The modus operandi for Linton Miner Football for years-and-years had been to prove doubters wrong — and to compete against anyone anywhere and if we don’t get the “W” then we get the “R” for respect.
Granted, respect doesn’t win ball games, and we want to win ballgames too! It’s safe to say that Linton Football has earned respect statewide due to all those Miner teams of the past and the players who put it all on the line. I think it’s also safe to say that travelling the two-plus hours to Tell City to face the #10 ranked Marksmen put Linton as the underdog… maybe not to the folks in Linton, but I think the consensus was that Tell City was the favorite. That was probably fair, too, when considering the Marksmen played #4 3a Southridge to an essential draw, although an “L” in the books 14-12.
Of course, we know our Miners lost 28-0 in week number one at Huntingburg.; however, Coach Brian Oliver, and coordinators Jake Gennicks and Mark Gennicks were always planning, and always adjusting, and always keeping an eye for week number ten and beyond. This year, more than any year since I started doing the radio games in 2000, I have seen more moves and changes in the course of this season. What that has done is provide depth, confidence, and renewed intensity. Sure, we had a major malfunction during the mid-season falling to North Knox, but that loss seems to have lit a fire in the Miners’ belly. Defensively, this team has stepped up several notches with shutdowns of Eastern Greene and Providence. You can add Tell City to that list too.
All week, the talk leading into this game was what would Tell City be able to put on the field. I hate that the Covid-19 virus played a part in any discussion, but it did. The Marksmen were without five starters last week at the last minute, and South Spencer put up 35 points in a 35-26 win to stun the area. Most all of that damage came in the air on three, long TD passes, but gave the Rebels their second win of the year. The dreaded “contact tracing” really hit them this week, and Coach Webb and the athletic office were really put through the ringer with losing so many players; they ended up with just twenty-one players dressed on Friday night.
That said, they did have most all of the key players in place: starting QB, and all three RBs’, all five senior linemen as well. What they did not have were their senior Tight Ends. Defensively, it was worse in terms of secondary, as all four starters were out. This forced Coach Webb to put players in new positions with little-to-no practice time as all five who missed the week before were out quarantined until Friday.
Even in saying all this, Linton wasn’t going to be passing in these conditions. Massive rain fell on Legion Field, and the lightning hat evening delayed the start by maybe 30 minutes. But after the stormed passed, the field was mud and covered with standing water in spots, and a stiff wind blew across the field all night. Add to that, the temperature dropped about 25 degrees too! So losing their D backs wasn’t going to be crucial in a night like this, nor against a team like Linton that doesn’t typically line up three-wide and air the ball out. The Marksmen would still field a tough, senior-laden squad upfront and in the linebacking corps.
It was under these circumstances that Linton started the game, and we were promptly stopped on a 4th and 1 at the Marksmen’s 36. Linton had gotten the ball at the TC 45 after the kick-off went out of bounds; however, the Miners could not take advantage.
The Miner D was equally staunch in forcing a three-and-out, as well as a Tell City Punt to the Miner 31. Coach Oliver rolled the dice in a big way on yet another 4th and 1, but from their own 40. Miner Quarterback Hunter Gennicks just got enough to move the chains. Two plays later, Gennicks kept the ball on a read play and got a great block by Aiden Giles. TC’s RB Keaton Lloyd broke a 13-yard run to the Miner 31 and dropped the hand-off on the next play. As the pile uncovered from the mud, it was Junior DT Donovan DeBruhl who hoisted the ball high for the Miners. It would only be two plays later that DeBruhl would be lost to an ankle injury on a 2nd and 14 run though. DeBruhl would be helped off by teammates and have an air cast put on his leg, then at halftime board an ambulance destined to Evansville. A tough end to a great junior season for Donovan. Linton would be forced to punt with Miller’s 38 yard boot to the Marksmen 34.
As the second quarter started, Tell City converted a 3rd and 1. It was Lloyd again busting down the home sideline to the Miner 39, and then it was a questionable late hit assessed on Miller that put the ball at the Linton 27. The Miner D hunkered down with tackles on RB Bren Miller by Hunter Johns and Drew Smith, followed by a big stick on Lloyd by Gabe Eslinger and Damien Giles. The 3rd and 9 saw a pass to Miller from QB Aden Dodsen and well-defended by OLB Trey Goodman to set up a 4th and 5. After a TC time out, Dodsen pitched to Lloyd, who set up to pass. And yes, Miller had snuck into the TE position, and he was well behind the Miner secondary. Jayden Miller made a quick recovery, though, coupled with Lloyd’s pass being just a bit long. Tell City’s Miller got a bit twisted around, and the pass hit the ground in the back of the Miner’s endzone. Linton took over at their own 22, and they had back-to-back 5-yard runs by Goodman and Smith, giving the Miners a first down.
Padgett took off on a jet sweep left to right and another Miner break-away down the Marksmen sideline, but alas a yellow flag negated the run to the TC 21. On a 3rd and 19, the same play was dialed-up by offensive coordinator Jake Gennicks with the same result. Padgett to the near sideline and another great block from Aiden Giles to spring #7. This time, no flags were thrown with only Miller saving the score again at the TC 21 for 56 yards. Those last 21 yards would be just mud and guts with inside carries by Eslinger and Smith, then Gabe again to convert a 3rd and 1 to the 9-yard line. Goodman and Gennicks each had runs to push closer, then it was Trey with the run to the left pushing across for the Miner score at 3:26 before halftime. Even though Miller’s PAT kick was low, the Miners and those fans, who braved the two-hour drive and sitting in the elements, were mighty enthused at the diligent 11 play 78-yard 6 minute drive to go up 13-0.
The sideline in Miner Red was pumped up as the defense came right out with a three-and-out. Plays by Jackson Fields, Bracey Breneman, Braymon Lannan and Levi Grounds put TC at a 3rd an 7, and Grounds wrapped up Dodson for a QB sack aided by pressure from Landon Giles. Lloyd’s punt was caught by Johns at the Miner 35, but the mud brought him down! The possession started great with a 17-yard Goodman run outside to the left, as Corey Braunecker pushed him out at the TC 48. Marksmen DT Tyler Rockwell made several disruptive plays in the Miner backfield with several hand-offs getting done literally with his presence just a step away. This time, Rockwell got the TFL with a loss of 4 on a Padgett run. Padgett took another 4-yard loss on the 3rd down with a play by LB Hunter Beckort. Linton would punt away, and Miller put the ball unreturned at the Marksman 31 with just 42 seconds left in the first half. Tell City ran a couple plays to no avail, then the teams headed inside from the cold wind and all of the mud with Linton up 13-0.
The half-time stat book was heavily in Linton’s favor. Total yardage was 179 to 76. The big difference thus far was Linton breaking two big running plays of 50+ yards each, as well as the failed 4th down half-back pass to the end zone, and a Lloyd fumble on a TC drive into Miner territory. The Miner D held the Marksmen in check with no huge plays, other than a couple 10+ runs by Lloyd being the maximum damage. As the teams came out from the warmth of locker rooms, you felt that first series was going to be huge for both teams. Tell City needed to establish their patented ground game and needed points to gain momentum. A stop from the Miner D would certainly put TC on its heels. I didn’t think the Marksmen needed to panic, or change their normal offense; rather, do what they do best and march down the field.
All that would change in a blink of an eye. All night long, as well as most all of the season, Drew Smith had been going with squib kicks down-the-middle of the field. On this night with the mud and wet and cold, and the fact Drew was perfect in his kicks, Tell City could only jump on the ball without any return. This time, the ball took an awkward bounce toward the front line, and it appeared to be caught at the Marksmen 40; however, two City players collided, which knocked the ball loose, as the players went down. Hard-crashing Miners connected with the Marksmen with the ball tumbling loose recovered by Smith himself at the Tell City 46.
Linton had a chance to put the Marksmen in a bad position, but it looked like TC was not going to allow it with back-to-back stops of Goodman setting up a 3rd and 6. Linton went back to the well, and it was Padgett again with a huge 30-yard run and kept out of the end-zone by Beckort at the TC 12. The play featured greater downfield blocking from Smith and Sophomore Wrigley Franklin. The Marksmen Nation fell several notches on the next play as Senior Trey Goodman truly made a terrific run in what looked like a stop at the line of scrimmage. What it ended up being was a 12-yard TD run and a show of desire by a senior wanting his season to continue. Gennicks rolled out to hit a wide-open Smith for the 21-0 lead with just a minute-twelve gone from the 3rd quarter clock.
The squib kick almost worked again as Smith’s kick bounced off Braunecker, but he managed to reel it in just at the last moment. Honestly, it did feel as if the Marksmen lost some faith as this point. Linton dominated the TC line in this series as Eslinger, Grounds, and Breneman made big hits on the 1st and 2nd down. Miller was hit by Hunter Johns, popping the ball lose, and Linton’ Jaydan Miller nearly had a scoop-and-score. Linton smelled blood, but Tell City had pride and held tight setting up a 3rd and 11. Linton would complete their lone pass of the night at a perfect juncture in the game. It would be current QB to former QB, Gennicks to Goodman, who made the catch at the 30 and again broke tackles, spinning and fighting for 19 yards to the Marksmen 19 and a fresh set of downs. Again, the TC defense hunkered down with Eslinger stopped on 3rd and 1 by Freshman LB J Buckendahl. But the 4th and 1 proved undramatic as a Marksmen bit on the fake, albeit seemingly a bit touchy on the flag, giving Linton a 1st down at the 5. Gabe Eslinger earned his second touchdown of the night on the next play, putting the Miners up 27-0. This time, Miller drilled the PAT kick and upped the margin to 28 with 4:56 in the third quarter.
The Marksmen were treated to the Levi Grounds Show in their next possession, and Levi (back in jersey #8) was in on all three stops — two of them solo allowing no yardage gained. Another Dodson attempt to Lloyd was hampered by Eslinger pressuring the QB, and Miller put a hit on Lloyd as he leapt for the high pass. The nails were already halfway in by this time, and then they were driven in fully as Hunter Gennicks kept the ball and cruised up the middle of the field untouched for 48 yards to hit pay dirt just 1:54 from the prior score. It seemed improbable that such a game could be subjected to a running clock, but that was the just the cas had the PAT gone as planned. It was another “fire” situation as Gennicks vaulted with the snap, but he unable to reach Smith on the pass leaving the score 34-0 with 3:02 still in the third quarter.
This horrid third quarter for Tell City continued as the Miner Defense continued to dominate, forcing a 4th and 3 from the TC 47. It was Gabe Eslinger who sliced through the line to throw Braunecker for a 2-yard loss, and it kept Tell City without a third quarter first-down. Eslinger, normally at ILB, was challenged with a move to nose tackle, to deal with TC Center Senior Will Kirtley, whom Miner coaches were very impressed with in film study. This move also was a challenge to Junior Bracey Breneman, moving into a starting role at ILB. That move proved very successful as evidenced by the shutdown of an offense that averaged 247 yards rushing per game. That third quarter saw Linton outscore TC 21-0 and outgain the Marksmen 128 to 4. Overall at this point, Linton had a 307 to 80 total yard advantage.
The Miners closed out the third quarter with a holding penalty, their second one of the night. An attempted deep pass to Eli Poe that as too far followed. The third down might have been converted, but Gennicks’ pass was dropped at the Marksmen 40. One of the few mistakes in Linton’s night would occur as Miller delayed his punt, which led to it being mildly blocked by Beckort and picked up by Nick McDowell at the Linton 40, and Linton Sophomore Logan Walker made the stop at the Linton 34. As much as Tell City wanted to score, Linton’s Defense wanted the shutout. Another Eslinger TFL on Miller put TC in a 4th and 11. Dodson was able to avoid the Miner rush ,and he found Braunecker at the Miner 27 then Breneman put a big hit at the 17. The Miners refused to fold, though, with tackles from Smith, Eslinger and Breneman, plus a pass disrupted by Jackson Fields. At the 4th and 3 Dodson tried to thread the needle, but failed with Goodman making his second pick of the season at the Miner 3.
From here on, it was really a matter of the final 8:34 clicking off the clock, and the hopes that both teams could get off the field without further injury. Drew Smith had an 8-yard run, but Linton was held and another Miller punt to the TC 45. The Marksmen would get a first down on runs from Braunecker and Beckort, but Eslinger dropped Miller for another 4-yard loss. Dodson’s pass for Braunecker on 3rd and 13 was picked by Kaulin Padgett, his sixth of the year. The Miner clean jerseys swooped on the field for the final 4:12, and those JV kids moved the football, as well. Thomas Edwards, Logan Walker, Brayden Cox, and QB Ty Boyd moved the ball 20 yards before Boyd took a knee on back-to-back plays that ended the game, as well as a very successful season for Tell City at 6-3.
Once again, this Miner Defense came ready to play. They have come to play in a big way these last three weeks too. A total of 91 rush yards were allowed against this powerful Marksmen rushing team; that’s 2.5 per carry. Linton has allowed 1.78 yards per carry over three weeks, or 185 yards total on 104 carries and 1 TD allowed. Take away the Eastern Greene game, and you still see 193 yards on 69 carries, 2.89 per carry, against two solid running teams.
The Miners have picked off six interceptions in these last three weeks too. Breneman piled up twelve tackles total, Grounds had eleven, Smith at ten and Eslinger with nine tackles, including 3.5 TFL. The Miner Offense had also been a well-oiled machine these last three weeks. Tonight was no exception with 318 rushing yards, led by Gennicks with 133 yards on 13 keeps with 2 TD runs. Padgett added 80 yards on 7 carries, and Goodman another hard 42 yards on 9 carries with 2 scores. The tough inside work maybe doesn’t add to big numbers, but the carries from Smith (8-27) and Eslinger (6-11 TD) served their purpose well. Passing was near impossible due to field and weather conditions, but the one completion (out of 4) Gennicks had was a big one for 19 yards to Goodman. Linton finished with 337 total yards. Linton has rushed for 822 yards in the last three weeks, a 247 per game clip. Ten rush TDs, seven passing scores, along with 352 yards in the air too. That amounts to 391.3 yards per game on average.
Linton also produced five turnovers, while they avoided the turnover bug in what otherwise was a mud fest.
The loss of DeBruhl to an injury is a sad epitaph to the game, which is very unfortunate. The Defensive front tonight of DeBruhl, Landon and Damien Giles, Jackson Fields, Dalton Carpenter, Cameron Goodman, Levi Grounds, and tonight Gabe Eslinger at nose tackle was stellar. The Linebackers, Hunter Johns, Braymon Lannan, Bracey Breneman, Drew Smith and Trey Goodman, as well as the run support from Jaydan Miller, Eli Poe, and Kaulin Padgett all contributed to a terrific win for Linton Football. The Offense cannot be ignored with their effort, though, and it’s a lot of the same names, but add Wrigley Franklin and Aiden Giles on the line. Punting by Jaydan Miller had yet another great night, sans the one blocked late in the game. Drew Smith was perfect in his squib kicks that garnered one of the games’ biggest plays on a fumble recovery to start the second half.
Linton will now return home to Roy Williams Field for the Sectional Semi-Final match-up against the North Posey Vikings. They are not unfamiliar with The Roy, as they lost 51-0 at Linton last year in the first round, and then in an exciting 36-to-35 Miner win in the 2017 second round. The Vikings sit 6-3 and have won four in a row, including a 56-12 win last week at Crawford County. Their only losses have come to Southridge, Tell City, and in overtime to Heritage Hills. It’s a game that Linton will likely be the favorite, and that winner will be facing the winner of the North Knox and Evansville Mater Dei matchup. Linton cannot afford to have a let-down or look ahead to a possible championship game.
- Linton: Hunter Gennicks 3 Yard Run (Jaydan Miller PAT) 5:04 1st
- Linton: Trey Goodman 2 Yard Run (Kick Fail) 3:26 2nd
- Linton: Trey Goodman 15 Yard Run (Gennicks to Drew Smith) 10:48 3rd
- Linton: Gabe Eslinger 5 Yard Run (Miller PAT) 4:56 3rd
- Linton: Hunter Gennicks 48 Yard Run (Pass Fail) 2:54 3rd
H.Gennicks 13-133 (2 TD); K.Padgett 7-80; T.Goodman 9-42 (2 TD); D.Smith 8-27; G.Eslinger 6-11 (TD); B.Cox 1-9; L.Walker 1-6; T.Edwards 2-5; T.Boyd 1-5; Team 2-0; TOTAL: 50-318 6.4 per carry
Tell City Rushing:
K.Lloyd 12-48; H.Beckort 8-24; B.Miller 12-15; C.Braunecker 2-5; A.Dodson 2-(-1). TOTAL 36-91 2.5 per carry
Linton: H.Gennicks 1-4 -19 -0-0 Tell City: A.Dodson 2-8-22-0-2 K.Lloyd 0-1-0-0-0
Linton: T.Goodman 1-19; Tell City: C.Braunecker 2-22
First Down: Linton 13 Tell City 7
3rd Down: Linton 6-13 Tell City 2-11 4th Down: Linton 2-3 Tell City 1-5
Red Zone: Linton 4-4 Tell City 0-1
Penalties: Linton 4-41 Tell City 1-5
Total Yards: Linton 337 Tell City 113
Turnovers: Linton 0 Tell City 5
Featured photo by Austin Gordon Photography