HANCOCK COUNTY — Two-thirds of the regular season is over and there is a big sample size of what works, what doesn’t work and what needs fixed.
Hancock County football teams are preparing for Week 7 of their nine-week regular season hoping to continue their successes and right wrongs before the postseason.
Of the four county clubs, one is gaining momentum, while the others are hoping to rebound from tough, disappointing losses.
After defeating rival Greenfield-Central last week, New Palestine (4-2, 4-0) is in the driver’s seat in the Hoosier Heritage Conference race.
The defending conference champions are 4-0 in league play and ranked No. 4 in the Indiana Football Coaches Association Class 4A poll and No. 7 in the Associated Press Class 4A rankings.
After losing to Class 6A No. 7 Westfield and Class 5A No. 9 Decatur Central, New Palestine has won four in a row against teams that have either been ranked or receiving votes in either or both the AP and IFCA polls.
“We played really good football teams to help us to get ready to win a game like that,” New Palestine coach Kyle Ralph said after his team handed Greenfield-Central its first loss of the season last week. “It paid off for us.
“We come out of the back end of one of the hardest six-week stretches in the state of Indiana, we’re 4-2 right now, we’ve got some momentum, but we’ve got to keep getting better. The mission is, one week at a time, protect the (HHC) helmet (trophy) and in three weeks be a conference champion. I’m so proud of our guys. They’re committing to getting better. We’ve got the momentum going and they’ve come out of the grinder on the opposite side.”
The Dragons continue their HHC defense at home Friday against improved Shelbyville (3-3, 1-3). That game is followed with a trip to struggling New Castle (1-5, 0-4) before ending the regular season against a very good Delta (5-1, 3-1) club, ranked No. 14 by the IFCA in Class 3A.
Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon and Eastern Hancock want to recover from Week 6 and finish strong before the sectional tournament in four weeks.
Mt. Vernon (2-4, 1-3), like New Palestine, has played a really strong schedule through the first six weeks, but haven’t had the same success. The Marauders are coming off their first loss against Pendleton Heights since 2017. They had beaten the Arabians eight straight times prior to last week’s 24-10 loss.
Their closing schedule is similar to New Pal’s. They have a great chance to gain their own momentum with trips to New Castle and Shelbyville before finishing the regular season against a strong Yorktown team, at home.
Greenfield-Central (5-1, 3-1) is coming off big heartbreak. Starting the year 5-0 for the first time since 1973, the Cougars lost a close one, 21-14, to the Dragons last week.
For the first time this season they are preparing for a game after a loss.
They’ll have their work cut out, on the road, against a strong Yorktown (4-2, 2-2) team and another strong HHC foe in Week 8, Delta. The Eagles and the Cougars are the only one-loss teams in conference play. The Cougars finish the year against New Castle.
“We’ve got to continue to work every day to get better and better,” Greenfield-Central coach Travis Nolting said after Friday’s loss to New Palestine. “We (will) refocus this week and go into Yorktown, pretty sure it is their Senior Night. We have to be focused for that one. They played (New Palestine) to an eight-point game. We have to be sharp on both sides of the ball and special teams. I tell our kids that every week.”
After back-to-back seasons going to the wire against Milan — each team with one win — Eastern Hancock (3-3, 1-0) suffered its biggest loss of 2023. In their previous five games they had either won or lost by four points or less. At Milan last week they were defeated 44-19.
Though in a different and smaller league, the Royals are still in the thick of things in the Mid-Eastern Conference. A four-team league, Eastern Hancock is unbeaten after a Week 2 win over North Decatur. They will finish conference play the next two weeks. The Royals host Monroe Central (2-4, 0-1) Friday and travel to Shenandoah (1-5, 0-1) for Week 8. They finish the year on the road at Lapel in a non-conference game, but an opponent that is in their sectional.
Friday’s Football Games
7 p.m. — Greenfield-Central at Yorktown
7 p.m. — Monroe Central at Eastern Hancock
7 p.m. — Mt. Vernon at New Castle
7 p.m. — Shelbyville at New Palestine
Class 4A No. 8 Greenfield-Central (5-1, 3-1) at Yorktown (4-2, 2-2)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Coaches: Travis Nolting, 24-23 in 5th year at Greenfield-Central, 84-51 in 13th year overall. Mike Wilhelm, 104-99 in 19th year at Yorktown.
Recent history: After beating the Tigers in consecutive seasons, an injury-riddled Cougars team lost 40-29 at Myers Field last year.
Sagarin ratings: Greenfield-Central 78.34, 33rd overall, 7th in 4A. Yorktown, 67.02, 77th overall, 13th in 3A.
Players to watch: Greenfield-Central – TE/LB Lane Wadle, QB Dallas Freeman, RB/LB Cooper Hinton, RB/LB Jake Hinton, FB Braylen Benavente, WR/KR Kirk Knecht, FB/DL Payton Foley, OL/DL Reese Hill, K/P/DB Aaron Lee, WR Boston Willard, LB Eddie Mullins, DE Zach Blevens. Yorktown – QB Mason Moulton, RB/LB Ayden Ewing, WR/FS Ephraim Daugherty, WR/CB Quintin Williams, WR/LB Wilson Webster, MLB/TE Jayce Key, OLB Jacob Booher, LB/G Landon Bradnick
What to look for: How will the Cougars bounce back from the first loss of the season? They’re a veteran team so expect them to be ready to go when they take on a strong Tigers team that beat them at Myers Field last year. G-C did a lot of good things in last week’s tough loss against New Palestine. They were without top rusher Benavente, but Foley, the Hinton brothers, Freeman and Jacob VanOsdol all ran the ball well against the Dragons. It’ll likely be Hancock County’s most competitive game. The Tigers lost an eight-pointer to the Dragons in Week 3, but have now won two straight.
Monroe Central (2-4, 0-1) at Eastern Hancock (3-3, 1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Coaches: John Hochstetler, 87-42 in 12th year at Monroe Central, 174-125 in 27th year overall. Pat Echeverria, 31-23, in 5th year at Eastern Hancock, 63-79 in 13th year overall.
Recent history: The Royals have lost six of the last seven since the team’s began playing yearly in 2016, including three straight. The last three losses were all by one score.
Sagarin ratings: Monroe Central, 28.93, 245th overall, 29th in 1A. Eastern Hancock 49.18, 160th overall, 24th in 2A.
Players to watch: Eastern Hancock — RB Mark Kube, DB Caiden Willis, LB Gabe Johnson, QB Elijah Edon, WR/S Cam Volz, WR/DB Dylan Bowman, NG/T Logan Hoskins, TE Kayden Ruble, WR Eli Manship, OLB Evan Wheeler. Monroe Central – FB/LB Jerimiah Ullom, WR/LB Justus Ullom, RB/FS Ethan Hunt, QB/LB Lane Wilson, KR/DB/RB Brylen Case, LB/WR Ryder Bowlin
What to look for: With a win over North Decatur and both Monroe Central and Shenandoah having subpar seasons, Eastern Hancock is in a great spot to win the Mid-Eastern Conference title. The Royals lost big last week at Milan, but won’t be short on enthusiasm in the final home game of the season with a chance to get a step closer to winning the MEC. The Golden Bears have struggled this season, but the Royals can’t afford to overlook them. Monroe Central has had the upper hand against the Royals winning six of seven since 2016. Additionally, they have had 10 straight winning seasons.
Mt. Vernon (2-4, 1-3) at New Castle (1-5, 1-3)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Coaches: Kyle York, 26-44 in 7th year at New Castle. Vince Lidy, 22-9, in 3rd year at Mt. Vernon.
Recent history: Mt. Vernon has won 11 of last 12.
Sagarin ratings: New Castle 48.99, 162nd overall, 36th in 4A. Mount Vernon, 67.93, 70th overall, 19th in 4A.
Players to watch: Mt. Vernon — QB Luke Ertel, WR/KR Tre Jones, OL/DL Roland Trimble, LB Aidan Lindstrom, RB Joliba Brogan, RB/DB DJ Johnson, DL Shawn Taylor, TE/DE Tyler Etherington, WR Domanic Barnett, K Rylan Vinard. New Castle – DB/WR Tylin Thine, DL Christian Wagers, QB Tyson Lewis, WR/DB Gavin Frazier, PR/WR/FS Cade Logston
What to look for: The Marauders are coming off a loss against Pendleton Heights’ stingy defense. The 10 points scored against the Arabians was a season low. Mt. Vernon had scored 30 points or more in its first five games. New Castle has lost five straight, but was competitive in the last two, losses to Yorktown and Delta. The Trojans, since beating Franklin County in the opener, have been outscored 166-57. Mt. Vernon will be the strongest offense they’ve faced this season with the elusive running of Brogan and the passing game led by southpaw QB Ertel.
Shelbyville (3-3, 1-3) at Class 4A No. 7 New Palestine (4-2, 4-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Coaches: Scott Fitzgerald, 3-3 in 1st year at Shelbyville. Kyle Ralph 120-13 in 11th year at New Palestine
Recent history: Dragons have dominated, winning the last 10. Shelbyville hasn’t scored against New Palestine since 2018.
Sagarin ratings: Shelbyville 47.3, 172nd overall, 42nd in 4A. New Palestine, 84.43, 18th overall, 3rd in 4A.
Players to watch: Shelbyville – QB/FS Eli Chappelow, WR Luke Brinkman, OLB/RB Axel Conover, MLB Brayden Schultz, DT Jaylen Sturgill, WR/S Grantland Fitzgerald, RB Donavon Martin, LB Julian Eads. New Palestine — RB/LS Grayson Thomas, OL/DL Ian Moore, OL/DL Brock Brownfield, RB/WR Kyler Kropp, WR/DB Mason Hiatt, QB Gavin Neal, LB Josh Ranes, LB Garrett Ranes, DB Caden Jacobia, LB Alex Guhl, K/P Jake Wells.
What to look for: Shelbyville is a much-improved team. With three wins, the Golden Bears have already won the same amount of games as in 2018-22 combined. New Palestine has dominated this series since Ralph took over the Dragons in 2013. That is not expected to change Friday. The Dragons have momentum with a huge Hoosier Heritage Conference win at Greenfield-Central last week, while the Golden Bears have been bounced twice since starting 3-1. Sophomore Neal continues to improve at QB and Thomas has been as dominant as any RB in the state. The defense is looking for a fifth straight shutout against the Bears. The Red Rage held Greenfield-Central, who came in averaging over 40 points per game, to 14 last week.
2023 Hancock County Football Statistical Leaders
Dallas Freeman, Greenfield-Central;6;57;95;847;.600;141.2;12;4;111.3
Luke Ertel, Mt. Vernon;5;77;126;1057;.611;211.4;10;1;111.1
Gavin Neal, New Palestine;6;33;68;728;.485;121.3;7;5;90.8
Elijah Edon, Eastern Hancock;6;73;121;813;.603;135.5;7;5;82.4
Grayson Thomas, New Palestine;6;166;1158;7.0;193.0;12
Joliba Brogan, Mt. Vernon;5;95;669;7.0;133.8;8
Mark Kube, Eastern Hancock;6;87;614;7.1;102.3;11
Braylen Benavente, Greenfield-Central;5;97;470;4.8;94.0;1
Dallas Freeman, Greenfield-Central;6;60;402;6.7;67.0;6
Kirk Knecht, Greenfield-Central;6;19;410;21.6;68.3;6
Chris Edmonds, Mt. Vernon;4;13;267;20.5;66.8;1
Tre Jones, Mt. Vernon;5;20;312;15.6;62.4;4
Kyler Kropp, New Palestine;6;15;367;24.5;61.2;4
Eli Manship, Eastern Hancock;5;20;243;12.2;48.6;2
Gabe Johnson, Eastern Hancock;6;42;18;60;10.0;9.0
Garrett Ranes, New Palestine;6;37;23;60;10.0;7.0
Josh Ranes, New Palestine;6;34;20;54;9.0;7.0
Cameron Volz, Eastern Hancock;6;31;19;50;8.3;1.0
Ayden Trueblood, Eastern Hancock;6;22;27;49;8.2;3.0
Luke Hankley, Mt. Vernon;3;2.0;0.7
Ian Moore, New Palestine;6;3.0;0.5
Christian Kiptoo, Mt. Vernon;5;2.0;0.4
Mason Hiatt, New Palestine;6;2.0;0.3
Evan Wheeler, Eastern Hancock;6;2.0;0.3
Kirk Knecht, Greenfield-Central;6;4;0.7
Caiden Willis, Eastern Hancock;6;3;0.5
Mason Hiatt, New Palestine;6;3;0.5
Caden Jacobia, New Palestine;5;2;0.4
Aaron Redmon, Eastern Hancock;11;441;40.1
Jake Wells, New Palestine;16;503;31.4
John Duncan, Mt. Vernon;15;445;29.7
Aaron Lee, Greenfield-Central;6;138;23.0
Tre Jones, Mt. Vernon;612;25;637
Cameron Volz, Eastern Hancock;187;94;281
Kirk Knecht, Greenfield-Central;240;30;270
Kyler Kropp, New Palestine;188;0;188
Zaidyn Ramsey-Fox, Mt. Vernon;117;0;117
Grayson Thomas, New Palestine;6;12;0;0;0;72;12.0
Mark Kube, Eastern Hancock;6;11;0;0;0;66;11.0
Joliba Brogan, Mt. Vernon;5;8;0;0;0;48;9.6
Kirk Knecht, Greenfield-Central;6;9;2;0;0;56;9.3
Kyler Kropp, New Palestine;6;9;0;0;0;54;9.0
The Associated Press Top 10 Indiana high school football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through games of Tuesday, September 26, 2023, rating points and previous rankings:
|2. Center Grove||(3)||5-1||320||2|
|3. Indpls Ben Davis||(2)||5-1||308||3|
|4. Crown Point||–||6-0||224||5|
|5. Hamilton Southeastern||–||5-1||200||6|
|8. Indpls Cathedral||–||4-2||124||8|
Others receiving votes: Carroll (Fort Wayne) 12. Lake Central 10. Warsaw 4.
|1. Bloomington North||(15)||6-0||352||2|
|2. Ft. Wayne Snider||(3)||5-1||286||1|
|3. Bloomington South||–||5-1||278||5|
|7. Lafayette Harrison||–||5-1||140||8|
|9. Decatur Central||–||4-2||82||10|
|10. Floyd Central||–||5-1||68||9|
Others receiving votes: Concord 20. Ev. North 18. Franklin 6.
|1. E. Central||(17)||6-0||358||1|
|2. Ev. Reitz||(1)||6-0||318||3|
|3. Ev. Memorial||–||6-0||250||4|
|4. New Haven||–||6-0||208||9|
|7. New Palestine||–||4-2||160||10|
|10. New Prairie||–||5-1||42||NR|
Others receiving votes: Columbia City 38. Indpls Brebeuf 34. S. Bend Riley 22. Indpls Roncalli 12. Pendleton Hts. 6. Leo 6. Jasper 2.
|1. Indpls Chatard||(18)||6-0||360||1|
|2. W. Lafayette||–||5-1||252||4|
|3. Hanover Central||–||6-0||226||6|
|4. Hamilton Hts.||–||6-0||216||7|
|5. Guerin Catholic||–||4-2||196||5|
|6. Gibson Southern||–||4-2||144||10|
|7. Tippecanoe Valley||–||6-0||128||9|
|8. Heritage Hills||–||5-1||116||2|
Others receiving votes: Vincennes 42. Knox 38. Lawrenceburg 36. Batesville 26. W. Noble 24. Delta 8.
|2. Triton Central||(4)||5-1||276||4|
|5. Heritage Christian||(2)||5-1||206||6|
|6. N. Posey||–||5-1||170||8|
|8. Indpls Scecina||–||4-2||76||7|
|9. Ft. Wayne Luers||–||4-2||72||NR|
|(tie) S. Vermillion||–||5-1||34||NR|
Others receiving votes: Paoli 22. Eastbrook 20. Andrean 14. Greencastle 6. Northeastern 6. Lafayette Catholic 2.
|1. Indpls Lutheran||(17)||6-0||340||1|
|2. Adams Central||–||6-0||302||2|
|3. Carroll (Flora)||–||6-0||266||3|
|5. Indpls Park Tudor||–||6-0||196||5|
|6. S. Putnam||–||5-1||154||6|
|9. N. White||–||6-0||68||NR|
|10. N. Judson||–||4-2||30||T10|
Others receiving votes: W. Central 18. Triton 12. Springs Valley 10. N. Vermillion 4. Pioneer 4. Milan 4. Hagerstown 2.