Patriots thump Raiders 42-7 in home finale

Southridge's Trevor Hunefeld attempts to tackle Heritage Hills' Cole Sigler during Friday's football game at Lincoln City. Heritage Hills defeated Southridge 42-7. Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald


LINCOLN CITY — Friday night’s game between the No. 7-ranked Southridge Raiders and the No. 3-ranked Heritage Hills Patriots had all the makings of a classic heavyweight showdown. Both teams came into the game undefeated, are committed to doing most of their damage up close and in the trenches, and the winner would have the inside track for this year’s Pocket Athletic Conference crown.

True to form, they each used their running game to hit big blows early, but the Patriots managed to come up with big plays and key takeaways in the second half as they rolled to a 42-7 win over the Raiders in their home finale at The Jungle.

Patriots coach Todd Wilkerson expected a long night against a Raiders team that he says plays hard and fundamentally sound football. The first half was tough sledding, but the Pats were able to make adjustments in the second half that allowed them to break the game open.

“We knew they’re a great football team, and we’d have to adjust to whatever they were doing to us,” he said. “We didn’t figure it out the first half. We figured out what we needed to do at halftime, and we made big plays.”

The first half was a stalemate for both squads. No one scored in the first quarter, though the Patriots (7-0, 5-0) took their chances with a 39-yard field goal attempt that had the leg, but veered off to the left. However, the Pats were able to cash in on their first possession of the second quarter following a 33-yard punt return by senior quarterback Cole Sigler. Heritage Hills used Sigler’s big return to drive down the field, and capped it off with an eight-yard touchdown run from senior fullback Phoenix Rodgers.

But the Raiders (6-1, 4-1) were able to respond in kind, as they got the benefit of a 53-yard kickoff return from senior running back Austin Kaeck to set them up with a short field. Southridge then used steady doses of senior fullback Cole Calvert and sophomore quarterback Carson Niehaus to drive into the red zone, which set up a 10-yard scoring connection between Niehaus and junior wide receiver Camden Gasser to tie the game with 3:24 left in the first half.

While the first half was an even tilt, the Patriots used the intermission to readjust their game plan. They noticed Southridge was focused on stopping them from bouncing their runs to the edges, so they countered by focusing their efforts on hitting the middle of the Raiders’ defense to great effect.

“We understand that people have to commit to one place or the other,” Wilkerson said. “They were really committing to the outside, and we were trying to run into the teeth of that in the first half. Once we softened them up and got them into some basic looks, we did what we needed to do.”

On their second possession of the third quarter, Sigler called his own number and rushed into the heart of the Raider defense. All he needed was to avoid two tacklers, and he was off to the races for a 35-yard scoring run.

That wasn’t the last time Sigler killed the Raiders with his feet. Niehaus was intercepted by senior defensive back Noah Mundy during Southridge’s next drive, and two plays later, Sigler took off up the middle once again. This time his trot took him 50 yards for the touchdown, and the 21-7 Pats’ lead.

But the Patriots had one more long ground score in them before the end of the third quarter. The Pats started their next drive on their own 31 yard line following a three and out from the Raiders. On the second play from scrimmage, Rodgers was able to find room up the middle, and rocketed into high gear for 67 yards and the third Patriots touchdown of the quarter.

“After I bounced off the tacke and the linebacker came up and hit me, I just kept powering through,” Rodgers said. “That last knee-drive got me through that tackle, and I kept running.”

The Patriots scored two more times before it was over. Sigler was able to connect on a 35-yard pass play to senior wide receiver Kaden Feldpausch with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter, and senior fullback Jacob Wetzel capped the Patriots final possession with one-yard score for the 42-7 final margin.

Sigler finished with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 10 carries. He also went 4 for 5 passing for 71 yards and another score. Wetzel had 94 yards and a touchdown on 17 rushes, and Rodgers totaled 84 yards and two touchdowns on six carries. Feldpausch had three catches for 72 yards and a score.

Niehaus went 3 for 8 passing with 14 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Calvert had 57 yards on 14 runs, and senior running back Brad Springer had 37 yards on six carries. Gasser had one catch for 10 yards and a touchdown.

“The first half we had some mistakes, we started off a little slow,” Sigler said. “The second half we made some adjustments and took off from there.”

Raiders coach Scott Buening didn’t think the final score really told the whole story of how well the defense played for Southridge. The difference was the three big plays his team normally doesn’t give up. But all the Raiders can do is go back to the film to correct their mistakes and look forward to finishing the last few games on a positive note.

“You evaluate how we played and prepared,” Buening said. “I was pleased with how our guys played tonight defensively. Offensively, we’re going to have to go back and evaluate some of the things we’re doing and figure out how we can better move the football.”

“[We’re] looking past this week, but remembering it, just keeping it in the back of our minds,” Calvert added. “We’ll be right back where we were.”

As for the Patriots, they are looking forward to finishing their last couple of games strong, but they won’t be satisfied with just another undefeated season. Southridge and Gibson Southern will be lurking in the Pats’ sectional bracket when the season is over, so they are committed to using every opportunity they can to move toward playing better football and becoming the best team they can be for the postseason.

“We just talked about getting better every week,” Wilkerson said. “Last year we went through the season undefeated and we got beat in sectional. This group isn’t going to be satisfied with that. Southridge and Gibson Southern are going to be better come sectional. We have to push ourselves to continue to get better.”

Southridge's Brad Springer runs the ball during Friday's football game at Lincoln City. Heritage Hills defeated Southridge 42-7. Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald

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