Titans overpower Raiders in season finale

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Southridge's offensive coordinator Brad Ohanian embraces Tucker Schank after Friday's game against Gibson Southern in Fort Branch. Schank was given the game ball for being the new record holder for Southridge in career rushing yards. Ohanian was the former record holder, who earned the title in his 2002 football season. Southridge lost 31-14. For more photos from the game, click here.

By JONATHAN SAXON
Jsaxon@dcherald.com

FORT BRANCH — The Southridge Raiders and the Gibson Southern Titans were two of the better teams playing football across southern Indiana all season, and the Pocket Athletic Conference stalwarts clashed in their regular season finale hoping to one-up each other heading into sectional.

The two teams duked it out across the cold and rain but at the end of the night the Titans were able to come away with the 31-14 victory over the Raiders to close out the regular season.

Southridge coach Scott Buening characterized the Raiders play as inconsistent and felt like there were some opportunities that were left out on the field.

But Buening believes that the Titans’ ability to adapt their blocking assignments to the Raiders’ pressure and protect their freshman quarterback Brady Allen was the biggest factor in Gibson Southern’s success on Friday night.

“We had some good and some not so good,” he said. “First half I thought we did a good job defensively, we only gave up one big play. Gibson Southern did a good job protecting their quarterback. When they’re able to throw the ball when they want to and not when they have to, they’re pretty tough.”

It took a minute for the engine to get running for both teams, as the Raiders and Titans traded scoreless opening drives after Southridge received the opening kickoff. The Raiders came up empty once again on their second drive, but they did pin the Titans down inside their own ten-yard line on the ensuing punt. But it soon wouldn’t matter.

After two plays for no gain, Allen was able to spy senior wide receiver Dawson Witte streaking down the middle of the field. He completed a dart to Witte, who took off down a seam and outran the entire Raiders defense enroute to a 92-yard touchdown to draw the first blood of the game.

On Southridge’s next drive, sophomore quarterback Colson Montgomery was able to connect with senior running back Tucker Schank on a 37-yard completion that moved the chains and breathed life back into the Raiders. Montgomery went back to Schank two plays later, taking a shot for the end zone, but Schank wasn’t able to hold onto the ball, which separated from him when he hit the ground. Montgomery tried take it himself on third down, and when that failed he looked to junior wideout Garrett Voegerl. The fourth down pass fell incomplete and the Raiders turned the ball over on downs.

On Gibson Southern’s next drive Allen tried for junior receiver Seth Delong twice and Witte another time, but all the Titans managed was a three-and-out. Montgomery started the Raiders next drive with a 12-yard run. Junior running backs Brad Springer and Cole Calvert combined for 12 yards and the next first down after their rushing attempts. With forward momentum, Southridge kept plugging away on the ground until Schank finally found some daylight on a 24-yard touchdown run, which tied up the game at the top of the second quarter.

The Titans and Raiders held each other to a stalemate on each of their ensuing drives, but the tie wouldn’t be forever. Gibson Southern reaped the benefit of a bad punt by Southridge which had them starting out at the Raiders’ 41-yard line to start their next drive. Allen completed two huge passes to junior receiver Ben Butler (11 yards) and junior running back Mitchell Spindler (26 yards) which had the Titan’s knocking at the door Southridge’s end zone. Two plays later, he snuck it in from a yard out to put Gibson Southern ahead 14-7 going into halftime.

Southridge's Wyatt Kramer, left, and Ben Hudson tackle Gibson Southern's Mitchell Spindler during Friday's game in Fort Branch. Southridge lost 31-14. For more photos from the game, click here.

When they got the ball to start the third quarter, Gibson Southern stuck to the ground as they used the collective legs of Butler, Spindler, and senior wideout Andrew Smith to eat up chunks of the field during the drive. The pressure from the rushing attack eventually broke the Raider dam, as Spindler was able to breakaway for 36 yards and a score on the seventh play to put the Titans up 21-7.

But Southridge would not let the score go unanswered. Montgomery and Schank were able to get things moving, but it appeared the Raider offense had stalled once again after a two-yard carry from Calvert left the team looking at a 3rd-and-8 situation. But on the next play Voegerl was able to leak behind the Titans secondary and Montgomery laid the floater right into his hands for a 47-yard catch and score play which brought Southridge within one score of Gibson Southern.

But the Titans would stand strong. They were able to score twice more to put the game away: Allen completed a 17-yd strike to Witte near the end of the third quarter, and senior kicker Bryce Williams knocked in a 27-yd field goal in the fourth to ice it up.

Gibson Southern had 434 yards of total offense. Allen finished 19-32 with 263 yards and two touchdowns. Spindler had 132 yards on the ground and a score. Witte had six catches with 134 yards and two touchdowns.

Southridge had 229 yards of total offense. Montgomery finished 2-12 with 56 yards and a touchdown. Schank, who needed only 66 yards to break Brad Ohanian’s career rushing record of 3,408 yards for Southridge coming into the game, finished with 95 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Voegerl had two catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.

The historic moment was bittersweet for Schank, but he said it was a humbling personally, though he referred to the record as a team achievement.

“I know Southridge has a running tradition,” he said. “To be mentioned in that conversation means a lot to me. But I also realize it wouldn’t be possible with all the guys I’ve played with. I’ve never had a subpar O-line. This is a team award.”

Though they were disappointed in the loss, it won’t serve Buening and the Raiders to think too much about what could have been. They will look over the film in the coming days, but now the regular season is history. All the team can do now is look forward and focus on the goal of sectional: one game by one point every week.

“It’s tournament time now,” he said. “Bottom line is this is a great game to learn from. It’s win or go home now. I don’t think there’s a lot of motivation that is needed. As we look forward here, we have a lot to grow from. We’ll learn a lot from this game, but I don’t think we need much motivation moving forward.”




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