The Miners returned to the friendly confines of Roy Williams Field in Linton after back-to-back road wins pushed their record for five wins against no losses. It is the first unblemished start after 5 games since the 2016 State Championship team. No coincidence that both the 2015 and 2016 Miner State Finalist team were honored good and proper at halftime. With Boonville coming in winless in 3 games, many folks had mentioned the ‘trap’ game theory. Would Linton overlook the Pioneers? I didn’t think so coming into the game because of the amount of multi-year starters, who are hitting the middle of their Senior year as Miner football players. Keep in mind that we’ve only played Boonville coming into tonight a total of twice, and if you are a follower of Miner football, you will remember last year’s 44-42 loss in overtime!
That was one of the best games that I have called on the radio in my 23 years, but unfortunately it was a loss. The Miners won the initial meeting in 2020, 27-16, at The Roy. Despite an 0-3 start, Boonville had lost their last two contests by a total of 3 points — 2 to Heritage Hills, and 1 to North Knox last week.
Also, you have to add to the mix that Boonville is a 4A school of 891 enrollment, as compared to 389 in Linton, which puts us in the lower echelon of 2A football schools. The Pioneers were 11-1 in 2018, but have to face the Evansville 4A schools in their sectional every year, as well! Linton would benefit with the return of several players, who missed the last couple game due to Covid quarantine, but we were still without starter Jaydan Miller at Safety, as well as starting tackle Hank Gennicks since week 1.
Going into last week, the concern had been the Miner offense in the first-half. Only 13 of Linton’s point output of 95 had come in the first-half. Of course, Linton exploded for 20 points within their first 4 plays of the game at North Vermillion, and they had 56 at the half. Any concern about ‘trap’ game, or the offense, disappeared as they took the opening kickoff and marched 73 yards in 10 plays to put up 6 points on a Gabe Eslinger 2-yard dive at 7:32. It was everything you want to see in an opening drive with an 11-yard run from Drew Smith, 10 yards from Hunter Johns, a 16-yard pass from Hunter Gennicks to Eli Poe, and a Gennicks keeper that put Linton at the Pioneer “2.” This week, the Miners debuted a new kicker wearing #88 Eddie Caceres Oliver, and he drilled the PAT to put Linton up 7-0.
One area that had not been a concern thus far was the stingy physical play of the Miner Defense. Holding opponents to 2.2 yards a carry, 12.4 ppg, and just over 130 yards per game total. It looked like business as usual with a three-and-out and a Pioneer punt. From their own 23, the Miner “O” looked to start off where they had left, as Poe caught from Gennicks at the 27 and made a move on the cornerback reaching the “44,” a gain of 22 yards.
The Miners reached midfield, and they got a first down due to a Boonville offsides flag to the Pioneer’s “46.” However, the Pioneer defense stiffened, and Johns was dropped for a loss of three by Max Lockridge and Carter Wolfe on a 3rd-and-7, forcing a punt from Logan Webb that very nearly was a turnover. Marques Ballard took the punt and went right, then paused to cut back, but was drilled by sophomore Christian Shonk popping the ball out. A Miner was right there, as the bounce careened off this shoulder with Boonville’s Reece Wilder diving on it at the Pioneer “29.”
Boonville used a 2 Quarterback system, but had both players on the field with the other at Wingback. In this series, it was Jr. Clay Conner with Sr. Mason Phillips at wing. Conner ran for six, followed by ten from leading rusher Reece Wilder, to give Boonville their initial first down at their own 46. After a procedure penalty, Conner hit Phillips wide-open, who was tracked down by Kaulin Padgett at the Miner 38. On 3rd-and-3, Wilder was stuffed by Gennicks for a loss of 6, but Boonville lined up to go on 4th-and-9. Connor was able to spot Ballard across the middle for the catch, but Ballard broke through a Miner tackle and raced to the end zone for a 37-yard TD. Friedrich Berkowsky was true on the PAT kick, and with one play in the books in the 2nd quarter in was all knotted-up 7-to-7. Suddenly, momentum had switched colors to black, and a snafu on the kickoff return had Linton backed up to their own “5” with the Pioneer defense forcing a Miner punt that set Boonville at their own “34.”
Logan Webb booted the ball 40 yards from the Miner end zone. On the very first play Conner QB-faked the hand-off and tucked and ran to his right. He was able to once more break Miner tackles, something unseen in 2022, and fought into the end zone from 34 to stun the Miner’s faithful.
With Berkowsky dead on with the PAT it was 14-7 Boonville with 9:09 left in the opening half. Once more the kickoff return went awry and Linton starting at their own “12.” It would be a key-point in the game, and a test of fortitude after being shutdown in the previous series. Gennicks scrambled for 11 yards out to the 23, then Johns burst for 10 more and another First Down to the Miner 33. It was Gabe Eslinger, who got around the outside of the Pioneer defense, then outran them all 67 yards down the Miner sideline for a huge TD. However, the PAT bounced off the right upright and left Linton down 14-13 with 7:35 in the half.
Boonville began work at near midfield after a short Miner kickoff, and Wolfe gained 7 on 1st down. But the Miner defense rose up with Jackson Fields, Jackson Lynn, and a terrific blast from Eslinger on a 4th-and-2 that ignited the crowd in “Ooh’s and Ahh’s”! At this point in the game ,the Miners had the ball at near midfield with 5:22 on the clock. Padgett broke through for 9 yards on 2nd down, but Linton had to convert a 4th-and-1 on a Gennicks sneak to the Boonville “39.” Jr. Thomas Hall of Boonville was all over the tackle sheet, and he had back-to back-stops leaving a 3rd-and-9 at the Boonville 38-yard line.
Next, was the type of play that kind of leaves you unable to speak, and certainly difficult to try and describe in words! Gennicks looked to pass, rolling to his right as Boonville LB Wilder took a bead on #14 and came in with a head full of steam. Gennicks bolted to his right all the way to the Miner sideline just shy of the original line of scrimmage. From there he pulled up, looking to dump the ball last-minute and took the hit from Wilder, but he didn’t go down! Instead, he took a step back, and threw back across the field to where Eslinger stood alone at around the Pioneer 20. Eslinger spun around, and it was a foot race to the opposite corner of the Pioneer end zone. It was a 38-yard play that covered much more yardage, but put Linton up, 19-14, and seemingly answered the bell from the 14-7 deficit. Linton went for two, and Bracey Breneman was wide-open, but Gennicks’ pass was batted down with a great play from Jonathan Pulling.
From their own 39, Boonville tried to survive the storm, and got 4 from Connor on 1st , but they lost 5 on a procedure call. Wolfe got 10 to set up a 3rd-and-one, but, once more, it was a poster-making hit from Gabe Eslinger for a loss of three forcing a punt from Ballard that bounced perfectly inside the Miner 5 to the 4. It was the third possession for Linton starting deep in their own territory; specifically the 4, the 5, and the 12. Linton would go to the air with passes to Webb, then to Poe that were incomplete.
A holding penalty denied a good run from Hunter Johns, pushing back to the “4 “again. That penalty wasn’t the bad part of the play, though; rather the exit in obvious shoulder pain to Johns, who has been a huge part of the Miner undefeated season on both sides of scrimmage. He would not return to the game. Linton got an offside call to move out to the 9, then Gennicks got out to the 16. Padgett reeled off 4 more to end the half with Linton up, 19-14.
It was strange as I look back because as I type this now I have a different feeling than I did at halftime of the actual broadcast. I can recall saying at least twice that while Linton was up, 19-14, it felt as if we were behind. As I type this replay, it doesn’t read that way at all! Linton had 241 yards of total offense, 160 on the ground, and 81 in the air. Boonville had 133, 71 on the ground and 62 in the air. I guess it was the fact I wasn’t used to seeing anyone run as successfully with a 4.8 per carry average and 133 rushing. In the prior four games, three opponents were held under 100 yards rushing, and the other (Southridge) just 108 in 4 quarters. Boonville had 133 at half. Linton had 12 first down’s to Boonville’s “5,” and the Miners with about a six-minute time advantage. The Miner “D” had held the Pioneers to zero conversions on third downs, and 1 of 2 on 4ths, with two very memorable Eslinger hits in the process.
Another short kick-off to the Pioneer 40 and return gave the Pioneers the ball at midfield. Wrigley Franklin set the tone with the hit of Conner for a 3-yard loss, then Eslinger was all over a short pass to Phillips that netted 2; however, on a 3rd-and-11, Conner found tightend Max Lockridge wide-open on the back side at the Pioneer 44, where he rumbled 27 yards to the Linton “25” being dragged down by Padgett. One more though, the Miner Defense answered that mistake with 3 stops of Conner for -1, -4 and then 3. Franklin’s hit caused a fumble that Wilder was able to jump on, then along with Eslinger forced a 4th-and-12 play at the Miner’s “27”. Conner hit his RB Wolfe on a short pass at the Miner 25-yard line that very nearly gained the needed yardage, but fell a yard shy as Kaulin Padgett brought him down.
Linton would then do what they do best, and that is to grind the ball down the field physically, which mentally defeats an opponent more than anything else. This was the Drew Smith drive of the year. He would handle the pigskin five times for 54 yards, and very nearly get in on a powerful surge up the middle of 27 yards to the Pioneer 2. He gained 21 yards on the first two plays pushing the ball to the Miner 37. On 3rd-and-3, he blasted for 8 to the Pioneer’s 48.
Gennicks ran for 16 yards then, and that put Linton at the Boonville 30. After a short run from Padgett, it was the Smith run of 27 that included blasting over the safety Conner, and twisted down by Cooper Aigner at the 2. From there , the Pioneers put up a fight with a huge hit from Thomas Hall that set Smith back 2 yards. Eli Poe was wide-open in the end zone on the next play, but Gennicks got heavy pressure from Carter Wolfe and had to wisely throw
the ball away.
Third-and-goal saw Eslinger stopped by Hall and Wilder at the “1” and thus a 4th-and-goal. Both support bases rose to their feet as Center Nathan Watson prepared to snap the ball to Gennicks who was under center as opposed to shotgun. He surged forward, but the Pioneers had stacked the line, and it looked at first as if Hunter was stopped cold. However, a second effort and continued pushed from the offensive line got the ball over. It was heavily discussed by the officiating crew, and definitely a call unpopular in the Boonville stands and sidelines. In the end though, it was a touchdown, and with a pass to Eslinger good for 2 more points, Linton was now up. 27-to-14, with 2:45 in the third quarter.
It was a drive lasting 13 plays, churning 84 yards and using 6:12 of the clock. It was an excellent effort from the offensive line that included a couple pancake blocks from Donovan DeBruhl who was just back from two games missed due to Quarantine. This was also good because Jackson Lynn, who had himself been inserted into game two in the O.L. because of Hank Gennick’s injury the week before, was now replacing Hunter Johns at Outside Linebacker. Because DeBruhl was back, he came in at Tackle, with Aiden Giles back at Guard on one side, and Franklin and Cameron Goodman on the other side with Watson in the middle. It is good to have depth in any school, but even more so in small schools where it is genuinely an unusual thing.
Webb’s kick-off was not handled by Pulling, and the Miners were quickly on him at the Boonville 34 led by another player back from missing two weeks-Cody Jackson, as well as Christian Shonk and Jesse Voigtschild. Boonville was now in a do-or-die situation, but Phillips was short on a pass to a wide-open Wolfe at the 40. Nathaniel Sowder was new to the game, and he had his only touch go for 9 yards, and Phillips got just enough despite being hit at the line by Nosetackle Jackson Fields. The Pioneers missed a golden opportunity when the speedster Ballard’s post pattern was wide-open at the Miner’s “35” for a certain catch and run to the house was missed by Phillips. The pass sailed well long and to the wrong area of the field, and all in the Miner Nation breathed a sigh of relief. Conner converted a 3rd-and-6 on a pass from Phillips, barely past the sticks for a first down at the Linton 46-yard line as the third quarter ended.
Mason Phillips had his best play of the night scrambling to his right after being flushed from the pocket by Eslinger. He was able to elude several Miners, getting to the Pioneer sideling and gaining a first down at the Miner 35. Boonville went with a power backfield with Conner, Wilder and Wolfe side by side, and Conner was hit by Cody Jackson almost immediately upon getting the ball for a loss of 4. More pressure met Phillips on 2 nd Down as Eslinger from Inside Linebacker nearly got him first, then Franklin chased him toward the Miner sideline. Phillips should have tucked and ran, or threw away, but he tried to fling it across the field for Ballard, but it was senior Kaulin Padgett who dove and made the interception at the Miner 22. It was truly a back-breaker for the Pioneers that saw 5:04 eaten off the clock and 10 plays wind up with no points to show for it.
The Miner offense would then nearly replicate the only other possession they’d had in the second-half. Three Gennicks runs mixed with two Eslinger carries put the ball 1 st-and-10 and the Miner 43. Then Kaulin Padgett showed his speed getting outside on the left side and turning on the jets until Aigner got him out of bounds at the Pioneer 33 with a gain of 24. Gennicks showed his elusiveness getting away from a Conner Blitz, breaking away from Wilder and gaining 11 at the 22. Smith took a straight -on shot from Wilder and the ball popped out but an alert Hunter Gennicks dove on the ball to keep possession for the red and blue. The Miners have shown the option with success a few times this year, and this time Eslinger took the last second pitch 8-ards and a first and goal at the Pioneer 10. First Padgett, then Eslinger took shots, and finally it was Drew Smith from 1 yard out with 3:29 remaining in the game to put Linton up 25 to 14. That play was one of the few times Linton used a tightend with Brenneman in the game. That same set-up led to the 2 point conversion run by Eslinger and what would be the final
points of the game.
Boonville tried to go to the but Conner was under heavy pass rush even with Miner second teamers in the contest at linebacker. Both Juniors Thomas Edwards and Bradyn Cox made their presence known as well as Soph Ty Boyd at DE. Boyd was seeing his first action of the year after injuring a knee the Wednesday before the opening game of the year. It was great to see Boyd on the field, and he essentially had a QB sack in the books until Connor managed to throw the ball out last minute. Cox did have a qQB sack on 9 yards on 4th-and-4, and credit Jackson Lynn with 2 QB hurries in the process. Linton took a knee on 3 straight plays to end the game.
Once more it was a case of Linton’ defense blanking the opponent in the 2 nd half. The Varsity unit has only allowed 14 2 nd half points (N.Vermillion scored late on JV defense in week 4). The 23nd half saw Boonville only with 59 total offense (133 in the 1 st half). Linton eclipsed 400 yards (403) with 322 on the ground, and 112 in the air. Boonville had a total of 192 offense, 80 via the rush, and 112 in the air.
Gabe Eslinger had his first 100 yard game with exactly that on 9 carries and 2 scores. Drew Smith has his best game rushing of the year with 81 yards on 12 carries and a TD. Hunter Gennicks was as always a key ingredient with 80 yards and 17 carries and a TD. Kaulin Padgett had his most action at WB with 41 yards on 6 carries replacing Johns in the 2 nd half. Johns had 5 rushes for 20 yards before leaving just before the half with an apparent shoulder injury. Gennicks was 4 of 11 passing with only 1 attempt in the 2 nd half. He had a TD to Eslinger, who had 2 catches for 44 yards. Eli Poe had the other two for 37 yards.
Boonville marked the firth team in-a-row held under 3 yards per carry at 2.85. It was also the fourth game in a row of sub 100 yards rushing allowed with 74. Boonville was led by Clay Conner with 35 yards on 13 carries, Carter Wolfe with 17 on 4, and Reece Wilder just 7 yards on 6 attempts. Total passing was a combined 8 of 12 for 112 yards for the Pioneers with Connere 5 of 6 for 98, and Mason Phillips 3 of 6 for 14 with an interception. Wolfe and Phillips each had 2 catches (15, and 23) while Ballard had the 37 yard TD catch from Conner. Conner, Wilder and Max Lockridge each had catches.
Defensively, Eslinger led all with 10 stops, 2 TFL and 2 hurries. Hunter Gennicks added 5, with 4 each from Bracey Breneman, Wrigley Franklin and Kaulin Padgett. Brady Cox also had 4 including a QB Sack. It’s pretty clear from the stat sheet that Boonville ran away from Drew Smith all night as I didn’t have him with a tackle at all! Franklin and Cox each had 2 TFL, Cody Jackson, & Hunter Gennicks each had 1. Kaulin Padgett had his first pick of the year, the team’s fifth. Credit must be given to Boonville’s Thomas Hall who was in on 12 tackles and 2.5 TFL. Nine tackles for Clay Conner, 8 each from Carter Wolfe, Johnathon Pulling and Reece Wilder.
Next Friday will be homecoming for the Linton, and it will be a meeting with long-time opponent the North Daviess Cougars. ND is coming in on a 4 game winning streak and has just the opening week loss to Tecumseh on their record. Boonville falls to 0-4, but believe me they are a very good 0-4 squad. They have another tough task in hosting Mt. Vernon (Posey) who at 5-0 are in the midst of the best start since in over 20 years. Best of luck to Coach Ward and the Pioneers down the road.
Also, I will have an updated game stat post, as well as a season to date fury of stat information later in the week for you, whom like me, love the numbers!