The eight teams in 2A Sectional 40 range from a winless 0-5 Crawford County and a 2-7 South Spencer to the regular favorites of 5-4 Evansville Mater Dei and 6-3 Linton. This year, you have to add 6-2 Tell City to that list of favorites and certainly 5-2 North Knox too. A 5-3 North Posey and a 6-3 Forest Park round out a group that has six of its eight teams with winning seasons. Most folks around these parts of southwestern Indiana have put the Marksmen and, of course, the Wildcats at the top of the list of their favorites; and, the draw set up that very scenario. That is unless the Miners, Warriors, or even the Vikings or Rangers have a chance to change those thoughts.
North Knox travels to Ferdinand to face a team on the rise: the Forest Park Rangers. Their 6-5 2019 season was their first +.500 season since an 8-3 in 2010. The Rangers first full season was actually 2008, so that was a relatively quick rise to success, but playing in the tough PAC year in-and-out took its toll on the Rangers playing the likes of Gibson Southern, Heritage Hills, Southridge, as well as Perry Central. At 6-3 the Rangers are coming in off a 38-0 shellacking from an unbeaten 3A Southridge. That ended a three game winning streak over 3A Pike Central (49-6), 1A Springs Valley (41-26) and 2A South Spencer (42-7). Those teams have a cumulative 3-21 (W-L) record.
Against winning programs, the Rangers still have much to prove. In addition to the Southridge loss, they fell 25-0 to Tell City (6-2) and 29-20 to Mt. Vernon (5-2). Their big win this year was in week two’s 41-12 win over 1A 6-3 Perry Central. North Knox is coming off their best year of Warrior Football (8-4) since 2014, and they reached the sectional championship game last year, too, falling to Mater Dei 35-6. The Warriors have been literally warriors this year battling the COVID-19 issue, losing games last-minute, and adding games the next minute, and still ended up playing seven of the nine scheduled games. They have won three in-a-row, including last week’s 42-0 romp over 4-3 4A Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, 49-17 over 4-4 1A North Daviess, and the gem of their year: a 27-14 win over Linton. Their first win over Linton since 2009.
The lone losses came in week number one to 3A 6-3 Sullivan losing 48-19, and they also lost in a late-added game against 2A 5-4 Rensselaer Central with a final score of 35-19. The Warriors and Rangers have met up twice in the last three years in post-season. NK won last year 25-0 at Warrior Field with the Rangers winning in 2017 with 27-14 at the same place.
Many folks casually scanning scores last Saturday morning would no doubt be stunned by the 35-26 result of South Spencer knocking off previous 6-1 Tell City. I admit, hearing that score on the Sports Talk network on the car radio coming home from Clarksville stunned me too. Briefly.
There had to be more to that story, I thought, and there was. Tell City was without five starters, and three of those were two-way starters. This happened last minute, so the Marksmen were hampered severely. This was evident on three pass-plays accounting for score, which were essentially blown coverages that one would assume would not have occurred with their normal senior starters in the game.
Meanwhile, the Miners have won two in-a-row, a 56-0 slashing of Eastern Greene (1A 1-8), and last week’s long road trip to defeat Providence 27-7 (2A 3-5). At 6-3, their big win of 2020 was a 22-16 overtime thriller of 3A 5-3 Sullivan. The three losses have come to unbeaten 3A Southridge (28-0), to 4-3 4A Boonville 44-42 in overtime, and 27-14 to 5-2 2A North Knox.
The Marksmen, under first year coach Mac Webb, are 6-2. The six wins are the most for the program in a single year since a 6-4 in 2013. Before that, it was a 6-4 in 2006 season. You have to go back to twenty years to see a high win total of the 8-4 they had in 2000. Linton has had only one losing season (5-6 in 2018) in the last 20 years. Brian Oliver has been at the helm eight years with a 79-20 mark over-all.
Both schools lost to Southridge, but Tell City’s was down-to-the-wire at 14-12, while Linton was blanked in week one with 28-0. Of course, week one was a long time ago. Both teams should be at full-strength tonight, as it should be. Linton and Tell City — despite being in southern Indiana too — have only met one time to my knowledge. In Linton’s 2015 run to a runner-up 1A trophy Linton ran over the Marksmen 76-8 in the opening sectional round at Linton.
South Spencer truly has nothing to lose in playing Evansville Mater Dei tonight. I am pretty sure that nobody will have the Rebels in this game. When you consider the 5-4 Wildcats, under their 25th year coach Mike Goebel, you have to look into their schedule. It is said year-in and year-out they are a 2A school playing a 3A-4A schedule. The SIAC is brutal for anyone, but Mater Dei is always in the hunt for top-honors in Evansville. They are coming off a 40-20 handling of 4A 3-6 Evansville Reitz, and they have won their last four, including 49-15 over 4A Harrison (1-8), 56-6 over Bosse (0-8), and a huge 29-14 win over 5A North (5-4). Their four losses were to powerhouse programs in Southwestern Indiana.
Even the losses were impressive in that twice they had lost by only three points (6-3 to 5A Castle (5-3), 13-10 to 4A Memorial 6-3). The others were unbeaten 4A Central (21-0) and 28-14 to 4A Jasper (7-2). The Rebels under Jeff Daming in his first year at South Spencer were in the midst of a four game losing skid when they upset the 6 and now 2 Tell City Marksman last week in Reo.
Despite the game facts given in the above paragraph, a win is still a win. The Rebels put up 35 points on a team who had given up on 34 all season long. It has to give the players at S. Spencer some confidence going into Evansville on Friday. The other “W” came in week three with a 48-0 win over winless 3A Pike Central. They put up 28 in a 42-28 loss to 2-7 3A Princeton, but have had trouble putting points on the board against every one else — less that 7 points in each of 6 games. These teams have met in 2016 (56-20 Mater Dei); 2015 63-22 (Mater Dei); 2012 (42-0 Mater Dei); 2009 (12-0 Mater Dei); and 2007 (35-13 Mater Dei) — and 4 more losses back to 1994). So yeah, it is certainly a big mountain to climb for the Rebels to shock the state, but never say never.
The Vikings of North Posey are on a roll. They were 2-3 after back-to-back-to-back losses to Southridge (55-21), Tell City (35-17), and a tough double overtime loss to Heritage Hills (35-34). Now, though, they are currently on a three-game winning streak with wins over Tecumseh 27-15, South Spencer 27-7 and last week Pike Central 58-15.
Granted, we know the level of competition has been considerably different in those subsets. Those first three schools WL was 18-7, compared to the last three at 4-18, yet winning breeds a winning attitude too. The Vikings under 4th year coach Waylon Schenk started off with 2 wins— 30-6 over South Spencer (yes, they played twice), and a 22-7 win over Princeton. The draw was very kind to them with the Wolfpack of Crawford Country being their first-round opponent. Not offense meant for those kids trying to field a team in tough conditions in Marengo with low numbers as it is. But they have yet to have a winning season in their existence, which started in 2007. They’ve only tallied more than two wins in a season once: four in 2008. They have played five games in 2020, losing each of them substantially by giving up 55 points a game. They lost last week to 1A Tecumseh 51-14, and they have played some good teams in 6-3 3A North Harrison, 6-3 2A Paoli, and 6-3 1A Perry Central. I don’t see that these teams have met prior to this game. Coach Tony Bell is at the helm for Crawford County; and, regardless of the outcome, they should be applauded for keeping the program alive and those kids who go out and play full-tilt every week.
So there you have it. I think the NK-FP game, along with the Linton TC game, are the ones of interest tonight. The winner between the Warriors and Rangers will probably saddle up against Mater Dei. The Miners and Marksmen are likely to face North Posey. My personal feeling is North Knox will be too much for the Ranger, but I haven’t seen Forest Park play. I am just looking at number crunching.
The Linton-Tell City matchup is enticing. I can’t help –even as a devout Miner guy –feeling uneasy that the Marksmen are such a power-running team. Even though that is the pride of Miner Football — shutting down rushing attacks, that is — we were embarrassed with North Knox running all over the field. I have to feel the Linton kids are going to respond to that with a re-focus and perhaps a bit of a wake-up call. The defense certainly played their best collective game last week against a solid Providence team.
For the Marksmen, this is a big game for their program. They’ve been one-and-done in nine of the last ten sectionals. Only in 2000 did they reach the sectional championship, losing to Mater Dei of course. Linton since moving up to 2A has at least won their first round, and they have always been considered at least a dark horse, if not a co-favorite, most years. But yet, they’ve not been able to make noise in Sectional 48 with the win necessary.
So, it’s as big a game for the Miners, as well as the Marksmen. I hope the weather doesn’t factor into things — it was raining earlier today — but we’ve been awfully lucky with weather this year.
Good luck to all teams!
Featured photo by Austin Gordon Photography