Raiders ‘a force’ in regional title routNovember 11, 2017
By COLIN LIKAS
HUNTINGBURG — Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” serenaded the Class 2A No. 5 Southridge football team and its supporters Friday as the squad huddled following a regional championship game against Providence. After a brief discussion with coach Scott Buening, the Raiders and their rooters could begin celebrating a 47-7 victory in earnest.
There were plenty of photos to be taken, of course. A team winning its first regional crown in 10 years and fifth in school history is a moment worth capturing.
That’s when the 32-degree night began to set in, as the once-active athletes were now sitting still in the chill. And so, when the last image had been snapped, the Raiders sprinted off their home field and to the locker room. Music quickly flowed from the doors. The celebration was on once more — in warmer climes.
“Honestly, you don’t really even think about it,” Grant Maxey, a Southridge senior receiver/cornerback, said of the weather. “Despite being able to see your breath and wearing all those layers of clothing, it’s just, you’re warm. You’re out there moving around. It’s nice.”
The Raiders (11-2) earned the right to party like it was 2007 after thrashing the Pioneers (7-6) on defense and continually cashing in on offense.
“We’re ecstatic,” Buening said. “I told the guys, you really got to appreciate what you get. And to come out here and have a decisive win and take control of it early on, guys had a purpose, they knew what they wanted to do and by god they put their money where their mouth was.”
It all started with senior quarterback/safety Jayce Harter intercepting Providence junior playcaller Joe Denis on the game’s third play. Southridge needed just a trio of rushes from junior Tucker Schank, the last from 3 yards out, to go up 6-0 in the opening minutes.
Buening said the game’s start reminded him of the sectional semifinal against Linton, when the Raiders recorded an early interception as well. In that moment, however, Southridge was kept from the end zone on its next drive.
“This week we punched it in,” he said. “We just kind of got on a roll. Things were clicking. It was a great start.”
The Pioneers could get little going offensively in the opening half, recording just two first downs across 24 minutes. The Raiders, meanwhile, kept pounding the ball on the ground and using an occasional clutch pass to keep drives going.
Southridge utilized 11 athletes in the backfield to procure 396 rushing yards. All seven Raider touchdowns came via the ground game — Schank complemented his early score with plunges of 2 and 7 yards, Harter had touchdown runs of 1 and 15 yards, sophomore Brad Springer had a 2-yard jaunt and freshman Colson Montgomery broke off an 84-yard sprint to cap the scoring.
Buening said the Raiders’ game plan did not change as a result of cold conditions, adding he felt his team could do whatever it needed to offensively to come out victorious.
“We’ve got a lot of depth at those positions, and we’ve got a lot of guys that can step in and play,” he said. “To share the ball around as much as we did tonight and to get all different aspects of the run game going (was great).”
But Southridge wouldn’t have been consistently attacking Providence without the Raider defense’s stellar performance.
After Harter’s pick, Southridge forced a pair of three-and-outs and a turnover on downs in the first half alone. A 33-0 halftime lead did nothing to slow the Raider defenders, who came up with an interception, two sacks and two turnovers on downs over the final two periods.
“All my buddies, we all worked hard,” said senior linebacker Justin Lammers, who notched one of the two Raider sacks. “Everybody was doing their job, people were making big plays. It was awesome.”
Lammers said his hit on Denis created an “indescribable feeling” on a night when Southridge was keying in on Pioneer junior running back Kaden Williams, who notched Providence’s only points with a late fourth-quarter run.
“We knew that (Williams) was going to be really good, (that) he was going to be fast on the outside, going to be explosive,” Lammers said. “So we had to contain him.”
Williams compiled 120 ground yards, but a majority of that came with the game out of reach and Southridge turning to backup players.
It wasn’t just Lammers firing up the defense, though. Senior linebacker Kortland Hartke also had a sack, while senior defensive back Justin Masterson corralled an interception and Maxey continually knocked down pass attempts toward the end zone.
The group’s biggest moments came as Providence was trying to bust the shutout in the second half. Twice over the last 24 minutes, the Pioneers started a drive inside the Raider 30-yard line. Both times saw Providence come away with no points.
“I thought we performed really well,” Maxey said. “We were lockdown most of the night. I think we shut down some of their best players. As a unit, we were a force to be reckoned with.”
Buening said a concern coming into the contest was how his defensive line would hold up against Williams and Co.
The answer: impressively well.
“We got them out of what they wanted to do. They’re a power run team. They wanted to line up and try and run the ball down your throat,” Buening said. “I’ve got to tip my hat to these guys. Very disciplined, great communication across the board. That was a total team effort defensively.”
Southridge will hope its bumps and bruises — junior Logan Seger was on crutches after the game with what Buening called a sprained ankle, while Masterson and senior Colin Smith both briefly left the game with injuries — will heal in time for a semistate bout with 2A No. 2 Indianapolis Scecina (12-1). The Crusaders staved off Western Boone 48-33 on Friday for their first regional trophy since 2012 and seventh overall.
The Raiders and Crusaders have met at the semistate level before, with Southridge posting a 28-17 victory in 2002.
“We’re excited about it,” Buening said of the matchup. “We’re looking forward to going back to work. It’s a great week to be back to work.”
Maxey and the team’s other 11 seniors are ready for another moment in the postseason spotlight.
“That’ll be neat,” Maxey said of traveling to Indianapolis next week for the matchup. “That’s a big deal for us, especially. I’ve always dreamed this day would come, and here it is. The opportunity is here, we’ve just got to go get it.”
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