Taylor recalls 2017 championship seasonNovember 4, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
HUNTINGBURG — Something special could be brewing again for Southridge football this season. The Raiders (11-0) won their only state championship in 2017 back when they were in Class 2A, but they’ve turned heads this year on the verge of another sectional championship as an undefeated team in Class 3A. Southridge’s success so far has some reminiscing about that magical run three years ago.
“(I’m) starting to see some similarities,” Raiders coach Scott Buening said. “What that team had — they were very similar in that there really wasn’t any featured kid. We had some really players like Tucker Schank, Jayce Harter, a lot of those guys had a really good line with that group, but I think (they were) a very selfless group. They just wanted to win — that’s all they cared about. They didn’t care about stats, carries, yards, any tackles, any of that kind of stuff.”
Buening is in his eighth season coaching Southridge, but almost every player from that team has since graduated. One member of that team who is still going strong is senior Chase Taylor, who punted for the 2017 Raiders, and has since added quarterbacking duties to his role with the team.
“The dude’s got a thunder foot,” Buening said. “He can punt that thing a mile. That was a drop dead easy decision that dude’s going to punt for us because he really can. If he really worked at punting, he’s a collegiate level punter.”
Taylor is instead committed to the University of Evansville on a baseball scholarship, but there is no question about the impact he has made on the gridiron — regardless of when or where. He multi-tasked that year — playing for both the varsity state champion Raiders and the freshmen team that went undefeated.
Both Buening and Taylor have memories of the punts the latter made against Woodlan at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2017.
“I kicked the first punt in the state game, and in the dome, it looks different,” Taylor said. “It looks like it went straight up, and I was like, ‘Oh, no, that’s not good.’ It turns out it landed 52 or 56 yards away from me. So, that was good.”
“He had a couple big punts in that game that really flipped some field position, and just pretty impressive for a kid that age being able to do that in that moment,” Buening said.
Buening couldn’t really have imagined that Taylor would be playing the role he’s playing now as a dual-threat quarterback for the undefeated Raiders. Southridge had Harter leading the way during Taylor’s freshman year, but the Raiders looked to another 2021 graduate, Colson Montgomery, as Harter’s successor.
However, Montgomery stepped away from football after his sophomore year to focus on baseball and basketball, which opened the door for Taylor, who still is the team’s punter, but he thinks he was a better punter as a freshman than he is now as a senior.
“I have to tape my ankles a lot more,” he said. “My only position and only responsibility freshman year was kicking. Now, I got to play offense and get banged up every here and there. It makes things a little different — a little more difficult, but like last week, I got both of my ankles taped. I can’t really bend my feet that much. So, (I) just do the best with what I’ve got.”
Buening hailed Taylor for having a big heart who has a good pulse of the team and understands people. He thinks his quarterback isn’t afraid to talk to someone who is struggling, while a lot of players will go to Taylor for something.
Taylor also sees similarities between the current Southridge team and the team that won it all in 2017. He noted that senior back Matt Springer has a similar style to what Cole Calvert had from the 2017 team, and Taylor himself models his quarterback play after Harter’s.
“I really liked how Jayce played quarterback,” Taylor said. “We’re good friends, and I think he did a great job. So, I really want to be like him — not just on the field-like play, but I really model how I try to be a leader after Jayce. I mean, he did a great job. He’s one of the best leaders we’ve ever had come through Southridge.”
First thing’s first, though, and Southridge will have to take care of business in the sectional championship game on Friday against a Salem team that has won seven in a row. Buening is asking Taylor, a team captain, to manage the Raiders, something he has done “tremendously well and will continue doing.”
Taylor doesn’t care how many carries he gets on the keeper on Friday — as long as the team is scoring touchdowns, that his teammates are doing their jobs right and he’s doing his job to get them there. He’ll be happy as long as the Raiders get the victory.
The Raiders are four wins from completing their undefeated season, and from Taylor book ending his high school football career with state championships.
"I'd really like to make it all the way to the show, and if we can, we can," Taylor said. "I think we can."
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