oct. 16 game against Southridge. However, he wouldn't say that following the team's 38-0 loss to the Raiders. Fuhs thought Forest Park was neither very tough, nor very physical in that game. He felt the Rangers took a step backwards.

2. Fuhs believes his Rangers are battle tested going into this year's sectional. He thought the Southridge game in the final week of the season served as good preparation, and added that North Knox's offense is going to run a lot of the same stuff that Southridge ran. Fuhs said Forest Park must be able to tackle downhill and play through double teams.

3. The Rangers have never played in a sectional championship game before, and are two wins away from accomplishing one of their biggest goals of 2020. Fuhs pointed out that his players understand the Warriors present a big challenge, but the coaching staff has confidence in their players, and the biggest thing is them having confidence in themselves.

4. "I said (Oct. 16), 'We had a great season — 6-3, but everybody's 0-0 now and that this is a team that knocked you out of the sectional last year,'" Fuhs said. "'So, it should just be revenge. That should be on your minds all week long is finding a way to get revenge against these guys and knock them out of the tourney this year.'"

Titans at Patriots

Teams: Gibson Southern (6-3) at Heritage Hills (4-5), 8:00 p.m., the Jungle

Series: Heritage Hills leads Gibson Southern, 33-12.

1. Heritage Hills coach Todd Wilkerson thinks the Patriots are moving toward their best football going into the sectional. He cited the team's 42-12 win Oct. 16 at Princeton as one of their best games of the season in terms of execution. Wilkerson added this is also the most complete the Pats have been since their first week of the year.

2. Heritage Hills fell, 38-0, to Gibson Southern Sept. 25 during the regular season, but the Pats were also without many of their key starters. Senior quarterback Jacob Schmidt and defensive end Jordan Mitchell were out. The Pats didn't have juniors Evan Bowling, Owen Schaad or Caleb Fakes, either.

3. Senior Owen Bryant ran for 152 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns in the regular season game — with one of his touchdown runs being a 45-yarder. Wilkerson noted how huge Gibson's passing game is, and Bryant got going. The Pats will also look to keep the offense on the field to keep junior quarterback Brady Allen off it.

4. "That's our only shot," Wilkerson said. "We've been taking that approach against Gibson Southern probably ever since (Coach) Nick Hart got there. "He's had such a prolific offensive style and his teams have been so great offensively over the years that the best way to slow them is to possess the ball and be methodical on offense."

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