While nearly all area teams drew road games in the opening round of the IHSAA’s State Football Tournament, one team will have home field advantage as John Glenn plays host to Culver Military Academy in the Sectional 17 opener.
The last time the two teams met back in Week 6 of the regular season, the Eagles (7-2) dealt Glenn (4-5) a 20-7 loss at home at Oliver Field, and the Falcons are hoping to return the favor in Week 1 of the playoffs.
While the scoreboard reflected a convincing margin of victory, both coaches agree the game really came down to a few big plays by CMA and a handful of miscues by Glenn.
The Eagles scored their three touchdowns on runs of 37, 59 — following a fake punt — and 76 yards, and the Eagles’ secondary picked off Falcons QB Sean Liedtky four times in the contest to keep Glenn off the scoreboard until midway through the fourth quarter.
The bottom line is that the last meeting between the area rivals was closer than the final score made it seem, and CMA head coach Andy Dorrel knows not to look past the Falcons this week.
“I don’t think we’re overlooking Glenn. The scoreboard was 20-7, but really we had two big plays and really three if you count the fake punt,” he said. “They had 70 rushes in that game and only scored seven points and turned the ball over in the red zone. From our perspective it was a very evenly played game, and we were just able to get a few more plays than they were. That’s what we’re selling our kids on this week. Glenn is a team that comes out and plays very physical on defense, they can control the clock, and we have some concerns. The fact of the matter is that we know that we’re going to have a game on our hands, and we hope our kids understand that before you can move on you have to win what’s here.”
“I thought for the most part we played fairly well in that game,” said Glenn head coach Justin Bogunia. “Two things that hurt us were turnovers and penalties, and I hope that we’ve grown and gotten better since. And I hope that we come out with the motivation of it being sectional and playing them again after they beat us earlier in the year helps fuel our guys, and helps their hunger grow to win this game.”
If momentum is a factor in round one of the playoffs, then the Eagles certainly have that on their side.
John Glenn took a tough 34-24 loss to visiting Bremen last week in a game for third place in the Northern State Conference, and they lost Zach Combs to injury when the sophomore running back was sidelined with an injury late after rushing for 62 yards. Combs is expected to return to the lineup should the Falcons advance, and in the meantime Glenn has plenty of weapons as leading rushers Adam Dodson and Derek Hiler are both ready to go, and Liedtky is connecting with targets at an efficient passing rate.
But CMA is riding high on an emotional 40-24 Senior Night rout of Fairfield last week, capping off a perfect 5-0 homestand for the year that included a 48-game win streak-snapping upset of Class A No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic in Week 4 and a lopsided 35-16 victory over then-2A No. 4 Churubusco Sept. 28.
“We’re very excited to be where we are right now,” said Dorrel. “Traditionally we’re always a team that finishes the year strong once we finally get our guys to understand what we need to accomplish. The fact that we don’t have a summer program and the ability to do those summer practices, it takes our team awhile to really gel. We feel like this team is right on the verge of doing some things that we expect of them as coaches and that they expect of each other.
“We’ve got a great regular season behind us. We’re looking forward to the playoffs. You never know when that may come to an abrupt conclusion, but it’s been a great group of guys to coach, and I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with these guys.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Bremen at Lewis Cass
As Glenn looks to avenge its loss versus CMA this week, Bremen will look to avoid a dethroning by a revenge-minded Lewis Cass squad on the road this week.
The Lions (6-3) handed Cass a 28-6 loss at home at Don Bunge Field for a repeat Sectional 26 championship last year, and the Kings (8-1) have almost certainly been looking forward to a reprisal headed into this week’s sectional opener at their home field.
“It’s a huge opportunity for the Bremen Lions this week,” said Bremen head coach Bob Holmes. “To play well in Game 1 against a quality Lewis Cass team would be an outstanding start to the tournament. Our goal is to have an opportunity to win the sectional. To win the sectional this year would be a three-peat for us. That’s a goal that we’d love to accomplish, and we’re going to have to play well to do so.”
The Kings enter the playoffs on a five-game tear, while the Lions head to Cass with a feel-good 34-24 win at John Glenn under their belts in a regular-season closer for third place in the Northern State Conference last week.
Bremen battled back from an initial 17-7 deficit in last week’s win at Glenn a week after outplaying Class 3A No. 1 Jimtown 6-0 in the second half of that NSC match-up in Week 8. But while both those games saw some strong second-half performances from the Lions, Holmes is hoping his team can hit the field ready to go rather than finding itself down at halftime in a hostile environment this Friday.
“We’re going to have to contain their speed, first and foremost. They’re extremely fast, and they have a lot of talent in their running back and quarterback positions, so we’re going to play extremely well,” said the Bremen boss. “But I think more than anything we’re going to have to play a complete game. That’s something that has eluded us this entire year. We haven’t played two halves of football to our capabilities, and I think against Cass we’re going to have to play well in both halves, not just the one.”
Although Cass comes into Friday’s sectional rematch with the record advantage, Bremen has the edge in strength of schedule after doing battle with 4A No. 7 New Prairie, 3A top-ranked Jimtown and a quality 3A John Glenn squad in conference play. The Lions believe the experience they gained against those bigger squads can only help them in the 2A state series.
“I think that our schedule, especially the last two games of the season, really prepares us for playing in the 2A sectional,” said Holmes. “I think that playing that level of competition gives us a slight advantage during the tournament because Jimtown and John Glenn, if you can play with those guys, those two teams can play with a lot of teams in 2A. We have to come out hungry and use our experience from the last two games, and like I say, play a complete game if we’re going to be successful.”
Kick-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Culver at West Central
Culver Community opened the season with a rough 41-21 loss on the road at West Central. After drawing the No. 8-rated Trojans (8-1) in round one of Class A Sectional 33, the Cavaliers (3-6) will have their own opportunity at revenge in another match-up in Francesville Friday.
“It’s a chance to answer some questions about ourselves, about our team, about our program about our players, and a chance to find out how much better we are and how much we’ve improved throughout the course of the season,” said Culver head coach Andy Thomas. “You don’t always get chances like this. It’s a nice opportunity for our football program and our team.”
While West Central heads into Friday’s opener looking to bounce back from a 21-6 home loss to Pioneer, the Cavs hit the road following a 21-7 win over LaVille last week.
With the win, Culver snapped a two-game skid to grab some momentum going into the tournament. After struggling defensively at times this season, Culver was able to hold the Lancers to 103 offensive yards while putting up 275 offensive yards of its own on the way to a trio of scores, and the Cavs have to be feeling more confident in both areas this week.
“It’s nice to get a win on Senior Night and get some positive thoughts and feelings going into the playoffs,” said Thomas. “Our league really makes it tough on you, not only physically but mentally. It’s just such a grinder week in and week out, and a big mental challenge. When you’re able to win, especially in Week 9 it gives you a little bit of a boost and makes it easier to come in and work on Saturday morning and throughout the week. I’m happy for our coaches and for our seniors for us to get a win and to get our first win at home.”
One big question mark for Culver is whether or not they’ll see the return of fourth-year quarterback Collin Stevens to the helm of the Cavs offense after the senior signal caller was sidelined with a separated shoulder in a Week 7 match-up with unbeaten Class 3A No. 1 Jimtown. Stevens’ start will likely come down to a game-time decision by the Culver coaching staff, but in the meantime sophomore replacement Preston Hansel has become increasingly efficient in his role at QB, going 8-15-2 for 92 yards and a score against the Lancers last week while rushing for 44 yards in nine carries.
But perhaps an even bigger question for Culver is how its defense will perform against a loaded Trojans backfield after West Central ran up 357 rushing yards the last time the two teams met back on Aug. 17.
“They’re tremendous. They’ve got a 1,000-yard rusher at quarterback and a 1,000-yard rusher at fullback. They’re really well-coached. They run a very similar option scheme to what we run. It’s going to be a challenge,” said Thomas. “The biggest problem we had last time was that we didn’t get any stops, and not only that but they had a lot of quick drives and we didn’t make them earn it as much as we needed to. They had a couple one-play drives, they had a two-play drive, they had a couple five-play drives. We just really didn’t make them earn it. In the second half we started to play better.
“We’ve got to get some stops and make them earn it. If they’re getting 10-play drives and 12-play drives then we’ll take our hats off to them, but we’ve got to make them earn everything they get and we’ve got to move the ball on offense.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Triton at Adams Central
It’s been a year since the last time Triton and Adams Central faced off in their 2011 sectional-opener, but this year’s Trojans squad remembers that 38-18 loss. A year older and wiser, Triton (1-8) is hoping for some payback against the Flying Jets (5-4) as the Trojans head to Adams Central for a Class A Sectional 35 rematch Friday.
“We talked a little bit about it. Last year was at home, and we knew we were the underdogs and it was going to be a tough challenge to beat them,” said Triton head coach Rodney Younis. “It was a great game; the bottom line is just they had some good, big, solid offensive linemen that took over the game, and we were unable to stop them. This year now we’re going down there to their field and we want to pay them that same favor — we want to steal a victory on their field.”
Triton has struggled this season with the team’s only win coming against fellow Sectional 35 team LaVille in Week 7. But the Trojans have had some bright spots this year as well, opening the season with a narrow 28-20 loss on the road at Caston and playing Bremen tough in an eventual 7-0 home loss in Week 7.
It may seem cliche, but the Triton coaching staff is reminding its players that the playoffs represent a clean slate for everyone and a chance to put the past behind them.
“We’ve faced some really good teams this year, and we felt like we’ve been battle-tested,” said Younis. “We preach that it’s a brand new season, and it doesn’t matter what records are. You can throw those out the window, everybody is on an even playing field right now, and it’s a matter of what team gets hot and can make a three-game run to win that sectional title. We’re focused on this week. We’ve got a long bus ride down there, but our kids are focused, and they’re ready to play. They’re excited to get going, they enjoy this time of year.”
Opening kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
LaVille at North Miami
The Lancers are going through some lean times. After finally breaking a 14-game win streak stretching back to 2010 in Week 2 of the 2012 season, LaVille hasn’t had much to show for some bright moments of play since.
The Lancers (1-8) held unbeaten 3A No. 1 Jimtown to a single score in the first half of their Week 3 match-up, they led Triton 10-7 at halftime in an eventual loss to the Trojans in Week 7, and last week they played the Cavaliers to a 0-0 stalemate in the second half at Culver Community but couldn’t come back from a 21-7 halftime deficit.
This week the team is hoping to put together a full game as it travels to North Miami (6-3) in search of the Lancers’ first sectional win since 2008.
Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Note: LaVille head coach Mark Reddy was unavailable for comment Wednesday night.