Patriots rout Titans in battle of top ranked teams

Photos by Sam Owens/Evansville Courier & Press
Following his 71-yard touchdown, Heritage Hills’ Cole Sigler (15) is embraced by teammate Mark Doyle (79) during Friday’s football game in Lincoln City. The Patriots defeated the Titans, 49-14.

Courier & Press

LINCOLN CITY — Whenever Heritage Hills and Gibson Southern meet on the gridiron, it tends to make headlines. But what if both of those teams are ranked in the Top 5 in the Class 3A Associated Press polls? Well, most of Indiana took notice of what was happening in “The Jungle” on Friday night.

After jumping out to a 21-0 halftime lead, the Patriots kept their foot on the gas in the second half for a statement 49-14 victory over the Titans. A game which even saw the running clock late in the fourth quarter — it’s safe to say no one saw that coming.

But even with a victory as important as this one, the Patriots are aware that the season is far from over. And while Heritage Hills will certainly be celebrating this weekend, the Pats know their work is far from over.

“We’ve been working hard all summer long and we’ve worked for this moment,” senior lineman Mark Doyle said. “But we’re still very hungry — we want that sectional title. We know we’re going to have a tough sectional, so we just have to keep pushing forward.”But even with a victory as important as this one, the Patriots are aware that the season is far from over. And while Heritage Hills will certainly be celebrating this weekend, the Pats know their work is far from over.

Heritage Hills head coach Todd Wilkerson added: “This is a great win, no doubt, but it’s still all about getting better. This win doesn’t do much for us after tonight.”

Of course, every team will search to find ways to better itself no matter the result. But it’s safe to say the Patriots played some of their best football of the season in the victory against the Titans.

As Wilkerson put it in the postgame speech, “Players make plays.” There was Cole Sigler, who rushed for 146 yards and had touchdown runs of 71 and 66 yards. His 66-yard score was key, as it came immediately after Gibson Southern started to make some momentum with a 16-yard pass from Brady Allen to Adam May that trimmed the lead to 21-7.

Sigler needed one play to dampen Gibson Southern’s momentum.

“How fast can you run?” asked Sigler, discussing what he thinks about when all he sees is clear space in front of him. “All I wanted to do was hit full speed and just outrun everybody.”

There was also Phoenix Rodgers, the senior running back who can bully defenses by just bulldozing his way through them. He finished with 133 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns. Oh, not to mention a key fumble recovery as well.

Rodgers knew the Patriots were going to rely on him and fellow senior Jacob Wetzel in the backfield to keep the Titans off-balance. Judging from the team’s 476 rushing yards, it appears as if they did their job.

“I know I needed to run the ball well alongside Jacob (Wetzel),” Rodgers said. “It was really good for us to be able to put a damper on their momentum right away. We knew we just had to keep putting up points.”

Of course, this game was also decided by Heritage Hills’ defense. Entering Friday’s game, the Titans averaged 49 points per game and hadn’t scored under 35 points yet this year.

The Patriots also forced four turnovers. Noah Mundy, Doyle and Sigler intercepted Allen, while Rodgers scooped up a fumble recovery.

The interception that was swiped by the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Doyle was a moment that he had been waiting for.

Gibson Southern’s Carter Green (10) wraps up Heritage Hills’ Jacob Wetzel (25), causing an incomplete pass as Gibson Southern’s Noah Bryant (15) unsuccessfully attempts to intercept the ball during Friday’s football game at Patriot Field in Lincoln City. Wetzel was injured on the play, and sat out the rest of the game.

“That was a great feeling,” Doyle said with a smile. “I saw the ball coming right at me, so I got up and was fortunate to get my hands on it. Then, I tried to just run a few yards — it was great.”

Wilkerson added: “These guys have done such a great job all year, and they just continue to make plays when they need to. I’m very proud of the defense, but they know we’ve got to keep going. We have a Southridge team coming in here that’s been to the state finals and semistate the past two years They know how to win.”

Next week’s contest between the Raiders and Patriots is a battle of the unbeatens, and will be a big deciding factor in who takes home the Pocket Athletic Conference title.

The Patriots are preparing for another physical, hard-fought battle just like the ones they’ve had with Southridge over the past few years.

“It’s going to be another war here at The Jungle,” Sigler said. “We have to get ready, refocus and prepare for battle.”

Of course, there’s a very real possibility the Titans and Patriots will battle once again. After Heritage Hills defeated Gibson Southern 31-7 in the regular season in 2018, the Titans got revenge by sending the Patriots home early with a 24-14 victory in the sectional semifinal.

All eyes will be on the draw for Sectional 32 on Oct. 13. Because, if history has taught the Patriots anything, the lesson is to never be satisfied.

“I think we know there’s a good chance that we could see these guys again,” Sigler said. “We know they’re a different team come playoff time. They’re only going to get a lot better, so we have to continue to get better and take it one week at a time.”

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