Southridge falls in semi-stateNovember 20, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
HUNTINGBURG — Southridge's unprecedented 2020 run came to an end Friday night.
The Raiders (13-1) found themselves outsized this year, not knowing when their last game might be due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Week after week, however, they pulled through - attaining their first undefeated regular season in history and a regional championship. Three seniors: Chase Taylor, Camden Gasser and Matt Springer, ran for more than 1,000 yards.
Southridge finished its season on Friday in a loss to Danville in the Class 3A semi-state, one game away from the big stage, 30-7. The Warriors will play defending champion Bishop Chatard in the state championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
An emotional Scott Buening addressed his players on their field one last time in his eighth season as the coach. He had to wipe his eyes in the huddle with his players, still choked up when speaking to the Herald Friday evening.
"Obviously, we wanted to find a way to get one more tonight," Buening said. "Danville, that's a tremendous football team, and we knew we were going to be in for a dog fight tonight, and we were going to need some things to go right. But I couldn't be happier for these kids. They did it the right way and there was no short cuts in this process. I'm just really going to miss our seniors."
Danville's size and athleticism proved to be an obstacle for the Raiders, who had a tough time bringing the Warriors down. They got on the board first when junior quarterback Kale Payne found a wide open Jacob Comber in the end zone for a Danville score with 2:15 left to play in the first quarter. Senior Braden Walliser kicked the point after, and the Raiders trailed, 7-0.
Things got tougher for Southridge when Taylor was down several minutes after a tackle with 1:45 left to play. Nobody uttered a noise at Raider Field when Taylor was down. He initially was helped off, but the cheers became louder as he eventually walked on his own accord. Junior Carson Niehaus relieved Taylor while the latter was on the sidelines.
Niehaus led Southridge to tie the game, first handing it off to senior Matt Springer on a fourth down and one play. The Warriors committed an offside penalty and senior Parker Kippenbrock ran the Raiders into the red zone. Niehaus scored on a keeper and senior Jaylon Leon tied it with the extra point with 11:08 to go in the opening half.
However, that was the closest the Raiders would get, having never led. Danville capitalized off of some Southridge mistakes to score on the very next possession. Southridge senior Gabe Wilkey dropped an interception that he could've run back all the way.
The Warriors went for it on fourth down, and senior Ethan Dutra converted for them. Senior Luke Wooten caught long pass after two reverses in the backfield that threw the Raider defenders off guards. Dutra scored in the red zone for the Warriors on a seven-yard run with 7:53 left.
Taylor would return with under seven minutes to go in the first half, but could not drive his team down the field, and Southridge found itself in a further hole when junior Tyler Dostin caught a pass from Payne that he ran all the way for 64 yards at the 4:47 point. Walliser missed the point after, but the Raiders still looked at a 20-7 deficit in the second quarter, and that would be the score going into the locker room at the half.
"It was quite a challenge," Buening said of Danville's size. "We've held up throughout the year, and just as we've gotten deeper and deeper, it just gets tougher and tougher. You start to see a combination of a big, strong line and balanced offenses, and really didn't have anything that we could cheat. And that's a credit to their coaching staff and what they do."
The Raiders received the ball to begin the second half but Kippenbrock fumbled with only 17 seconds into the third quarter, and the Warriors recovered - taking over in the red zone. However, Southridge held Danville to just a 26-yard field goal, and trailed, 23-7, with 9:33 to go in the half.
Dutra tacked onto the lead with an eight-yard touchdown run with 2:29 left to play in the third, and Walliser's kick was good to bring the game to its final score. Dutra finished the evening with 172 yards on 22 carries to go along with his two scores.
Buening believes Southridge is the proudest of the way it gelled and came together this year. He was proud of the heart they distributed - citing their resourcefulness. He noted that they had some really good players, but not a juggernaut when it came to talent. Buening found it incredible the Raiders accomplished what they did.
He couldn't name just one thing he'll miss about the 2020 season - instead citing a host of them.
"I'm going to miss coming to practice," he said. "(I'm) just going to miss the film work, just going to miss preparing, going to miss the coaching staff, just coming in on weekends and doing the things we do. We got a group here - both players and coaches - that get along very well together. We love working together. We love the sport, we're passionate about the sport, but we're even more passionate about being Raiders, and just going through that process.
"You want to get up in the morning," Buening continued. "You want to have your film in the morning, you want to have guys rip on each other a little bit; and it's just something I really appreciate here about our program and our staff and our kids. And that's the part I'm going to miss."
For more photos from the game, click here.
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