It is said sometimes “Third time’s the charm” While this was actually the fourth meeting with Mater Dei, it was the third time in a row for Linton facing the Wildcats from Evansville in Sectional 40 action. This year, it was for all the marbles in Sectional 40, and the first time our Miners have been in such a position since the push up to 2A in the IHSAA.
The Cats came into the game Friday as the defending Sectional champions, and they were riding a six-game winning streak. Clearly, their competition level had been intense by playing in the SIAC conference with other Evansville schools, most notably Memorial, Reitz, North and Central, as well as facing Castle and Jasper. Under 24-year Head Coach Mike Goebel, the Wildcats won a State Title in 2000, and they have earned 11 Sectional, 7 Regional, and 4 Semi-State crowns to their name since 2000.
Linton came in on their own four-game winning streak and a 7-4 won-loss record, getting to this championship game with Sectional wins over Tell City and North Posey. It was really a proud moment to take to The Roy, but also the misfortune of being restricted to fans attending due to the Covid-19 rise in Greene County. So, what should have been in normal times an off-the-chart packed, sideline-filled, and south end zone Miner-heavy crowd was limited to just parents. Considering Linton’s roster of 42 to Mater Dei’s 75, and you realize that the visitor bleachers were nearly as full as just a normal game crowd though.
This was the game Miner Coaches had been working towards since the first practices in summer of 2020. It started decently as Drew Smith and Trey Goodman had runs of 5 and 8 to give Linton a 1st down at their own 37. A Kaulin Padgett run of 7 yards converted a 3rd and 7 for fresh downs at the 47. A couple stops by MD Linebacker Jackson Brantley left Linton with a 4th and 4 essentially at midfield, and playing field position early, Jaydan Miller put the Wildcats at their own 16 with a punt. The field position card was gone in one snap as Bryce Humphrey broke free through the Miner line, and then down the Wildcat sideline and only halted as Padgett pushed him out at the Mater Dei 46 for a gain of 30.
Fortunately, the Miner Defense rebounded with stops from Gabe Eslinger, Landon Giles, Hunter Gennicks and good coverage by Eli Poe, which forced a Mater Dei punt that likewise pinned the Miners at their own 14. Despite a nice 6-yard Smith run to start the series, Padgett was snagged by 6’5 Defensive End Alex Money for a 6-yard loss. Linton’s first pass attempt failed, and again Miller punted, but Mater Dei was at the Miner 44. They moved to the Miner 34 on back to back 5-yard runs, then QB Mason Wunderlich lofted a pass to a well-covered Ryan Taylor, who made a leaping catch despite being hit immediately by Miller at the Miner 4. Linton made the Wildcats earn the score, which came on a 3rd and goal from the 10 on a Wunderlich pass to Preston Turner. Turner alertly reached across the goal line for the score when he was physically stopped before getting in there. Jordan Atherton nearly cleared the fence surrounding The Roy on the PAT, and Mater Dei was up 7-0 with 2:04 in the first quarter.
Linton did not help their own cause on the ensuing kickoff, which Atherton placed perfectly inside the five. The ball bounced and appeared to headed out of bounds, but Padgett fielded it inside the one and was brought down at the 4. Miner QB Hunter Gennicks converted a much needed first-down on an 8-yard run, but MD shut Linton down, particularly LB Nolan Knight, and it was yet another Miller punt.
Turner took the ball at about midfield, and he got to the Linton 39 until Braydon Lannan stopped him. After Lannan stopped RB Joey Pierre for a one yard gain, Wunderlich found a wide-open Eli McDurmon for a 38-yard RD strike at 10:16 of the second. Another Atherton PAT made it 14-0. As with the last two Mater Dei games, Linton found themselves in a hole early. Padgett returned another kick off from inside the 5, but this time reached the Miner 25. Gennicks found Pie for a 13-yard gain, then converted a 3rd and 9 with a pass to Tight End Cameron Goodman to reach the Miner 49. The Miners could only reach the Wildcat 44, though, and facing 4th and 3 the Miners elected to punt; Miller again pinned Mater Dei inside their own 20 at the 16.
The Wildcats were pushed back to the 8 on a holding call, and it looked like Linton might make a defensive stop and flip field position; however, 3rd and 10 became 3rd and 5 on an offside call, then it was the Wunderlich-to-McDurmon connection again. This time for 36 yards to the Miner 43. It was then a pass to Turner for another 16 to the Miner 27. It was a ‘must-stop’ situation for the Miners, and they responded with Padgett breaking up a pass for Turner, then senior Damien Giles tackle of Pierre leaving a 3rd and 7. Wunderlich again spotted a wide-open McDurmon for an easy score, but McDurmon slipped and fell and the ball sailed overhead. Atherton then calmly nailed a 41-yard field goal with east to make the score 17-0 with 3:06 in the first half.
Armed with the small victory in keeping MD out of the end zone, the Miners tried to make something happen in those last three minutes, but two passes for Poe went incomplete stopping the clock. Miller’s punt was downed at the Wildcat 42 with 2:39 still on the clock. Wunderlich threw a short sideline pass to Landen Fools, who used blocks from other receivers to bust a 34 catch and run with only Hunter Johns saving 6. Runs from Pierre and Humphrey got to the Miner 3, and then it was a short out patter pass to Turner that was spot-on from Wunderlich for another Mater Dei score with 30 seconds to spare. With the PAT good, Linton now down 24-0, and Mater Dei receiving the second-half kick-off, there was not a lot of joy in Miner City.
As expected, the half-time stats were bleak if you were a Miner fan. Just 77 yards of offense in 28 plays with 5 punts. Conversely, Mater Dei had put up 242 yards, 169 of that through the air. The Miners had done good against the run — allowing just 73 yards — and 30 of that came on the first play of the game. Linton had not threatened to score, though. In fact, they had barely crossed the mid-field stripe — only once to the Wildcat 44.
The second-half would not be any better. It started with an onside kick attempt that was fielded by Nicholas Boots at the Miner 49. It took a mere four plays for Mater Dei to score again. A 16-yard pass to McDurmon, then a 26 yarder to Folz, put the Cats at the Miner 7. Humphrey finished off the drive from one yard out. Atherton’s PAT made it 31-0 just 44 seconds into the third quarter. Linton could find no answer offensively, and it went three-and-out. Miller booted a punt 30 yards to the Wildcat 35. This time it was one play, and another terrific catch from Ryan Taylor from Wunderlich, that went 65 yards to pay dirt. The shocking thing was that Atherton missed his first PAT kick of the year; however, any hopes that Linton would come out strong in the second-half were squashed with 13 points in 3:13 and a 37-0 lead that included a running clock.
Kaulin Padgett had a nice kick-off return from the Miner 4 to the 39. For the night, he had six returns for 135 yards, a 22.5 average. The Miners got runs from Padgett and Trey Goodman to get their first 1st down of the second-half to the midfield stripe. Gennicks then connected with Eli Poe for 13 yards to the Mater Dei 37, and Hunter then weaved and spun through mostly second team defenders for a nice vintage 37-yard TD run to give the Miner Faithful a reason to smile. Jaydan Miller added the PAT, and Linton was finally on the board with 5:36 in the third, but down 37-7. The onside kick nearly turned into a disaster as it appeared Boots again fielded the bouncing football in stride and streaked downfield for an apparent touchdown! Fate was on Linton’s side this time, though, as an official had evidently inadvertently blew his whistle thinking Boots was down. Either way, it disappointed the Mater Dei crowd, yet the Wildcats had the ball at the Miner 48. The starters for Mater Dei by this time were lounging on the sidelines, and the Miners stuffed the second team for no gain. Padgett picked up his seventh interception on the year on 3rd and 14 at the Wildcat 40.
After a short pass to Poe gained 2 yards, Gennicks rolled to his right and threw deep for a wide-open Cameron Goodman. The Junior Tight end scored his first TD of the season on the 38-yard catch and run. Miller again was good on the PAT, and the score jumped to 37-14 with 2:29 in the third.
After another failed onside kick, the Wildcats got a couple pass plays from Luke McDurmon to Jake McDurmon to move the chains, and that also moved the game into the fourth quarter. Levi Grounds dropped the QB for a 7-yard loss, which eventually forced a Wildcat punt to the Miner 34. Mater Dei reinserted their starting defense, which stymied Linton’s offense to another three and out, and resulting in Miller’s seventh punt of the night.
Taking the field on that last defensive stance were the five Miner seniors playing their last game at Roy Williams Field: Damien Giles at Defensive End, his brother Landon at Defensive Tackle; Trey Goodman and Braydon Lannan at Outside Linebackers, and Levi Grounds at Defensive End. Kaulin Padgett picked up his eighth interception, and second of the night on 3rd and 13 at the Linton 38. Gennicks scrambled for 28 yards on 2nd down to the MD 34. Back-to-back completions for Poe got the Miners a 1st and 10 at the MD 21. Goodman’s last carry as a Miner went 8 yards to the 13. On the game’s final play, Gennicks hit Poe for the final points of the year on a 13-yard TD completion. The PAT was wide left, and the final score was 37-20.
Linton ended up with 144 yards on the ground led by QB Hunter Gennicks 13 carries for 92 yards. As just a sophomore, Hunter moved into the QB position in week two and finished with 916 yards rushing to lead the Miners. His 15 rushing TDs, as well as 129 carries, were tops, as well. Trey Goodman had 30 rush yards on 8 carries, finishing 2020 with 542 yards and 9 TDs. Linton ran for just under 2,800 yards as a team, and both Drew Smith and Kaulin Padgett had 440+ yards each. Gennicks hit on 8 of 18 passing for 102 yards with 2 TD passes; one to Eli Poe, the other to Cameron Goodman. Gennicks hit on 50.4% of his passes in 2020 (70 for 139) with 1,099 yards, and an impressive 17 touchdowns against a mere two interceptions. Eli Poe was the favorite target all-year, and he was against Mater Dei, too, with 9 passes his way. He ended up with 6 catches for 54 yards. Gennicks targeted Poe 62 times this season, nearly half his 139 attempts. Eli caught 32 passes for 392 yards and 6 TDs, all team highs. Cameron Goodman caught his only two passes of the year in the Mater Dei game, and one for a score! His older brother Trey ended the season with 19 catches for 281 yards and 3 scores. Kaulin Padgett and Gabe Eslinger each had five catches in 2020, three of Padgett’s catches went for TDs.
Defensively, Drew Smith ended the year as the leading tackler at ILB with 98 stops. Gabe Eslinger missed a game and a half, but still had 91 tackles, 22.5 of those tackles for loss. Gabe has two years as a starter at Linebacker, and he has racked up 177 tackles and 34 TFL in that span. Against Tell City, he lined up at Nose Tackle and versus Mater Dei he was at Defensive Tackle. Jaydan Miller finished the year third on the list with 60 tackles at Safety with Hunter Johns at 56 from outside linebacker. Levi Grounds had 49 tackles from defensive end. Kaulin Padgett finished with an impressive eight pass interceptions, and as a team the Miners has 18 interceptions.
On this night, Mater Dei had only 69 rushing yards at 3.14 per carry. Bryce Humphrey let with 53 yards on 6 carries, and one of those for 30 yards. Joey Pierre came in with 667 yards rushing and had just 22 on 8 touches. It was through the air that the damage was done. Mason Wunderlich, just a sophomore, hit 11 of 15 for 276 yards and 4 TDs. Luke McDurmon came on late for 2 of 5 for 13 yards but 2 picks. Those 289 passing yards were what sunk the Miners, along with an inability to move the ball offensively. Four receivers gave Wunderlich several options, and all responded with Eli McDurmon 4 for 92 and a TD, Preston Turner 2 TDs of 3 catches for 29 yards. Landen Folz, Ryan Taylor and Jake McDurmon each had 2 catches. Taylor’s 2 catches were particularly damaging for 92 yards and a score. Defensively the Wildcats were led by 4 tackles each from Jackson Brantley, James Ralph, Drew Martin and Ryan Taylor.
The Miners should return the nucleus of a stellar class for their senior season in 2021 with linemen Donovan DeBruhl, Dalton Carpenter & Jackson Fields; Drew Smith, Gabe Eslinger, Kaulin Padgett, Cameron Goodman, Bracey Breneman, Jaydan Miller, Eli Poe, Ayden Riggleman and Jackson Lynn all returning. Add to that QB Hunter Gennicks, Hunter Johns, Wrigley Franklin and Aiden Giles whom all started as sophomores. No doubt, there will have to be others step up and join the fray. Coach Joe Lorig’s Junior Varsity Miners once again faced a season against much bigger schools and will be counted upon in 2021.
While the end result was not what we had hoped for, it was still an outstanding season in many ways for the Linton Miners. At 8 win and 4 losses, it was another successful campaign that featured a couple overtime games and enough heart pounding moments to keep 911 on standby. I want to praise these five seniors. They came into a year where #1 we graduate a monster senior class prior, then facing something no football season has ever faced. The fear every day that that day could be the last day to ever strap on that L. Coming out with that 28-0 to Southridge with not the best offensive showing, but putting it together, rolling with the punches and improving. Representing Miner Football. Getting back up when down. My sincere appreciation goes to these guys, and honestly to all the members of the team and staff; particular the hand dealt to this 2020 team. The loss of the crowds, the loss of interest due to other factors, and just the effort it took and takes not only year-round. In the summer, they didn’t even know if all that work would result in playing a down. The extra challenges they have all faced every week being extra safe and putting those fears aside.
Mater Dei: Preston Turner 10 Yard Pass from Mason Wunderlich. (Jordan Atheron PAT) 2:04 1st
Mater Dei: Eli McDurmon 38 Yard Pass from Mason Wunderlich (Jordan Atherton PAT) 10:16 2nd
Mater Dei: Jordan Atherton 41 Yard Field Goal 3:03 2nd
Mater Dei: Preston Turner 3 Yard Pass from Mason Wunderlich. (Jordan Atheron PAT) 0:20 2nd
Mater Dei: Brynce Humphrey 1 Yard Run (Jordan Atherton PAT) 11:06 3rd
Mater Dei: Ryan Taylor 65 yard Pass From Mason Wunderlich (Kick Fail) 8:47 3rd
Linton: Hunter Gennicks 37 Yard Run (Jordan Miller PAT) 5:36 3rd
Linton: Cameron Goodman 38 Yard Pass From Hunter Gennicks (Jaydan Miller PAT) 2:29 3rd
Linton: Eli Poe 13 Yard Pass From Hunter Gennicks (Kick Fail) 0:00 4th
Linton: H.Gennicks 10-92 (TD); T.Goodman 9-30; D.Smith 5-15; K.Padgett 4-6; G.Eslinger 1-1; TEAM 29-144
Mater Dei: B.Humphrey 8-22 (TD); J.Pierre 8-22; E.McDurmon 1-5; C.Wiley 1-2; C.Stratman 3-(-2); L.McDurmon 3-(-11); TEAM: 22-69
Linton: E.Poe 6-54 (TD); C.Goodman 2-48 (TD) TEAM: 8-102
Mater Dei: E.McDurmon 4-92 (TD); R.Taylor 2-95 (TD); L.Folz 2-60; P.Turner 3-29 (2 TD); J.McDurmon 2-13; TEAM 12-289
Linton: H.Gennicks 8-18-102-2-0
Mater Dei: M.Wunderlich 11-15-276-4-0; L.McDurmon 2-5-13-0-2 TEAM: 13-20-289-4-2
First Down: Linton 12 Mater Dei 12
3rd Down: Linton 5-12 Mater Dei 5-9
Red Zone: Linton 1-1 Mater Dei 3-3
Penalties: Linton 2-20 Mater Dei 2-13
Total Yards: Linton 246 Mater Dei 358
Turnovers: Linton 0 Mater Dei 2
Punts: Linton 7 Mater Dei 2
PAT: Linton 2-3 Mater Dei 4-5
Featured photo by Austin Gordon Photography