It’s conference season. With the nonconference schedule now behind Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon and New Palestine, games take on a whole new meaning starting tonight.
No more so than at Cougar Stadium, where the Mt. Vernon Marauders look to continue their run in the annual rivalry with Greenfield-Central to seven straight. Both the host Cougars and the Marauders are coming off of losses, but nothing is certain when these Hoosier Heritage Conference foes clash.
New Palestine looks to keep its HHC dominance moving forward in a battle of unbeatens in Yorktown tonight. The Dragons are seeking a 28th straight HHC victory and their 39th consecutive regular-season win.
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Eastern Hancock visits former postseason opponent Northeastern after breaking out offensively with a 53-point showing against South Decatur last week.
Mt. Vernon (1-1) at Greenfield-Central (1-1)
GAME TIME: 7:30 p.m. at Cougar Stadium
COACHES: Neil Kazmierczak, 1-1 in 1st year at Mt. Vernon, 12-12 in 3rd year overall. Adam Sherman, 7-6 in 2nd year at Greenfield-Central.
PREVIOUS OUTING: Mt. Vernon lost to Marion, 40-16. Greenfield-Central lost to Bloomington North, 17-14.
SERIES PAST 30 YEARS: Mt. Vernon 20-11.
MOST RECENT MEETING: Mount Vernon (Fortville), 27-10, Sep. 2, 2016.
BREAKDOWN: Will this be the year the streak ends? Mt. Vernon has ruled this rivalry since last losing to Greenfield-Central at Cougar Stadium on Sept. 30, 2011. It wasn’t easy though. The Cougars’ victory was 6-0 in overtime.
Since, the closest games were in the 2013 sectional semifinals as Mt. Vernon won 16-13 and another overtime regular-season win 20-14 in 2015.
Is this when the tide turns? Based on records, these teams are dead even at 1-1. Both are averaging just below 20 points per game and coming off of losses.
The Marauders were humbled by Marion and quarterback Justin Johnson last week, turning the ball over six times — including three pick-six returns. The running game has been non-existent so far, netting negative-3 yards in Week 1 and roughly 20 yards in Week 2.
In year’s past, the Marauders have used their annual Week 3 meeting with Greenfield-Central to catapult momentum the rest of the way, but the Cougars will have plenty to say about that tonight.
Showing flashes of brilliance in their Week 1 win against Eastern Hancock 28-14, the Cougars just fell short 17-14 last week at Bloomington North.
Braden Brown can be a force between the tackles and quarterback Andrew Leslie had three passing touchdowns on the year. Consistency will be the key for both squads under the lights. Which ever team moves the ball with regularity could prevail.
Eastern Hancock (1-1) at Northeastern (2-0)
GAME TIME: 7 p.m. at Northeastern
COACHES: Jim O’Hara, 26-11 in 4th year at Eastern Hancock, 113-59 in 16th year overall. Mike Roeder, 105-112 in 21st year at Northeastern.
PREVIOUS OUTING: Eastern Hancock defeated South Decatur, 53-7. Northeastern defeated Winchester, 34-16.
SERIES PAST 30 YEARS: Eastern Hancock 8-2.
MOST RECENT MEETING: Eastern Hancock, 38-28, Sep. 2, 2016.
BREAKDOWN: What a difference a week makes. Limited to 14 points in the season opener, the Eastern Hancock Royals flipped the switch at home to roll past South Decatur 53-7.
Quarterback Jarett Lewis accounted for two touchdowns — one passing and another rushing. The senior reached 40 career-passing touchdowns, which set a new school record, breaking Steve Stunda’s mark in 2010.
The running game is averaging 209.0 yards per game while the passing attack is humming to 130.0 yards every week. The defense has been stingy, holding their opponents to seven points through the last six quarters.
Northeastern has won one of the past seven meetings, 34-6 on Aug. 22, 2014. For the second time in three years, the Knights are 2-0 to open the season. A big reason is reliance on the running game where senior Connor Bray, junior Griffin Bry and Cole Retter have accounted for 500 yards combined.
Bray has four rushing touchdowns and 131 yards, while Retter has 234 yards. Each of the three average 6.2 yards per carry or better.
New Palestine (2-0) at Yorktown (2-0)
GAME TIME: 7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
COACHES: Kyle Ralph, 52-3 in 5th year at New Palestine. Mike Wilhelm, 70-64 in 13th year at Yorktown.
PREVIOUS OUTING: New Palestine defeated Richmond, 61-7. Yorktown defeated Muncie Central, 26-20.
SERIES PAST 30 YEARS: New Palestine 16-4.
MOST RECENT MEETING: New Palestine, 55-7, Sep. 2, 2016.
BREAKDOWN: At 2-0 and ranked No. 2 in the latest The Associated Press Class 5A state rankings, New Palestine is as consistent as a program gets. No more so than against Hoosier Heritage Conference opponents.
The Dragons have won a record 27 straight HHC games and travel to face fellow unbeaten HHC foe Yorktown. The 4A Tigers fended off 5A Muncie Central 26-20 last week, but will see a much different challenge in New Palestine.
Averaging 40.0 points per game, the Dragons hit their stride in Week 2, scoring 61 points against helpless Richmond.
New Palestine’s Luke Canfield rushed for four touchdowns against Richmond and now has five total with 379 yards rushing at 10.0 yards per carry. His 275 yards rushing in Week 2 were the most by a Dragons runner since James Young’s 282 in the 2014 state title game.
Zach Neligh passed for three touchdowns in Week 2 and has two rushing touchdowns on the season. Colby Jenkins caught all three TD strikes, the first for a New Palestine receiver since 2015.
The host Tigers will try to keep pace behind quarterback Reid Neal, who is coming off a 99-yard passing performance and has 300 yards and five touchdowns in two weeks. Their running game netted 110 yards against Muncie Central as the team is balanced at 150.0 yards passing and 153.0 yards rushing on average.
A win tonight by the Dragons would extend the program’s regular-season winning streak to 39 straight games.