Second-half domination leads to Miners’ first victory this football season

If you waited until halftime to come to The Roy or tune into the broadcast, well, you might have thought how could the Miners be down 13-0 coming out of the locker room?!   Perhaps the Miners came out with opening game jitters, but the Miner defense had kept it from being worse. Halftime adjustments and perhaps a bit of old-time re-focus paid dividends immediately that led to a 27-0 second-half performance and the Miners first win over Southridge in eight meetings.     

Actually, the offense looked sharp on their opening series with a short pass from Junior QB Hunter Gennicks to Senior Wideout Eli Poe gaining 8 yards, followed by a straight ahead churn of 5 yards from Senior Fullback Drew Smith.  Then disaster struck as Gennicks tried to make a last minute pitch in the midst of several Raiders draped over him, and the ball was knocked free by Linebacker Caleb Kramer with Aiden Jochem falling on the ball at the Miner’s 27-yard line.  This experienced Miner Defense had no plans to let Southridge take advantage, though, and stuffed the vaunted Raider running game down in 2 plays, then QB Levi Neukam saw the ball ever so slightly slip out of grasp, perhaps courtesy of Miner Senior ILB Gabe Eslinger.  It squired forward to the Miner 18 where Senior Free Safety Jayden Miller landed on it.  Series two ended with Gennicks 9 yard run just short of the needed yardage, and Miller punted 32 yards to Jochem, and again the Raiders started in Miner territory. But the Defense for the 2nd time shut down Southridge in 3 plays resulting in a Jochem punt into the endzone with 5:06 in the first.

The Miners showed offensive life with a 10-yard run from Junior WB Hunter Johns, followed by a 22-yard Raider-dragging run from Gennicks that set Linton up at the Raider 49, but Southridge rose up to make 3 stops, and Miller pinned the Raiders at their own 9 on a perfect punt fair caught by Kaden Neukam.  Linton had a chance to play the field position game with a stop, and had a great chance on a 3rd and 7 at the Raider 12 when Kaden Neukam got free space on an excellent fake to Jochem, and rambled 16 yards to the 28 before Johns and Miller made the tackle.  Another 3rd down apparent stop went aside when Junior DE Wrigley Franklin was tagged with a facemask call just after dropping the Raider QB at the line of scrimmage.  The Raiders would get their 3rd first down of the drive and reach the Miner 40, but also a holding call pushed them back to their own side of the 50.  After Smith nearly picked off an attempted screen, Neukam nearly hit a wide open Carter Whitehead on the hash marks but Senior DB Kaulin Padgett cause just enough disturbance for an incompletion.  Jochem’s ensuing punt rolled dead at the Miner 4. 

Then… Disaster #2.  Eslinger burst through the line to the 10 looking for more but Jochem wrangled the ball out of Gabe’s arm at the Miner 9. The Miner Defense made the Raiders earn it, but Jochem out ran them to the right corner for the game’s initial score at 6:22.  Max Jessee nailed the PAT kick for a 7-0 Raider lead. Linton’s offense was stymied leading to a 3 and out and another Miller Punt.  All through 2020 Jayden had been an effective weapon punting the ball, as he had all game long, but something I hadn’t seen in many a year would lead to disaster #3… and unless my eyes deceived me, it appeared his punt went off the back of one of the three protector big men in the punt formation.  Carter Harris would jump on the ball at the Miner 24 with 4:53 in the half.  The Miner Defense once more refused to crumble and had a 3rd and 17 after back to back negative plays made by Smith (-5) and both Franklin and Sr DE Cameron Goodman (-2).  But the pass play missed earlier made a reappearance, this time with Whitehead making the catch at the Miner 9.  Still it came down to under a minute with 4th down at the1 yard line.  It looked like the Miners might make the stop, but Jochem was able to stretch out the defense and just get in on the outside of the end zone.  However, Jessee’s PAT kick was missed to the left, leaving the score 13-0 Raiders with just 48 seconds to wind down to the half. 

The Roy was a little shell -hocked to be honest as the teams headed to the locker rooms.  My feeling was that it could have been a bigger margin deficit, and that the Linton defense had kept the Miners in the game, and that if the offense could eliminate their self-destruction; well there was 24 minutes left of football to be played.  Neither offense had looked good & both were under 100-yards of total yardage, and little to no passing game on either side (a collective 3 of 14).  Turnovers had been the big number for both teams not just Linton.  Two Miner fumbles and a punt implosion had put the Raiders put Southridge on the Miner doorstep three times while the lone Raider fumble took away a scoring opportunity.  Linton had more rushing (18 for 75, 4.17 per carry) while the Raiders could only muster 2.9 per carry (22 for 64).  The one Raider pass completion accounted for 22 yards giving Southridge the edge in yardage 86 to 84. 

Everybody knows the 1st series of a 2nd half is a key moment for both sides in a close contest.  It took two plays for that momentum to change.  After an opening 2 yard loss on a stop by Johns and Eslinger, QB Neukam lost the exchange with his RB and Drew Smith fell on the ball at the Raider 32.  Still, the Miner offense struggled as DE Matt Altmeyer, & ILB Hunter Eckert made defensive plays to force a 4th down and 6 at the Southridge 29.  It would be the strength of Gabe Eslinger who broke a couple tackles and eeked out the 1st down yardage by a yard.  With numerous Raiders going down with cramp issue multiple plays in a row, it was Hunter Johns taking the inside counter and with a large hole created by the offensive line cruised to a 19 yard score.  That line consisted of Tackles Senior Cameron Goodman and Freshman Hank Gennicks; Guards Wrigley Franklin and Aiden Giles (both juniors) and junior Center Nathan Watson.  The 2nd half also saw Sr Donovan DeBruhl was essentially an extra lineman at a Tight End position giving the Miners extra girth that seemed to spur the rushing game.  Jayden Miller hit the PAT and a 13-7 score at 8:56 of the 3rd Quarter. 

We spoke of disasters for Linton in the 1st half, Southridge faced their 2nd such disaster on the 1st play after the kick-off.  As Neukam rolled out to pass, Franklin applied pressure and the pass attempt went to Whitehead across the middle.  This time there were three Miners surrounding Whitehead, and Eslinger got a hand on the ball, tipping in air bound, then juggling, then making the interception then running 25 yards to the Raider 25.  A block in the back started the possession at the Raider 35.  But again, like the Miner D, the Southridge D refused to roll over particularly Jr ILB Caleb Kramer was involved in five consecutive stops.  Another 4th down and 6 faced Linton at the Raider 31, and this time it was Hunter Gennicks making a play with his feet for an 8 yard gain.  Linton pushed inside the 10 to the 6, and on 3rd down Gennicks would push through off tackle to tie the score at 13 with 4:33 left in the 3rd.  Miller would give the Miners the edge 14-13 with a solid PAT. 

Southridge seemed to dig deep realizing they needed to stop the bleeding.  Jochem opened with back to back runs for a 1st down and their own 37.  Kaulin Padgett made perhaps the play of the game on a 2nd and 7, as the Raiders popped out the pass play down the seam that had been open before, and appeared to be wide open again.  Neukam’s pass looked to be on the mark which looked to be a certain touchdown in the making.  At the last second Padgett, coming over from cornerback, leaped and knocked down the pass.  Jochem was stuffed by Sr NT Jackson Fields, and Sr ILB Bracey Breneman on 3rd down forcing a punt, but also pinning the Miners at their own 11.  It was Johns again with a 16 yard counter that moved the ball out to the 37, out of the shade of their own end zone.  The Raider D stiffened with Eckert and safety Caleb Neukam making stops.  Miller once more pinned the Raiders inside the 20 and the 4th quarter began.

Bracey Breneman brought the Miner faithful to their feet with a big hit on Neukam dropping the Raider QB to their own 20 on 1st down.  A 3rd down pass for Jochem on the sidelines was beautifully caught but solid defense from Eli Poe using the sideline barrier made it incomplete.  The Raiders were forced to punt facing a 4th and 11.  The explosion factor that has always been Miner Football chose this time to return to the forefront.  Gennicks kept the ball on the opening play from the Raider 46, and busted through tacklers and streaked down the middle of the field to pay dirt to push Linton to a 20-13 lead.  But the door was left just open as the PAT sailed left leaving the margin at 7 with 9:46 left.   Things got more nerve wracking as soph Yamil Arroyo returned the Drew Smith kick-off to the mid field stripe.  However the Miner defense had been on point all night, and maintained that in this key possession.  Goodman, then Eslinger made 1 yard stops on Neukam, then Johns read the swing pass to Jochem setting up a 4th and two at the Miner 42.  Electing to go for it, Southridge looked to have drawn multiple Miners offside; but, the official call was Procedure on the Raiders and that changed the decision to punting the ball.  Jochem did his job with a high punt that Miller fielded with a fair catch at the Miner 7.

One more it was the legs of Hunter Johns with the big play, again on a counter catching the Raiders following Gennicks. Johns busted free for a 27 yard gain which just about cut out the lights on the game but not quite yet.  From the Miner 38, Gabe Eslinger powered through the Raider D with impressive strength and reached midfield on a game of 12, but Whitehead punched the ball loose with Carter Harris leaping on the pigskin at midfield.  With 4:02 left in the contest, Southridge had an opportunity down a score and PAT, and a lead with a 2 point conversion.  The Miners had not had good results in these type of endings against the Raiders to date.  With both fan bases on their feet, Neukam went deep on a wheel route Jochem with almost identical results to the early play.  Jochem leaped and caught the ball, but Poe’s hit put him out of bounds and incomplete.  After Drew Smith stuffed Jochem at the Miner 48, a 3rd and 8 pass for Whitehead was over thrown possibly affected from Wrigley Franklin’s pressure.  On 4th down, more pressure in the form of Johns from OLB forced Neukam to scramble.  He made a great effort refusing to go down, and appeared to be lunging for the necessary yards went Hunter Gennicks stepped in to bring him down just a yard shy.  Linton ball. 

It was quite the night for Gabe Eslinger, and knowing him I’m sure he beat himself up for the two fumbles. Besides a key interception that led to the Miner go ahead score, he would drive the nails in with a 55 yard run.  It showed speed I didn’t think he had as he reached the second level and darted to the Raider sideline about their 40 and turned on the jets keeping a mere inches in bounds and out running the defense to the delight of the South End Zone Miner Fans.  Miller drilled the PAT despite being hit after the kick but the celebration had begun as Linton took a 27-13 lead with 2:24 remaining.  Southridge would not surrender, and Neukam was forced to the air 8 times in a row.  Once he gained 11 on a scramble after pressure from Giles, but the passes didn’t provide the big play needed.  Neukam’s pass to Myles Kerkhoff bounced into his arms on 4th and 4 incomplete, and Linton would take a knee from their own 42 to achieve the win. 

The 2nd half numbers were vastly different from the opening half.  Particularly for the Miners.

Of Linton’s 320 total yards, 236 came in the 2nd half; All of that on the ground.  Southridge could only manage 136 total yards, and only gained 50 in the 2nd half.  Neither team was a threat in the air, Linton just 2 of 9 for 9 yards, and Southridge hitting just 4 of 20 for 35 yards.  The Miners tallied 311 rushing yards led by Hunter Gennicks’ 125 on 20 touches with 2 TDs.  Hunter Johns (7-84 TD) and Gabe Eslinger (9-80 TD) along with some bruising inside runs from Drew Smith (9-20) all made contributions.  Eli Poe had one catch for 8 yards, Eslinger the other for 1 yard.  Southridge combined for 101 rush yards on 36 carries, just 2.8 per carry.  Aiden Jochem let with 40 yards on 13 carries and 2 scores; Levi Neukam with 36 on 12 carries and Kaden Neukam 4 for 21.  Levi was 4 of 20 passing with an interception thrown.  Jochem, Neukam (Kaden), Whitehead and Keaton Allen each had a catch.Eslinger led defensively with 8 total tackles, 2 assisted TFL’s, and a big interception.  Franklin was in on 3 TFL’s and 7 tackles (5 solo).  Hunter Gennicks with 7, Johns added 6 tackles, Smith 5, Miller 4.  Padgett was busy defending 5 passes, Johns with 4.  Smith and Miller each had Fumble Recoveries.  Caleb Kramer had a big night for the Raiders defensively with 15 total tackles, Hunter Ecker with 11.  Yamil Arroyo and Aiden Jochem both with 8 and 6 each from Matt Altmeyer and Kaden Neukam.   JOchem recovered 2 fumbles, Carter Harris the other.  Jayden Miller punted 5 times with a 31.8 average, inside the Raider 20 on 3 of those.  He was 3 of 4 in PAT kicks.  Drew Smith kicked off 4 times mostly squibs up the middle with a 27.4 average.  Jochem punted 5 times for a 46.2 average, 3 inside the 20 including a touchback.  Max Jessee was 1 of 2 on PATs and had 3 kickoffs with a 44.67 average.

The Miners had 14 first downs to Southridge’s 6.   The Raiders had 8 penalties for 57 yards compared to Linton’s 5 for 45 yards.  Each team with 3 turnovers.  Linton 3-11 on 3rd downs, 2-2 on 4th Downs, with the Raiders 4-15 on 3rd and 2-5 on 4th.  Both teams were perfect in the red zone (each 2 for 2). Time of Possession was Linton at 25:30, Southridge at 22:30 with total play count about even at 56 for SOuthridge, 53 for Linton.  Linton had 4 explosive plays (20+ yards) versus just one for SOuthridge.  Linton’s Defense had 6 TFL for 17 yards included and 8 yard sack, while Southridge had 5 TFL for just 6 yards.      Week 2 brings the 100+ meeting between Sullivan and Linton.  The Golden Arrows will bring a 1-0 record and a high scoring offense to the Roy after a 35-6 win over North Knox last week.  Linton won last year in an exciting 22 to 16 overtime battle at Sportland Field, and have won 2 in a row, and 5 of the last 6 meetings.  Southridge will host Boonville (0-0) in Huntingburg.  This was the last meeting in the regular season between Raiders and the Miners as Parke-Heritage will be in that slot in 2022.  I would expect a huge turnout next Friday as Sullivan is bound to bring a large entourage, and I would certainly more than expect Lintonians in full turnout.  It should be quite the setting albeit hot and a highlight of the season.        

Photos by Austin Gordon Photography

%d bloggers like this: