Sectional matchups present teams with variety

From Herald Staff Reports

Sunday’s prep football sectional draw was a grab bag for the four local programs.

Everyone came away with a little something different for their first-round matchups.

Jasper got a matchup against a familiar foe. Southridge got a challenge in facing Class 2A’s second-ranked team. Forest Park got a week off. And Heritage Hills, not surprisingly, got another bus trip.

In Class 4A, third-ranked Jasper (8-0) will entertain Boonville (3-5) at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium when sectional play kicks off with first-round games Friday, Oct. 19.

The Wildcats hammered the Pioneers 49-0 when the Big Eight Conference opponents met Aug. 31 in Jasper, but as far as Wildcat coach Tony Ahrens is concerned, there’s no such thing as an assured win when facing a team for a second time. For proof, he brought up the 2004 season, when Jasper bounced Boonville 41-21 in the regular season before the Pioneers surprised the Cats 11-8 in the sectional championship.

“We did that with Boonville, we played them once and beat them, and then the second time we got beat in the sectional game,” Ahrens said. “That, of course, will be brought up.”

Still, Ahrens can’t deny the opportunity that’s in place with the other top sectional threats, Evansville Reitz (5-3) and Evansville Central (6-2), stationed on the other half of the draw.

“You take two teams like Reitz and Central and put them in the other bracket, they’re going to knock themselves off,” Ahrens said. “It’s a solid bracket for us.”

Southridge’s challenge, meanwhile, arrives immediately this year.

In the opening round of Class 2A, the Raiders (5-3) will host No. 2 Evansville Mater Dei (7-1), the team that’s ended their season in the sectional championship the last two years. It will be the fifth sectional clash between the Raiders and Wildcats in coach Kelly Murphy’s eight years.

“It’s at home, but we’ve got mixed reactions. I mean, you go from ‘Oh man, look at that,’ because if we were fortunate enough to beat (Evansville) Mater Dei at home, we’d have to go to North Posey,” Murphy said.

“If you want to advance, it doesn’t matter if you play the top team in the state in the first round, the second round or the third round. You have to beat them to win the sectional. I know that’s a little cliché, and I hate to be that way, but it’s the truth.”

On the other half of the 2A bracket, Forest Park drew a first-round bye. The Rangers (1-7) will travel in the semifinals, battling the winner of South Spencer (3-5) and Sullivan (6-2).

“It actually worked out pretty well for us,” Forest Park coach Ross Fuhs said.

The Rangers played the Rebels on Sept. 28, losing 47-10 at Reo. Concerning Sullivan, Fuhs doesn’t know much — the Rangers have never played the Golden Arrows. One of Fuhs’ former teammates at Southridge, Nathan Hopf, is an assistant coach at Northview — a team Sullivan beat this season — so Fuhs expects to get in touch with him.

Fuhs’ message to the Rangers this week will be simple: The postseason alignment worked out well, but don’t focus on it until next week.

“We’ve got to get better and improve ... try to get some momentum from that game and take it into sectional,” Fuhs said. “We’re in a good situation. We have an extra week of practice, that will be a good thing.”

In Class 3A, Heritage Hills is assured of a matchup against a team the Patriots have never faced.

The Patriots (4-4) will trek to Brownstown Central (7-1) in the first meeting between the power programs. Heritage Hills will play its sectional opener on the road for the eighth time in the last 10 years. And considering the Patriots also play just four regular-season games at homes this season, coach Todd Wilkerson said “going on the road is something we’re used to.”

The Pats also might find some familiarity with the Braves when comparing them to a rival close to home.

“I think they play a similar offense as Southridge does, the Wing-T with a lot of that motion and people crisscrossing in the backfield,” Wilkerson said. “If they are similar to Southridge, that’s something we have experience with, so that will help us.”

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