Stars end Southridge's title hopes in semistate

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Southridge's Matt Price listens to head coach Scott Buening speak to the team after Saturday's 48-7 loss to Western Boone in the Class 2A semistate football game in Thorntown. The Raiders struggled with the Stars stingy defense and dynamic offensive attack in the semistate loss on Saturday. For more photos from the game, click here.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

THORNTOWN — The Southridge football team traveled north in hopes of taking the next step on the way to the IHSAA Class 2A state title game, but they were thwarted in their efforts by the gang tackling and playmaking of the Western Boone Stars as they defeated the Raiders 48-7 on Saturday in the semistate battle.

“Western Boone has a heck of a football team,” said Southridge coach Scott Buening. “We knew it going into it. We knew we were going to have to play well, we knew we were going to need some things to go right. (You have to) give Western Boone a lot of credit, the schedule they play and to be undefeated at this point says a lot about them.”

The Stars (14-0) were able to demonstrate their considerable offensive capabilities early in the game after their defense forced an early three-and-out for the Raiders (10-4). WeBo was able to lean on their senior running back Kruze Washington to get the chains moving early as junior quarterback Spencer Wright worked to sync up with his receivers. But it wouldn’t take long for the signal caller to find junior receiver Lucas Kernodle for 14 yards on 3rd-and-15. The Stars were able to use a hard count to draw an encroachment penalty from the Southridge defense, and a couple of plays later Wright took it in himself from 14 yards out to score WeBo’s first touchdown.

Southridge was unable to get anything going once again on offense as senior running back Tucker Schank was dropped behind the line of scrimmage, and sophomore quarterback Colson Montgomery was halted at the line a play later. With nothing coming on the ground, Montgomery tried to air it out on third down, but was intercepted by senior defensive back Logan Benson. Wright was quick to capitalize on the turnover, as he hit senior wideout Joe Hendrix in perfect stride for a 43-yd touchdown strike on WeBo’s next play.

Southridge spun the wheels on offense over the course of their next few offensive drives, but they were able to put something positive together near the end of the second quarter. Fresh off of a touchback punt from the Stars, Montgomery opened the Raiders’ sixth possession with a 7-yd pass to Schank; Tucker would then get get the first down in the ensuing carry. Then Montgomery linked with Schank again, this time for 30 yards. A couple of plays later Montgomery rushed for 11 yards to the WeBo 25-yd line. Montgomery then connected with senior tight end Logan Seger for another 20 yards, and two carries later Schank was able to plunge it in and bring the Raiders to within one score of the Stars with 2:21 remaining in the second quarter.

But that would be as close as the team could get to Western Boone. After a holding penalty on the Stars reverses what would have been a touchdown on their ensuing return, WeBo set up shop on Southridge’s 40-yd line. The Stars were able to enjoy big gains in the form of a roughing the passer penalty and back-to-back passes from Wright to Kernodle and Washington to quickly drive down the field. And with less than a minute remaining, Wright faked the screen pass to the left and took off to the right for 24-yd touchdown which put WeBo up 21-7 going into halftime. Buening described that play as the straw that broke the camel’s back for Southridge.

“The touchdown we gave up at the end of the first half was a tough one to swallow,” he said. “I don’t think we responded very well from that.”

Western Boone would go on to score four more times in the second half: an 8-yd pass to Benson, a 58-yard pass to Hendrix, a 7-yd run from Washington, and an 18-yd TD run from freshman quarterback Elliot Young.

Wright went 19-27 with 308 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He also had six rushes for 40 yards and two touchdowns. Washington had 84 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Hendrix finished with three catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Benson finished with six catches for 88 yards and a score.

Southridge's Ben Hudson tackles Western Boone's Kruze Washington during Saturday's Class 2A semistate football game in Thorntown. The Raiders trailed just 14-7 in the second quarter but a 24-yard rushing TD from Spencer Wright put the Stars ahead 21-7 shortly before halftime and Southridge was unable to recover from there. For more photos from the game, click here.

As potent as WeBo’s offense was, the defense was just as dominant. The Stars defenders were fast and furious as they shot off the ball, got good pushes on Southridge’s offensive line, batted down passes and seemingly had at least three guys in the backfield every time the Raiders snapped the ball. Except for their scoring drive in the first half, Southridge struggled to put together long offensive series’ throughout the duration of the game. They held the Raiders to 74 yards of total offense.

“They had a swarming defense, it was crazy,” said Montgomery. “I’d roll out for a pass and there would be a guy behind me and a guy in front of me.”

“They scouted us well, their coach did a good job of having an idea of what we were going to do and what our approach was going to be,” added Schank. “That’s a credit to them. They were aggressive and played hard and really took advantage of our weaknesses.”

Montgomery finished 4-of-13 for 64 yards and an interception. Schank had 20 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He also had two catches for 37 yards.

The mood was somber after the game as the team grappled with the fact that they would not be going back to state. But even though it was emotional after the game, Buening was still proud of his guys for the way they fought through the injuries and difficulties of their season to even make it back to semi-state.

“To have our seniors battle through as many injuries (that) occurred, as a football program that’s part of it,” he said. “For everyone to hang in and just keep working, to me that was quite an accomplishment.”

For the seniors who played their last game on Saturday, their shared hope is that the players who return can use Saturday’s game as fuel to get back into the mix next season and keep up the proud football tradition that has been cultivated in Huntingburg these past few seasons.

“Don’t take a snap for granted,” said Seger. “Play every single one like its your last. I know we’re bumping up to 3A next year and I don’t want them to be intimidated. They can go just as far, maybe further.”

“I hope they learn a lot of the life lessons that go into football,” added Schank. “I hope they never forget those. I hope losses like this motivate them to work extra hard. They’re fighters and competitors, so I know they’re going to step up.”




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