Semistate respect goes both ways

Jacob Wiegand/The Herald
Tucker Schank leads a Southrige offense that rumbles for 290 rushing yards per game and blasted Providence for nearly 400 yards on the ground in last week’s regional. The test gets more difficult this week as the Raiders head into the Class 2A semistate against Indianapolis Scecina. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis.


HUNTINGBURG — Another 48 minutes.

That is the goal which has been at the forefront of the minds of the Southridge Raiders for the last four weeks. Forget a sectional or even a regional title for one minute and consider the collision-filled, high-wire act that is postseason football. One loss and it’s over. Those are the parameters which Scott Buening and his team have found themselves operating under for the past four weeks.

“We’ve been playing for our football lives,” Buening said. “Each game provided the same opportunity: play next week or not play at all.”

That’s the goal the Class 2A No. 5 Raiders (11-2, 6-1) will be playing for when they travel to Indianapolis to face Class 2A No. 2 Indianapolis Scecina Memorial this Saturday afternoon in the semistate game played at Arsenal Technical High School: the right to extend their postseason run another 48 minutes.

It is easy to see the toll that these playoffs have taken in Buening’s eyes, which seem heavy with the weight of the postseason. But there is also excitement in his tone of voice when he talks about the challenge that his team rushes toward.

“This is what you coach for, it’s what you play for,” Buening said. “You do what you do because it’s awesome to see these guys get the opportunity to play in games like this. Kids who put the time in at practice (plus) the time in our youth program, coupled with the homework and everything else they’ve got to do. The only thing that’s better than that is to get to play in next week’s game.”

But in order to do that, the Raiders will have to move past the latest hurdle in their season. The Crusaders come into Saturday’s game boasting an eight-game winning streak, having last tasted defeat 38-7 at the hands of Class 5A power Roncalli way back in September.

Scecina runs a spread-out, passing-style offense that averages just better than 33 points a game behind junior quarterback Mac Ayres. He’s thrown for 2,444 passing yards and 27 touchdowns for the season.

But they are far from one-dimensional, as the stable of Crusader running backs, led by senior Cobie Dillard (566 yards, 8 TDs), have rushed collectively for 1,911 yards and 34 touchdowns.

“They are an exceptional football team. They have a lot of formations. They are able to run and pass the ball effectively, and they got some really good players doing it,” said Buening. “Defensively, they play fast. They’re not huge but they can really run, and they’re disciplined in the things that they do. There’s going to be a lot of challenges and hopefully we’ll provide them with some challenges, too.”

For all the talk about how good the Crusaders are, let us not forget that the Raiders don’t find themselves playing football this late in the season on accident.

This season for Southridge has been marked by a dominant rushing game which boasts two 1,000 yard rushers in junior running back Tucker Schank (1,188 yards, 26 TDs) and senior quarterback Jayce Harter (1,045 yards, 11 TDs) to go along with a talented collection of wingbacks, led by Colin Smith (675 yards). Southridge has produced 3,771 yards and 56 touchdowns on the ground.

The running is complimented by an opportunistic aerial attack anchored by Harter (1,465, 11 TDs) whose top target is senior Grant Maxey (645 yards, 6 TDs).

It is no wonder then why Scecina coach Ott Hurrle seems to be getting a little less sleep than he would like over these past few days.

“I’ve been scared to death every time I watch film on them,” Hurrle said. “That offense is extremely complicated to prepare for. Their quarterback and (Schank) are very good. Their wings are talented and dangerous. Their end is pretty good. They got a real solid team. So we’re going to have to give our best.

“It’s the best team we’ve played since Roncalli. I know we’re going to have to be at our very best Saturday to stay in the game.”

Hurrle will be relying on his big boys up front, just as he and the other coaches forecasted in the beginning of the season when they worked to develop four new starters, to set the tone for the Crusaders. He believes, for all the skill position talent the Crusaders possess, their offense would only go as far as their line would take them.

Hurrle said that prediction proved to be true over the course of the season, and will be the key factor Saturday.

“Every coach on our staff knew it was going to come down to our offensive line,” he said. “We knew we had some good skill kids, but if we didn’t have an offensive line those skill kids weren’t going to be able to do anything. We stressed to our linemen that they were the key to our success, and they’ve stepped it up.”

Buening thinks the talent on both teams cancels each other out to some extent, but when pressed to pick a major key for the Raiders to be successful, he points toward Scecina’s quarterback. He thinks the Raider pass defense will be the major element that dictates the outcome.

“In the passing game is where they make their money. That’s a matchup where we’re going to need to break even, not just with coverage but also the pass rush,” he said. “Try to constrict some passing lanes and at least make it tough for them to complete some passes. That will be a big factor for us defensively.”

But after talking about all the X’s and O’s that go into preparing for a game of this magnitude, Buening, as he so skillfully does, boiled down the team’s goal to one concise statement.

“We got to win one game, by one point, one time,” he said. “We got the team that can do it and we’re excited about it. We’re in this thing together. They’ve got another game they are very driven to win and get to that last step.”

That final 48 minutes.

Four Downs: One Win From State

Raiders @ Crusaders

Teams: Class 2A No. 5 Southridge (11-2) vs. Class 2A No. 2 Indianapolis Scecina (12-1), 2 p.m. Saturday, Wally Porter Field at Howard Longshore Stadium (Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis)

Series: Southridge won the only meeting, a 28-17 semistate victory in 2002 in Indy. 

1. Southridge has won double-digit games in a season nine times and eight have come in the last 19 years. The Raiders did it once under coach Bob Hawkins (1982), twice for coach Brad Hanner (1999, 2002) and three times each for coach Kelly Murphy (2006, 2007, 2008) and Scott Buening (2013, 2016, 2017). 

2. Southridge has forced 10 turnovers this postseason and gave up only 212 total yards last week to Providence. Jacob Masterson (Sr., DB) has six interceptions. The Raiders have had a player with at least six pickoffs in each of the last three seasons (Braden Hading last season and Mitchell Mundy in 2015). Kortland Hartke (Sr., LB) has forced three fumbles and he and Mitchell Carter (Sr., DL) both have a team-best four sacks. They’ll face a Scecina attack that throws 20 passes per game; so far this postseason, Southridge opponents have completed only 52 percent of their passes, been intercepted seven times and gained a modest 4.5 yards per rush. The Raiders have limited eight of their opponents, including three in the postseason, to one touchdown or fewer. The unit expects to get a boost with the return of Logan Seger (Jr., LB), who exited the regional victory with an injury. Seger has practiced this week and will play Saturday.

3. Jeovany Dubon (Jr., K) has 19 touchbacks among his 80 kickoffs. He’s missed six PATs this postseason after missing just four during the regular season. Chase Taylor (Fr., P) boomed punts for 35.6 yards per kick in the postseason. Until last week, he’d unleashed at least one punt of 41 or more yards in four consecutive games. 

4. Scecina has been to the state finals four times, winning Class 2A state titles in 1990 and 1991 and finishing second in Class 1A in 2011 and 2012. Each of those seasons came under coach Ott Hurrle, who has accumulated 186 victories in his 26 seasons at the Catholic school east of downtown Indy. Hurrle, a 1970 Scecina graduate, also spent time as the defensive coordinator at Butler. This year’s group is paced by Mac Ayres (Jr., QB), who throws for 188 yards per game with 27 TDs and 10 interceptions. He averages 15.6 yards per completion, with David Baker (Soph., WR) and Jack Wright (Sr., WR) combining for 24 TD catches. Baker leads the team with 54 receptions, Wright has 40 and Cobie Dillard (Sr., RB) has 29. Dillard has rushed for 566 yards and Andrew Lowery (Sr., RB/LB/P) adds 417. Lowery also has a team-best five interceptions, has returned a kickoff for a TD and averages 38.3 yards per punt. Tyshaun Woods (Soph., LB) is the top tackler and has seven sacks. Jordan Miles (Soph., DE) leads the team with eight sacks. Scecina’s loss was a 38-7 setback to Roncalli. Among their wins are Indianapolis Lutheran (still alive in Class 1A) and Indianapolis Ritter, which won the Class 2A state title last season. The Crusaders have scored 40 or more points seven times, including the 48-33 regional takedown of Western Boone.

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