Four Downs: Locals see tough sectional challenges

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Class 4A-No. 3 Jasper will be taking on another top 10 team in No. 9 Northview on Friday. 

By Herald Staff

Here's the lowdown on the first round sectional games our teams will be playing in this week. 

Knights at Wildcats

Teams: Northview (7-1) at Jasper (9-0), Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

Last Meeting: Jasper prevailed, 35-28, Oct. 25-2019

1. This sectional is loaded. It features Class 4A-No. 3 Jasper, its first round opponent — No. 9 Northview and also No. 8 Evansville Memorial. Only one of these teams can get out of the sectional, and there’s no guarantee any of them will. Wildcats coach Tony Lewis also noted that teams like Evansville Reitz don’t have as good of a record, but competed with teams like Jasper and non-sectional opponent Evansville Mater Dei.

2. Lewis knows the Wildcats will have to stop the run game. The Knights use sophomore Imer Holman and senior Donavin Cherry as primary for backs for them, and senior Dillon White can also run the ball. Jasper will also have to account for senior receivers Easton Morgan and Vincent Bonomo in Friday’s Sectional 24 opener.

3. He wasn’t happy with his team’s effort in the first half Oct. 8 against Evansville North, and Jasper didn’t have some things go its way early on Oct. 15 at Vincennes Lincoln. The third-year Wildcats coach knows that can’t happen against the Knight. He believes the most important thing is that his players come ready to play, that they’re locked in on what they’re job is entering that locker room and hour-and-a-half before game time.

4. “We’ve got to play 48 minutes. “Lewis said. “The games that we’ve played 48 minutes from kickoff to the end horn, we’ve done really well. Now, we’ve had games where we come out slow, we’ve had games where we finish a half slow, but if we play 48 minutes hard, then we’ll take our chances and let the chips fall where they may.”

Lions at Raiders

Teams: Salem (5-2) at Southridge, 7 p.m., Raider Field

Last Meeting: Southridge topped Salem in the sectional championship game, 35-7, Nov. 6, 2020

1. Southridge coach Scott Buening has been seeking consistency out of his players, and he’s hoping the Raiders achieve it soon, because he knows Salem will provide a challenge if they don’t. He still thinks there’s a lot of work to do in that area — which is not from a lack of effort or lack of caring, and there are still some good things while trying to find said consistency.

2. One thing that Buening believes has gotten more consistent is the passing game — which has provided some big, important plays for the Raiders. He feels the run game has had some explosive plays, while the defense has been good especially against the run. Sometimes, though, the Raiders might see issues with a blocking assignment or staying with a block. Buening noted they don’t have a large room for error with some things.

3. The Raiders topped the Lions in last year’s sectional championship game. Salem has shut out four opponents this season, and Buening knew after last year’s sectional championship victory that the Lions were going to be good this season. The Lions remind Southridge of a team like Linton-Stockton or Heritage Hills, and Buening added that Salem is balanced and throws the ball pretty well.

4, “How much last year plays into it, I really don’t know if that does or not,” Buening said. "We’re a totally different team, but I think anytime you talk tournament and you talk a team that’s very experienced with a lot of seniors, everybody at this point is desperate to continue playing. And I think that and execution and performance is really going to be what determines who comes out of this thing Friday.”

Rangers at Wildcats

Teams: Forest Park (3-6) at Evansville Mater Dei (7-2), Reitz Bowl, 7:30 p.m.

Last Meeting: Forest Park took a 55-14, Oct. 27, 2017

1. Forest Park had a losing record in the regular season, but with the nature of the postseason, some teams, regardless of the sport, can overcome a losing record in the regular season and have playoff success. Coach Ross Fuhs noted his Rangers have confidence and good attitudes. They still work hard and believes in themselves and in one another.

2. Forest Park will have to try to upset Evansville Mater Dei to avoid its second year in a row of exiting in the opening round of the sectional. The Rangers have never gotten to the sectional championship game, though Fuhs thinks this team could have three or more wins than they currently do. Some big plays, however, have just been costly to the team throughout the season.

3. Fuhs believes the Wildcats have the edge in the fact that they’re bigger when it comes to height and height, but he thinks the Rangers have the advantage with speed. They’ll have to account for junior quarterback Mason Wunderlich and fellow junior Joey Pierre at running back. Fuhs said Forest Park will have to stunt more, and maybe blitz more. However, one thing that has been a challenge this season is tackling.

4. “Matchup wise, they’re going to be a little bigger as far as height and size-wise, weight-wise, but I do think we have an advantage with speed,” Fuhs said. “I think this week, we have to be able to stunt a little bit more, maybe blitz a little bit more than we have in the past, but just like every week, it’s important. When we do get home, we’ve got to tackle.

Cougars at Patriots

Teams: North Harrison (4-5) at Heritage Hills (7-2), The Jungle, 7:30 p.m.

Last Meeting: Heritage Hills won, 49-7, Oct. 22, 2010

1. Playing in the sectional championship game is a realistic possibility for Heritage Hills. The Patriots are the only team on their side of the bracket in Sectional 32 to have a winning record. They’re taking on North Harrison this week, and if they win, would meet with a currently winless Corydon Central team or an Evansville Bosse squad that stands at 2-7.

2. Heritage Hills’ defense posted four shutouts during the regular season, and Pats coach Todd Wilkerson thinks he’s happiest with their front seven. Sophomore Braydon Durham has a team-best 79 tackles, while praising senior defensive linemen Evan Bowling for making things difficult on offensive linemen all year.

3. North Harrison may have had a losing record in the regular season, but Heritage Hills will have to account for junior running back Sawyer Wetzel. Wetzel ran for 164 yards and a touchdown, plus three catches for 31 yards and a receiving touchdown in his team’s 27-24 Oct. 1 loss to Silver Creek. He also rushed for three touchdowns in the first half in the 28-6 win Oct. 15 at Providence.

4. “He’s a big back and he does a great job, has great vision,” Wilkerson said of Wetzel. “I feel like he gets down hill and he does a nice job of cutting back against the flow of the defense, and once he gets a crease, he runs hard and he’s difficult to bring down."

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