There’s been an awful lot riding on the past two New Palestine/Greenfield-Central clashes:
Oct. 29, 2010: The Cougars stun the visiting Dragons 7-0 in the sectional semifinals, ending NP’s nine-game winning streak and avenging a 32-0 home defeat to the red-and-white three weeks earlier.
Oct. 7, 2011: Class 4A No. 1 New Palestine squeaks by host Greenfield-Central 21-19 to keep its undefeated season alive and knock the Cougars out of the Hoosier Heritage Conference title race.
With both NP (2-5, 1-4 HHC) and G-C (3-4, 2-3 HHC) struggling in 2012, pride and Hancock County bragging rights will be the only things on the line at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Kelso Stadium.
In a season rife with setbacks, the past two weeks have been particularly painful for NP.
Sept. 21 against Yorktown, the Dragons saw their 13-game home winning streak end after the hosts allowed a game-winning 14-play, 94-yard TD drive.
Last Friday, NP entered the fourth quarter with a 13-10 advantage over Shelbyville before being blanked in the final frame and losing 17-13.
Ball security remains a storyline for the Dragons, who can’t seem to shake their propensity to fumble the football. In fact, they’ve lost the handle on the pigskin 12 times this season after coughing up the ball just twice in 2011.
Interim NP coach Charlie Hill remains optimistic not only about his team’s chances against Greenfield, but also for his team’s regular-season finale against 4A No. 9 Mt. Vernon (5-1) on Oct. 12.
“The oddest thing of all this is if we take care of turnovers, we win both of those football games. We have to make something positive happen with the county games with Greenfield and Mt. Vernon,” Charlie Hill explained. “Our plan is to execute better with what we’ve struggled with and do damage in the sectional.”
Hill is unsure if the team’s starting quarterback, Blake Luker, will be available against the Cougars. Luker left the game in the third quarter against Shelbyville after Luker smashed his right hand into a helmet following through on a throw, then had the hand “mashed” between a helmet and shoulder pads.
If Luker is unavailable, look for sophomore Chaz Hill, who filled in for Luker last Friday and completed five passes for 62 yards, to get the starting nod.
“Both teams will be excited, both will have some points to prove,” Hill explained. “The best team will be left standing at the end.”
As for Greenfield-Central, it’s looking for a better go-around versus New Palestine than it had in Week 7 against Mt. Vernon.
The Marauders steamrolled their way to 442 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, fueling a 54-13 victory.
The defeat came after the Cougars had racked up a combined 75 points in consecutive wins over Shelbyville and Rushville.
“We had a couple good games going there. We were building some confidence and when you get beat like we did, it takes away from it a bit,” G-C coach Roger Dodson offered. “We’ve got to go to work this week and get ready to play another football game.”
Following its setback to NP last October, the blue-and-gold defense hasn’t been the same against HHC opponents. The Cougars entered that game yielding 11 points per game over their past seven conference tilts. In the seven HHC contests since, G-C has allowed an average of 37.3 ppg.
Two key cogs on the Cougar defensive line, Tyler Beeson and Zach Phillips, are both questionable against NP. Dodson said Beeson had his “bell rung” and needs to pass a serious of tests in order to play, while Phillips has a knee injury.
Dodson also said he didn’t expect any major changes to an offense that threw three interceptions and fumbled three times against MV. The Cougars didn’t move the ball consistently until the Marauder starters left the field.
The seven-year G-C coach is well-aware of what’s been ailing the Dragons, but knows what his opponent is capable of if they do take care of the ball.
“Obviously, the turnovers, that’s been kind of been it with several teams. We’ve had our fair share,” Dodson said. “They’ve got a talented group. If they eliminate those, they’re a very good football team.
Mt. Vernon heads to Muncie in pursuit of history
With a victory Friday (7:30 p.m.) at Delta (5-2, 4-1 HHC), all the hard work and dedication the Marauders put in during the offseason will culminate in the program’s first HHC title since 2003. A loss could result in a shared championship with the Eagles, depending on the two teams’ Week 9 results.
“We know (what’s on the line). I made them aware — not that they needed to be — we are outright conference champs with a win,” Mt. Vernon coach Doug Armstrong said. “Will we prepare any different? No. We’re going to come and do our work like we always do and get ourselves ready.”
MV has racked up both team and individual accolades in recent weeks.
The black-and-gold are ranked for the first time this season and remain the highest scoring 4A squad (46.3 ppg) in Indiana. The Marauder defense is ninth in 4A in points allowed (16.7 ppg) and the team is second in 4A behind Columbus East in margin of victory at 29.6 ppg.
Senior running back Anthony Burnett crossed the 1,000-yard plateau last week against G-C and currently leads the county in rushing yards (1,027) and scoring (19 touchdowns). In 2012, MV has gained 2,462 yards on the ground, good for 351.7 per game.
“It is a great individual goal. Our linemen take a lot of pride in knowing they’re blocking for a guy that has 1,000 yards,” Armstrong offered. “He’s a weight room warrior and he’s worked hard for it.”
The Marauders will be tested against a Delta defense ranked fifth (15.9 ppg) in 4A, and one that has been credited with six interceptions and six forced fumbles thus far.
Armstrong is well aware of the machine the Grant Zgunda-coached Eagles have become, as Delta owns Indiana’s 13th-best mark (83-20) over the past nine seasons.
“Delta has had pretty good success against everybody. Delta has a culture, a winning culture,” Armstrong offered. “They’re good year after year after year. They know they have to win this game to claim a share of the conference.”
Royals look to halt Raider rushing attack
For the Royals (3-4), their 48-12 triumph over Wes-Del gave them two reasons to celebrate. For one, the win snapped the team’s four-game losing streak. And two, running back Spencer Gilbert crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the second year in a row.
Gilbert has 1,003 yards this season after running for 1,007 in 2011.
“It’s a great accomplishment for the entire offense. I don’t think our receivers did a good job of blocking last year, and they are this year,” Eastern Hancock coach Pat Echeverria said. “Now, those 10-yard runs are turning into 20 and 30-yard runs.
“It’s a great individual accomplishment, but it’s a tremendous team accomplishment as well.”
EH will receive a dose of its own rushing medicine Friday (7 p.m.) at home against Shenandoah (5-2), a team that boasts four ball carriers with 50-plus carries and 450 or more yards. The Raiders, who beat the Royals 53-6 last season, enter as the No. 7 scoring team in 2A at 40.7 ppg.
“Our philosophy on defense is to keep it as simple as possible. We want to play fast, read well and react appropriately,” Echeverria said. “Offensively, we need to control the ball and work on field position a bit. We want to make them drive it down the field.”
The Royals defense will receive a boost Friday, with Austin Denny, Dalton Korlowicz and Josh Ramage returning from injuries.
Shenandoah (5-2) at Eastern Hancock (3-4)
GAME TIME: 7 p.m., Ed Knarr Field.
COACHES: Scott Widner, 43-9 in 5th year at Shenandoah, 43-19 in 6th year overall. Pat Echeverria, 6-11 in 2nd year at Eastern Hancock.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Shenandoah, 52.82, 132nd overall, 19th in Class 2A. Eastern Hancock, 39.6, 204th overall, 21st in Class 1A.
LAST OUTING: Shenandoah defeated Monroe Central, 48-0, Sep. 28. Eastern Hancock defeated Wes-Del, 48-12, Sep. 28.
OPPONENTS’ RECORDS: Shenandoah 20-29, Eastern Hancock 25-23.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Shenandoah, 13-8.
LAST MEETING: Shenandoah, 53-6, Oct. 7, 2011.
Mt. Vernon (6-1) at Delta (5-2)
GAME TIME: 7:30 p.m., Delta Stadium.
CONFERENCE RECORDS: MV 5-0 HHC, DE 4-1 HHC
COACHES: Doug Armstrong, 11-6 in 2nd year at Mt, Vernon, 63-62 in 12th year overall. Grant Zgunda, 142-34 in 15th year at Delta, 179-46 in 20th year overall.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Mt. Vernon, 74.13, 45th overall, 8th in Class 4A. Delta, 65.42, 81st overall, 20th in Class 4A.
LAST OUTING: Mt. Vernon defeated Greenfield-Central, 54-13, Sep. 28. Delta defeated Rushville, 31-8, Sep. 28.
OPPONENTS’ RECORDS: Mt. Vernon 24-25, Delta 22-27.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Delta, 12-5.
LAST MEETING: Delta, 12-7, Oct. 7, 2011.
Greenfield-Central (3-4) at New Palestine (2-5)
GAME TIME: 7:30 p.m., Kelso Stadium.
CONFERENCE RECORDS: G-C 2-3 HHC, NP 1-4 HHC
COACHES: Roger Dodson, 26-45 in 7th year at Greenfield-Central, 90-104 in 20th year overall. Charlie Hill, 2-5 in 1st year at New Palestine.
SAGARIN RATINGS: New Palestine, 52.67, 134th overall, 31st in Class 4A. Greenfield-Central, 44.94, 177th overall, 44th in Class 4A.
OPPONENTS’ RECORDS: Greenfield-Central 23-26, New Palestine 26-23.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: New Palestine, 12-4.
LAST MEETING: New Palestine, 21-19, Oct. 7, 2011.