Miners make quick work of T-Birds, steamrolling to an eighth win

The Miners took care of business quick and precise almost from the outset of the game.  Linton would be without two starters; one a two-way starter in senior Drew Smith, the other cornerback senior Kaulin Padgett and both as precautionary measures with both expected back next week. This was a game the Miners were expected to win, and do so handily.  But in a situation like that you want to see your team handle their business and execute flawless, and of course get out of any game without injuries.  

The Miners would strike early and very often on another beautiful night for high school football and a packed house for both school supporters.  Linton Senior Bracey Breneman is known for his play at Inside Linebacker for the Miner Defense, but got the nod at Running Back with starter Drew Smith being held out from an injured ankle suffered in the 2nd Quarter at North Knox.  Bracey had just 9 yards on 5 carries this season, but opened up the game with 49 yards on the first two plays.  His 23 yard run put the ball at Eastern’s 37, and his 16 yard burst to the 21.  Then it was pass from Junior QB Hunter Gennicks to Senior Wideout Eli Poe perfectly placed across the middle in the end zone for a 21-yard TD strike just 52 seconds into the contest.  

Linton scored on their first 8 possessions of the night, and in fact every series the starters were in.  Even more, they had put up 30 points in their first 12 plays of the game!  It was 31 with an extra point kicked Eddie Caceres Oliver after the first TD.  Perhaps the lone area of inconsistency was in the extra point department. Between freshmen Caceras Oliver and Jose’ Sevilla-Garcia the PAT attempts hit on just one of five to start the game.  However, they would each connect with two each as the game played out.  They’ve only been on the active roster starting with the Boonville game in week 5; never having played the sport beforehand, as well as being freshmen.  Sevilla-Garcia handled the majority of kick-off’s and was consistent in high kicks with better coverage, an average of 44.1 per kick with an average start of the 33 of Eastern. However, the first kick-off was returned by Jedd Cummings 37 yards to the Miner 48.

While the Miner offense was racking up points and yards, the Defense was doing what was expected.  Eastern actually did move the ball on their initial drive with a 10 yard run from Sophomore James Lewis IV reached the Miner 38. There would be little more to write about.  Sophomore QB Jonas Hawk would hit Cummings to 7 yards to set up 3rd and 6 but Junior DE Wrigley Franklin and Senior ILB Gabe Eslinger stopped Sophomore RB Evan Ferkingstad for no gain.  EG lined up to go for 4th and 6 but a procedure call brought out the punt team.  Sophomore Zac West was the most valuable T-Bird in just fielding high snaps and getting punts away as nearly all 6 punts had snaps either short or high and none were blocked.  Linton took over at their own 20, and after a 10 yard run from Junior WB Hunter Johns, it was a beautiful lofted pass down the Miner sideline to Junior Wideout Logan Webb, who got behind Cummings and made the catch at the EG 42, breaking free at the 30 and going the distance for his 3rd TD of the season.

That initial 1st Down Eastern got on their opening drive was the only one they’d get until a facemask gave  them another early in the 3rd quarter.  The Thunderbirds would not see the Linton side of the field again until reaching the 41 midway through the quarter.  I have to applaud the hometown fans though, as they stayed through-out and cheered these young Eastern players to the end. And Young they are.  Their starting lineup Friday on offense consisted on 1 Senior, 2 Freshmen and 8 Sophomores.  It was much the same defensively with just 2 senior starters, the rest sophomores or freshmen.  Add to that being down a couple starters to injury and it was a tall task for Coach Bruce in facing a gelling Senior-laden Miner team.  

Linton would rack up an incredible 434 yards of offense in the 1st half.  253 on the ground at over 13.3 yard a touch, and 181 thru the air.  Conversely Eastern Greene was totally contained offensively, with just 6 total offense. 17 to 1 in total First Downs.  Gabe Eslinger got the 3rd Miner Touchdown with a 29 yard jaunt starting to his right then going across the width of the field to the left to score at 4:20 in the 1st Quarter.  Hunter Gennicks had a 21 yard run in the next possession setting up another TD strike from Gennicks to Poe of 39 yards, Eli’s 6th TD of the year.  Hunter Johns closed out the 1st quarter with a 27 yard run to the TBird 25 the next time Linton touched the ball, then Gennicks ran the ball in from 25 on the opening play of the 2nd Quarter, and a 31-0 Miner lead.

Gennicks had also contributed defensively with his 1st interception of the year, the team’s 9th.  Aiden Giles recorded a sack on 10 yards reaching QB Hawk at the Tbird 21 on the play prior.  The 2nd Quarter saw senior NT Jackson Fields drop Hawk on another sack of 10 yards, plus an earlier 2 TFL of Lewis for 2 yards and Hawk another yard.  Breneman was big defensively with a TFL of 4 yards and 3.5 tackles in the 1st half.  Seniors Cody Jackson and Eslinger were in on another TFL of Lewis for 4 yards.  For the game Eslinger topped the Miner with 8 (1.5 TFL), 7 each from Breneman (2.0 TFL) & Cody Jackson (1 Sack 1.5 TFL). 4 each from senior Free Safety Jaydan Miller, and Junior DE Aiden Giles (1 Sack).   Senior Ayden Riggleman got in the act with his 1st pick of the year, and upping the total to 10 for the team.  

Linton continued the rolling of the scoreboard numbers as Breneman got his first score of the year from 1 after he had an 8 yard run the play before. That drive featured a 25 yard run by Jaydan Miller to the EG 10.    Hunter Johns would get his 8th rushing score of the year on the next series (still in the 2nd Quarter) on 7 yard run but set up on back to back Gennicks passes of 34 to Riggleman and 10 to Webb.  Just before halftime, it was an incredible run from Eslinger of 22 with 1:27 on the clock.  What was incredible was that Gabe took a direct hit from Senior Ian Borst that I literally heard from my vantage point in the broadcast booth.  In fact the initial hit summoned ‘ooh’s’ from everyone around me, but the ‘ahhh’ came as Eslinger, who holds many weight lifting record for Linton, and a 4-year blue face mask award winner, merely bounced away from the hit, spun to his right, hit another gear and outrun the remaining defenders to pay dirt.  

Of course the 52-0 score would put the running clock rule in effect.  Anytime the margin reaches 35 the clock goes into ‘running’ mode, but only in the 2nd half.  It doe stop for various reasons, but remains running thru incompletions etc.  This marked the 3rd game this season we’ve seen that rule enforce.  Had Linton known their JV contest would be cancelled this week, I am positive we’d of seen that squad play the whole 2nd half, but it’s a matter of saving quarters for those players to enjoy a full game against players of like size and age.  Instead, the varsity stays out through 3 quarters, yet it’s pretty bland and pretty quick with the clock running.  However, having just said that, when Linton got the ball at 4:30 of the 3rd, it was the JV offense that took the field. 

It would have freshman Hayden Feltner at QB with fellow freshman Jesse Voigtschild hosting a full casted arm on his left throwing arm.  Further confusing your broadcaster and I’m sure others in attendance was juniors Thomas Edwards and Braydn Cox wearing different numbers (43 instead of 34, and 41 instead of 5) but I had already spotted this in warmups making an educated guess that I suppose proves I pay attention more than you think ha!   Edwards churned out 9 yards to start, then freshman Eli Scott converted a 2nd and 1 with 3 more.  Junior Luke McDonald got 6 on a 1st and 5 for another fresh set of downs.  It was a great run from Edwards for 26 yards to the EG 10 that was the highlight of the drive.  Scott ran for 4 followed by freshmen Tyson Walker for 2 more, then Cox ran in the last 4 yards for his 1st TD of his year.  

As the 4th Quarter started the JV defense entered for the Miners, while the T-Birds left in their starters. In all fairness, when you start 10 sophomore and freshmen there is probably nothing to speak of in terms of JV players at Eastern.  The results of this, of course, were that Eastern got 104 yards and 2 TD’s in 2 plays.  That 104 yards was all but 17 of Eastern’s final tally of 121 yards.  First it was Lewis, who has shown potential as EG’s leading rusher coming into the game with 427 yards, who got 65 of his game total 78 yards on the 1st play against the JV defense showing his speed in the process.  Zac West was good on the PAT for a 59-7 Miner lead. Expecting an onside kick, West kicked it deep to sophomore Christian Shonk who returned it to the Miner 23.

The Miner JV managed a first down on a 9 yard Shonk run but Feltner was dropped for an 8 yard loss, the Voigtschild, cast on arm, lost another 4.  Linton would not punt on a 4th and 13 to go, and Feltner made a strong 8 yard run but was short by 5.  It took one play for the T-Birds to rack up another score as Hawk would connect with tight end freshmen Peyton Jenness at around the Miner 12, and the 6’0 200 pounder broke a tackle to get in from 39 yards.  West tacked on the PAT for the 59-14 final. The Miner JV would get a huge run from Shonk on their last series as he busted for 32 yards to the Eastern 30.  Edwards then added 13 more to the EG Red Zone but the clock would hit zeroes just a Sophomore Ashton White bulled out 7 yards to EG to end the contest.

Even with the 2nd half running clock, Linton pounded out 543 yards of total offense.  It was another 20+ night of 1st downs at 24, against just 5 for Eastern.  A flurry of Miners had carries, but were led in yardage by Hunter Gennicks with 65 and a score on just 4 touches. Hunter leads the Miners in rush yards at 754 with 101 attempts. Bracey Breneman had a TD with 60 yards on 6 carries, with 58 yards and 2 touchdowns from Gabe Eslinger on just 3 carries.  He now has 554 yards for the season and leads the team with 10 rushing scores.  Hunter Johns had a score in which is mishandled the hand-off, scooped the ball off the grass and literally stretched his jersey pulling T-Birds into the endzone.  He had 50 yards on 4 carries and is 3rd in rushing at 340 yards and 8 rush TDs.  Others in the rushing column:  Thomas Edwards 3-48; Christian Shonk 2-41, Jaydan Miller 1-25, Eli Scott 2-7; Bradyn Cox 1-4 (TD), Luke McDonald 1-6, Tyson Walker 1-2, Ashton White 1-7, Jesse Voigstchild 2 (-2), and Hayden Feltner 5-(-8).  

Hunter Gennicks improved his season stats to 53 of 90 and 1,056 yards in the air on 6 of 6 passing for 181 and another 3 touchdown.  He hasn’t thrown an interception since week 2 versus Sullivan, and has now 17 passing Touchdowns, which matches his total of 17 in 2020.  This gives Hunter 34 TD passes with at least 2 games remaining in his junior season.  This is rarified air in Miner Passing books, as that number surpasses the all-time passing totals of Keith Cunningham (33, ’06-‘08) and Adam Brewer (30, ’04-’05).  Tyler Meurer had 42 in his QB career (2013-2016 with all those TD throws in 2015-16), and of course Austin Karazsia with a seemingly unbeatable 111 from 2009-2012.  He is within 43 yards of his passing total (1,099) of 2020, but perhaps the best statistic is in interceptions thrown because he had just 2 in 2020, and one in 2021 for a total of 3 career wise.  That is considerably lower than any other starting QB since 2000 in my record books.  

None of that happens of course without the blocking up front from center Nathan Watson, Guards Wrigley Franklin and Aiden Giles, and Tackles Donovan DeBruhl and Cameron Goodman.   Included in that troop would have to be the RBs that includes Bracey Breneman and Drew Smith.  A major factor in 2021 has been the receiving corps of Eli Poe, Logan Webb and Ayden Riggleman, as well as the Wings Eslinger and Johns. Linton had a season high 13 explosive plays (+25 yards or more), and three of those came in the air, and another was a 21 yard TD.  2 catches each for Poe (2 for 60 2TD), Webb (2-80 TD) and Riggleman (2-41).  Feltner was 1 of 1 passing, with a 4 yard completion to Cox.  Total passing for Linton was 7-7 for 185 yards with 3 TDs and 0 Interceptions.  Poe leads Linton with 16 catches for 316 yards and 6 TDs, Eslinger with 13 for 246 and 4 scores.  Webb had 8-201 and 3 TD, Riggleman 6 for 96.  Drew Smith, Kaulin Padgett, and Jaydan Miller each have TD receptions.

Eastern, as mentioned, had 121 total offense, with 104 coming on their last 2 plays against JV in the last quarter.  James Lewis led the team with 78 yards on 13 carries, with his late TD run spanning 65 yards.  Otherwise he was 12 carries for 13 yards.  Evan Ferkingstad added 13 yards on 4 catches, Trevor Kin 2-7, Jedd Cummings 1-1, and Jonas Hawk 4- (-21).  Hawk was 4 of 8 for 4 yards prior to the 39 yard TD pass to Jenness late that upped his totals to 5 of 9 for 43 yards, with a TD and 2 Interceptions.  Jenness had the one score from 30, 2 catches for Ferkingstad for (-6) and one each for Lane Stephens (3 yards) and Cummings (7 yrds).  Peyton Lewis led EG in stops with 9, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 5 tackles each from Ferkingstad and Ian Borst, 4 from Lane Stephens and Colten Adams.  

Eastern Greene, now 1-7 and losers of three in a row will host fellow sectional 1A 48 opponent North Central (Farmersburg).  The battle of Thunderbirds has to be a game both schools will be looking for a Win.  NC is 2-5 with wins over Park Tudor and Riverton Parke, but lost closely 26-22 last week to Traders Point Christian.  

Linton, 8-0, will be back into the fire facing the 7-1 South Putnam Eagles.  Head Coach Chuck Sorrell is very familiar to the Wabash Valley, and in 24-8 in his 3rd year at SP.  Sorrell took over in 2019 and led the Eagles to a 5-6 season, then a big turn-around winning their first 12 games, including a 43-40 win over Parke Heritage to give the Eagles their first sectional trophy since 2018, and their 6th in the 2000’s.  They lost to eventual 1A State Champion Covenant Christian 48-7 in the regional.  South Putnam had been through a drought in postseason from 2003 thru 2010 where they were mostly one and done.  The Eagles had a superb run from 1999 to 2002 under Coach Mark Wildman with 8 win seasons in 1999 and 2000, then a 10-4 2001 regional winning team that fell to Perry Central in Semi state.  It was 2002 that saw the Eagles reach the state by beating the Commodores 40-21, but lost a close battle to Southwood 17-14. Of Course, The Miners and Eagles played a semi-state game as well in 1986 in a game much spoken about in Miner Land albeit a 14-6 loss.  Linton had won 3 of 4 prior meetings from 1974 to 1977.  

It will be Senior Night at the Roy, as well as the final home game of the regular season.  This group of senior athletes, as well as the underclassmen and coaching staff, deserve nothing better than a packed house with Miner Faithful filling Roy Williams from End Zone to End Zone.  Many of these 12 seniors have been starters as sophomores, and all have contributed to this outstanding 8-0 start and a 25-6 three year run.  Linton should be back to full strength with both Drew Smith and Kaulin Padgett back after being held out last week.  Those two, plus Gabe  Eslinger, Ayden Riggleman, Eli Poe, Jaydan Miller, Bracey Breneman, Cameron Goodman, Donovan DeBruhl, Cody Jackson, Jackson Lynn, & Jackson Fields will be honored with their Parents in pre-game, and we can only hope the good weather streak continues.

As the Ping-Pong balls dictated on Sunday, Linton will hit the road, as they did in 2020 for the post-season opener.  Once more it will be a long jaunt to southern Perry County to visit the Marksmen of Tell City.  Obviously, Tell City will have bad memories from the 34-0 loss to Linton amidst a monsoon and the quarantine issue that left them short-handed in last year’s meeting.  Tell City sits 5-3 with a matchup with 3-5 South Spencer remaining.  There will be more about this matchup next week.  

Featured photo is a file photo from the Linton vs. Eastern game in 2020. Photo by Austin Gordon Photography.

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