Four Downs: Sectional First Round

Here's a rundown of the football action for the first round of sectional.

Knights @ Wildcats

Teams: Northview (6-3) at Jasper (5-3), 8 p.m., Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium.

Series: Wildcats lead series 3-0.

Last meeting: Jasper defeated Northview 41-17 in the sectional first round in 2017.

1.) Despite a close loss to Indian Creek to end their season, the Northview Knights is bringing a heap of momentum into town for Friday’s sectional opener. The Knights are not only riding high off a 4-1 finish to the backend of their season, but they have also enjoyed an offensive surge that saw them score at least 40 points in each of their final four wins. However, the Wildcats’ defense hasn’t allowed over 20 points in their final four games, so something has got to give on Friday.

2.) Wildcats coach Tony Lewis says the Knights’ offense is predicated on the run, so they’ll be focused on getting junior running back Korbin Allen (1041 yds. rushing, 12 TDs) established early and often to set up bigger shots down the field. Junior quarterback Keegan Garrison also has nine scores on the ground to go with 11 through the air and uses rollouts to give his receivers time to move down the field. The defensive focus is on shutting down the edges to slow down the run, which should translate into a less effective passing game for the Knights

3.) Defensively the Knights are an aggressive bunch that likes to bring linebackers and safeties up on the edges for pressure in addition to more traditional blitz packages. Communication along the line to sync up blocking protections will be at a premium this week, but the Knights’ aggression could open up opportunities for misdirection plays and one-on-one matchups down the field for the Wildcats. 

4.) “We talked about having a sense of urgency in everything we do at practice,” said Lewis. “The kids have to be focused and locked in on what we’re trying to show them. If they want to continue on and hang out with their buddies a little bit longer, then we’ve got to have a sense of focus. We’ve got to understand that everything gets ramped up because it’s tournament time.”

Wildcats @ Raiders

Teams: Mt. Vernon (6-3) at Class 3A No. 10 Southridge (7-2), 7:30 p.m., Ranger Field.

Series: The two teams will meet for the first time on Friday.

1.) Southridge will open up sectional play facing the third team in as many weeks that likes to air out the football as their primary means of moving up and down the field. Mt. Vernon averaged a little under 236 yards passing during the regular season, and they’ll have the services of a pair of senior wideouts in Breckan Austin and Nick Curtis who’ve combined for over 1,500 yards and 14 TDs for the fall. Senior quarterback Rhett Snodgrass will also be looking to bounce back from his five picks he threw against Jasper last week. 

2.) The Raiders’ main defensive concern will lie in throwing off the rhythm of Mt. Vernon, as their offense relies on timing and repetition to be effective. Raiders coach Scott Buening says the team’s regular season finale against Gibson Southern taught them that they have to be varied in their defensive schemes, using a healthy bit of pressure to make Snodgrass hesitate while not leaving themselves too exposed to big plays on the backend of the field. 

3.) The Raiders will have to exercise great patience on offense in order to contend with the Wildcats’ defense. Mt. Vernon favors a three-man front which they’ll use to run stunts and blitz packages to clog up the middle of the field, exploiting their speed advantage to take some chances at plays in the backfield. Beuning thinks the biggest challenges will be adjusting to the different looks that Mt. Vernon will show and staying persistent in the face of the pressure.

4.) “When you get into tournament play, momentum and field position go a long way,” said Buening. “If you break even with the explosive plays and turnovers, then that third phase is special teams. That’s an area we’ve been pretty strong (at) this year, and I think that’s an area that’s going to play a key role in the game Friday.”

Marksmen @ Rangers

Teams: Tell City (5-4) at Forest Park (5-4), 7:30 p.m., Ranger Field.

Series: Rangers lead series at 7-6.

Last meeting: Rangers defeated the Marksmen 14-0 last week.

1.) It’s a blast from the recent past as Tell City travels to Ferdinand to face off against Forest Park for the second time in as many weeks. The Rangers were able to defeat the Marksmen last week thanks to big plays from senior running back Jake Begle, who had a touchdown on the ground and through the air in the last meeting.

2.) Rangers coach Ross Fuhs said that the win last week was a great confidence booster, but he has been warning his team not to use that as a reason to overlook the Marksmen. Though they won, the Rangers were outgained by the Marksmen in total offense (226 to 199 yards), and got the benefit of six turnovers that ended a few Tell City drives prematurely.

3.) Fuhs isn’t looking to make any huge adjustments doesn’t anticipate Tell City making any big changes ahead of next week’s game. Still, he and the coaches have been pouring over film making sure that they have keyed the defense in to any wrinkles that the Marksmen may try to use or any plays they haven’t used recently that they might pull to the front of the playbook for this week.

4.) “Everybody is 0-0 now,” said Fuhs “You can throw the records out the door. You can throw what happened last week out the door. This is a new week, so anything could happen. As well as we played last week, we have to play even better this week."

Patriots @ Panthers

Teams: Class 3A No. 2 Heritage Hills (9-0) at Corydon Central (2-7),  7:30 p.m.

Series: Corydon Central leads the series 1-0.

Last meeting: The Panthers defeated the Patriots 13-12 in the sectional final in 2011.

1.) Heritage Hills finished undefeated in the regular season for the second straight year with their 42-0 romp over South Spencer, and is certainly one of the favorites to advance out of their sectional cluster, a grouping which includes fellow top-ten ranked teams Gibson Southern and Southridge. Patriots coach Todd Wilkerson is proud of the team for the feat, but he is adamant that the team won’t rest until they win a sectional title.

2.) Corydon Central has won only two games all year, but in those wins they posted 40 and 43 points respectively, so they are capable of big plays should the Patriots defense underestimate their abilities. Wilkerson called them a pro-style team that favors the run, so their big keys will be to stay sound upfront and trust the secondary to win their one-on-one matchups when the Panthers try to stretch the field with play-action.

3.) The Patriots will have a bit of prior knowledge on the Panthers, as both teams scrimmaged with each other over the summer. But that was months ago and the only other information the coaches have are the couple of game films that are available to them. That said, the Pats haven’t seen anything too exoctic on the defensive end, as the young Panthers team seems to favor a more conservative approach geared toward keeping everything in front of them. 

4.) “Our message the entire year is getting better every week,” said Wilkerson. “Sooner or later you get to that point where the next week isn’t guaranteed. So you can’t do it all in one week, you have to continue gradually getting better through the whole year and hope to be peaking at the end of the year.”


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