Can you believe it? The high school football regular season is less than three weeks away. I don’t know about you, but I’ve already peeked at the schedules, made predictions and jotted down a few notes in eager anticipation.
So without further ado, here are the five games (in no particular order) I can’t wait to see. The dates on the calendar have been circled. Who’s ready for some football?
Eastern Hancock at Indian Creek
After last year’s dramatic back-and-forth with Class 2A Northeastern, many most likely have Week 1’s road game against the Knights circled in fiery red ink. I do as well, and for good reason. After all Northeastern clobbered the 2A Royals 34-6 in the 2014 opener only to see Eastern Hancock get its revenge a few months later in the sectional title game, 21-20. Round 3 should be an entertaining night under the lights.
However, the Mid-Indiana Football Conference title has become a tug-of-war between 3A Indian Creek and the Royals in recent years. Coincidentally, the resurgence of Royals football began to take shape right around the same time. Indian Creek claimed the title in 2012, but the state runner-up Royals ran away with the banner in ’13. Last year, Eastern Hancock’s lone conference loss was to, you guessed it, Indian Creek, 40-10, at home in Week 3.
No motivation needed for the Eastern Hancock seniors this year. Two conference titles in four years sounds like an obtainable goal, and the Royals’ quest picks up steam in Week 3 in the second of five consecutive conference games.
Greenfield-Central at Pendleton Heights
With a combined 50 years spent coaching at their respective schools, Greenfield-Central’s Roger Dodson and Pendleton Heights’ John Broughton (40 years at the helm) have met 12 times in this particular Hoosier Heritage Conference grudge match.
Dodson’s 4A Cougars have won three times in the series overall, including in the regular season last September at home 34-21. The 4A Arabians, however, continue to be a tough out, getting their payback in the 2014 sectional with a narrow 21-20 win.
I can’t imagine that sitting well with the Cougars, who were no doubt hoping finally to turn the series’ tide, falling in seven consecutive meetings prior before halting the streak. Always a measuring stick, Greenfield-Central’s game against the pass-happy Arabians is always a rivalry matchup on the Cougars’ schedule besides their neighbors within Hancock County’s boundaries.
New Palestine vs. Pendleton Heights (at Lucas Oil Stadium)
Speaking of the Arabians, this mid-season game on neutral ground should be entertaining. Do I think Pendleton Heights can keep up with Dragons’ senior quarterback Alex Neligh’s big arm and coach Kyle Ralph’s dynamic offensive scheme? Probably not, but their return to downtown Indianapolis will be nostalgic, if you can call it that after winning state just 10 months ago inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
Nonetheless, field turf plays fast and plays right into New Palestine’s style on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Scheduled as the primetime game for the Saturday triple-header, New Palestine will want to use the showcase spotlight to emphasize exactly why they’ve been bumped up to 5A — especially since they won’t see an opponent in its class until October.
Yorktown at Mt. Vernon
Those pesky 3A Yorktown Tigers have been a thorn in the Marauders’ sides for two years now. Enough is a enough, and I have no doubt coach Doug Armstrong’s team will want to correct the past in the regular-season finale. Momentum before the postseason can never be overlooked, and this game is ideal. Yorktown no longer has Riley Neal under center, and Mt. Vernon is hoping to have a healthy Pete Werner back at quarterback after losing him in the first game of the regular season last August.
Add in a healthy dose of junior linebackers Mitch McCarthy and Nathan Seifert (the defense limited its foes to fewer than 14 points five times last season) and perhaps the Marauders can get back to 2012 — when Mt. Vernon won four straight and six in seven years.
I know, this isn’t a game, but it’s a date to keep in mind along with the football tournament pairings in October. This is the beginning of sectional, New Palestine’s new 5A sectional to be exact. As most of you already know, Columbus East is part of it, along with Franklin, Martinsville and Whiteland.
Five teams, four games two former 4A state champions in the same tournament bracket after getting pushed up a class by the Indiana High School Athletic Association success factor. With last year’s epic semistate battle in the books, a third consecutive postseason meeting could be in the works between Columbus East and New Palestine. Let’s just hope it’s not in the first round of sectional.
Rich Torres is the sports editor for the Daily Reporter. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.