Four Downs: Week 9

Here's a rundown of the football action for the final week of the regular season.

Wildcats @ Wildcats

Teams: Mt. Vernon (6-2, 4-0) at Jasper (4-3, 4-0), 8 p.m., Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium.

Series: Jasper leads the series 61-2.

Last meeting: Jasper defeated Mt. Vernon 55-19 in last year’s regular season finale.

1 Friday’s showdown between Jasper and Mt. Vernon will determine which team earns the last-ever Big Eight Conference championship. Both teams have put on strong cases as Mt. Vernon hasn’t tasted defeat since its loss to Mt. Carmel on Sept. 6, and Jasper, after dropping three of its first four games, seems to have righted itself with three wins in a row for a shot at the Wildcats' 24th overall conference title, and the first in four seasons.

2 Wildcats coach Tony Lewis credits his team with honing in on the details of the game, which, in turn, has allowed the team to find that consistent success that eluded them in the first half of the season. He also points to the balanced effort in spreading around the touches on offense, as the Wildcats boast three ball carriers in Elliot Hopf (332 yards), Lance Dawkins (289 yards) and Blake Mann (224 yards) with at least 200 rushing yards for the season.

3 Mount Vernon will bring in a dynamic offense that has averaged 344 yards and 35 points in its previous eight games. The Posey Countians have eclipsed 40 points twice so far this year, and threatened a 50-point outing in their game against Washington, so the Jasper defense is certain to have its hands full on Friday. Lewis says it will take a combination of tight coverages and measured pressure on senior QB Rhett Snodgrass (1,887 yards, 16 TDs) to contain the Mount Vernon screen game, which it has used to great effect so far this season.

4 “They’re so good at their screen game, you cannot get up field as a defensive lineman or a linebacker,” Lewis explained. “If you’re trying to take away their run game and make them pass, the thing that can leave us vulnerable is if we bring too much pressure and they get the ball out on a screen and we don’t tackle them in space, they’re gone. So we’ve got to do a good job of mixing up our coverages and tackling in space.”

Titans @ Raiders

Teams: Class 3A No. 7 Gibson Southern (6-2, 5-1) at Class 3A No. 9 Southridge (7-1, 5-1), 7:30 p.m., Raider Field.

Series: Southridge leads the series 20-13.

Last meeting: Gibson Southern defeated Southridge 31-14.

1 Raiders coach Scott Buening says that while most people associate Gibson Southern with a dominant passing attack, he is most impressed with the Titans’ ability and willingness to implement balanced offensive game plans that make it challenging for defenses to identify their point of attack. Last week, the Titans ran 61 plays against Tell City, which was split into 30 rushing attempts for 186 yards with two touchdowns, and 31 pass attempts for 256 yards with three more scores.

2 Sophomore quarterback Brady Allen, who has fielded scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Indiana and Virginia Tech, has been lighting it up to the tune of 2,053 passing yards and 25 touchdowns through the air. Buening says it’s going to take a combination of pressure on Allen along with corraling the receivers on the edge to give Southridge the chance to put enough points on the board.

3 After dealing with a setback against Heritage Hills, Southridge got back on its horse with a 70-point outburst against Pike Central last week. The Raiders, while not the flashiest team, have proven they can score in a hurry when they get into their offensive rhythm. So far, the Raiders have averaged almost 340 yards of offense and just under 38 points in eight games this season. Finishing drives will be of the utmost importance, as Buening says Gibson is “not a team you’re going to beat 3-0.”

4 “We've got to figure out ways not to bend so much,” Buening said. “It’s not just keeping the teams out of the endzone, it’s also about giving us good field position so our playbook is a little more open.”

Rangers @ Marksmen

Teams: Forest Park (4-4, 2-4) at Tell City (5-3, 3-3) 7:30 p.m., Legion Field.

Series: Series tied at 6-6.

Last meeting: Tell City defeated Forest Park 28-0.

1 For the second time in the program’s history, Forest Park will be getting a preview of the postseason, as the Rangers play Tell City both in their final regular-season game and in the first round of sectional. The last time this happened was during the 2010 season when the Rangers beat the Marksmen 28-7 in the regular-season finale, then turned around and beat them again 42-27 in sectional.

2 Rangers coach Ross Fuhs thinks last week’s game against Heritage Hills provided a good look at what to expect from the Marksmen, who run a similar style of offense. He expects to see a lot of runs from their senior fullback Mitchell Foster (448 yards, 5 TDs) and a lot of option plays between sophomore quarterback Aden Dodson and the wings. At the same time, he also wants his boys to be wary of the big play, as the Marksmen will try to air it out if they can lull the Rangers to sleep with their run game.

3 Fuhs has a key term he wants his defense to be mindful of for Friday: Responsibility football. He says that when it comes to playing teams that run misdirection and option offenses, it is imperative defenders stick to their assignments instead of overcommitting to making a play and leaving their backs exposed. The defense is going to have to know each man’s responsibilities on a given play and stick with it, even if that means they don’t get the shot at the ball carrier.

4 “One of our goals at the beginning of the year was to be over .500 and have a winning season,” Fuhs said. “It would be huge to be able to hit that goal. With playing Tell City this week and then playing them again next week in sectional, it could be a confidence thing for our players."

Patriots @ Rebels

Teams: Class 3A No. 3 Heritage Hills (8-0, 6-0) at South Spencer (1-5, 1-7),  8 p.m.

Series: Heritage Hills leads 36-12.

Last meeting: Heritage Hills blanked South Spencer 76-0 last season.

1 One final team stands in the way of a second straight undefeated season for Heritage Hills: the South Spencer Rebels. Fortunately, this is a matchup the Patriots have gotten the better end of in recent years; their last loss to the Rebels came in 2013, which was Todd Wilkerson’s second year at the helm of the program.

2 The Patriots are having another banner year on offense, averaging 44 points per game. Conversely, the Rebels have had their challenges on defense, allowing an average of 36 points per game, plus giving up more than 50 points twice this season.

3 For all of their spark on the offensive end, the Patriots have proven to be just as effective on the defensive side of the ball. No team, including powerhouse programs such as Gibson Southern or Southridge, have scored more than 14 points against Heritage Hills, and the Pats have also generated 21 takeaways (18 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries) from their opponents this season. Senior QB/S Cole Sigler leads the team with five picks.

4 “I’m very proud of these kids for doing what they needed to do so far this year,” Wilkerson said on the prospect of a second straight undefeated regular season. “If we were to do that, that would be a big deal. But they were here last year. They understand we really want to compete in our sectional.”

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