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Gridiron Digest Indiana Football Report - Week 3


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Welcome to The Gridiron Digest Indiana Football Report. Each week, we spotlight some of the teams and storylines from Indiana high school football. 

Titans reloading in Class 3A

The Gibson Southern Titans are reloading after winning the Class 3A state championship, starting the season with a 2-0 record, defeating two 5A teams. The Titans beat Terre Haute South 27-20 in Week 1, then defeated New Albany 45-7 last week. 

They open Pocket Athletic Conference play this Friday at home against Washington. But playing two larger schools in the non-conference schedule - and a strong out-of-state team in Week 4 in South Warren (Ky.) - helps prepare the Titans for conference and tournament play. 

I think it is so important to play teams like that. It really forces us to prepare and play at a high level,” Titans coach Nick Hart said. “Then, when we see phenomenal athletes in conference or in the tournament it is something we have seen. We play the defending 5A Kentucky champs next week. Last year they whooped us pretty good, but we learned some valuable lessons that game and I don't think we win a state championship without those lessons.” 

The Titans graduated a number of players from last year’s squad, including quarterback Brady Allen, who is now at Purdue, but had a strong offseason. 

“I think it is always a fear that when you reach that mountain top that there can be a hangover going into the offseason,” Hart said. “With everyone that graduated you are looking around for leaders. Our kids did a fantastic job this offseason. I could not have been more pleased with what they did from December-July.” 

Quarterback Tanner Boyd has taken the reins of the offense and completed 39-of-47 passes for 311 yards and five touchdowns, spreading the ball around to multiple receivers. He was 16-of-18 against New Albany. A dual-threat, he also had a 131-yard rushing game against Terre Haute South in the opener. RB Devan Roberts tallied 169 yards and two scores on 13 carries against New Albany. 

He has been great,” the Titans’ coach Hart said of Boyd. “He brings a different dynamic with his legs.  We put a lot on our quarterbacks from a decision making standpoint and he has made phenomenal decisions so far.  He's a great kid and he has done a great job.” 

Brownsburg returning to glory

It’s been nearly four decades since the Brownsburg Bulldogs sat atop the high school football world with back-to-back state titles in 1984 and 1985. 

This current crop of Bulldogs is seeking to add to that proud tradition. 

With Nick Hart's father John at the helm, the Bulldogs enter Hoosier Crossroads Conference play this week after a pair of statement wins in their non-conference schedule, punctuated last week with a 42-35 victory over defending 5A champion Indianapolis Cathedral. 

Brownsburg moved up to No. 2 in the Class 6A poll with the victory, which came on the heels of a 21-16 win over Ben Davis in the opening week. 

Last season, the Bulldogs went 9-3 and won their first sectional title since 2009. 

“Our kids love to compete and winning never gets old, but we try to keep everything in perspective,” Bulldogs coach John Hart said. “We try to stay hungry and humble.” 

Quarterback Jayden Whitaker completed 15-of-23 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown, winning a shootout with Cathedral’s Danny O’Neil, who threw for 317 yards and four scores. Whitaker and Corey Smith have had a strong connection threw two weeks - Whitaker has 430 yards passing and is completing 63 percent of his throws. Smith has seven catches for 196 yards, including a 142-yard game last week. Junior running back Garrett Sherrell added 129 yards and three scores. 

“Our success throwing the ball has been the accumulation of a lot of hard work from our players,” Hart said. “Their commitment to working in the spring and summer showed up at the Colts and Hoover 7-on-7 tournaments.” 

Hart has led Evansville Reitz and Warren Central to state championships. He is the father of Gibson Southern’s Nick Hart. When Gibson Southern won the 3A title last year, the Harts became the third father-son duo to coach teams to IHSAA state titles, joining Bud and Kevin Wright, as well as John and Vince Lidy. All four of Hart’s children are head coaches, as is his son-in-law. 

Our kids are tremendous coaches & their success coaching has been incredible,” John Hart said. “We all talk often about football, weight training, and program development, but mostly about life and family. I think we are all each other's biggest fans...led by their mom.” 

Nick Hart echoed those sentiments. 

“It is really special,” he said. “When I was old enough, I was always at practice. It is a part of who I am.  We talk a lot.  It is super-busy this time of year but there are always conversations going on.” 

Mater Dei takes big step with win

The Evansville Mater Dei Wildcats have taken a step each of the last three years - sectional champ in 2019, regional in 2020 and semistate champ in 2021. 

The Wildcats would love nothing more than to climb the last rung this season as they look to make their seventh State Finals appearance since 1994 and seek to win their first title since 2000. 

They made a significant statement last week, beating then-5A No. 7 Castle 17-14. 

Mater Dei moved up to No. 1 in the Class 2A polls with the victory. While it is early in the season, last week’s victory was a big one. I

“It seems that the MD-Castle game is always so close and such a battle, Friday night was no different.  We have the greatest respect for Coach Doug Hurt and his staff and program – actually, the two programs have very similar philosophies,” Mater Dei coach Mike Goebel said. “The outcome could have been different, the lead changed hands four times and we were able to capitalize on a fumble late after our go-ahead score.  Either team could have won.” 

The victory was Goebel’s 250th career win in a 26-year head coaching career - all at Mater Dei. 

Quarterback Mason Wunderlich threw for 224 yards, including a three-yard TD to Luke McDermon in the final two minutes to put the Wildcats over the top. They then forced two turnovers to seal the game - recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. When the Knights got the ball back, Mater Dei’s Joey Pierre picked off a pass to seal the game. 

Wunderlich has thrown for more than 459 yards through two games after passing for 2,671 yards a year ago. Pierre has been the leading rusher in both games as well as playing solid defense. 

“We think we have a good blend of players,” Goebel said. Several seniors have played in many games and they lead the way. Mason Wunderlich is much-improved. Joey Pierre is an outstanding two-way player and our leading scorer. We have great competition among our receivers to actually get on the field--they are all trustworthy. The line on both sides of the ball has been battling and is improving by the day. As to our main players, we really look at it as the team is trying to find itself and improve, that requires excellent effort from everyone.” 

With the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference being a 10-team league, every week is a league game, and therefore an important one. 

“Every game in the SIAC is important,” Goebel said. “Parity seems to be the word this season as only two teams remain undefeated after 2 games.  We are now locked in on a very much improved Vincennes Lincoln team this weekend. Coach (Levi) Salters could very easily be undefeated at this point.” 

Roncalli starting strong

Roncalli has started the season strong under new head coach Eric Quintana. The Royals are ranked No. 2 in both Class 4A polls and were ranked No. 1 in the IFCA poll for a week. 

In Week 1, Luke Hansen broke a 21-year-old school record, rushing for 335 yards and five touchdowns against Southport. He ran for 182 yards on 37 carries in a 17-0 Week 2 victory over Franklin Central. 

Roncalli’s massive offensive line, led by Iowa commit Trevor Lauck, opens the way. 

“We focus on ourselves every day. Our emphasis every day is fundamentals and physicality.  Our offensive line did a great job at doing their jobs at max effort. Luke did the same,” Quintana said of Hansen’s record-breaking day and start to the season. “He has naturally progressed over the summer and early fall at training his eyes and trusting the guys up front.  It helps that he is great in the weight room and an all-state wrestler.  We have the tools every week to be a leading rushing team in the state.  It's easy to talk, we have to work every day.  Very proud of our guys' work ethic so far.” 

A native of Plymouth, Quintana takes over at Roncalli after 11 seasons as an assistant coach at five different Central Indiana schools. He was on the staff for three state championship teams - with Carmel in 2016 and Indianapolis Bishop Chatard in 2019 and 2020. 

“The last few months have gone by fast,” Quintana said of taking over as the Royals’ head coach. “I personally like to just get involved and get to work. The first thing was to create relationships with my guys and hire the best staff for our guys. Once that was done, we got straight to work program-wide. The summer went well and the school year is off to a great start.  Having a supportive administration and alumni group around is great. All hands on deck to continue and raise the standards of such a great traditional program.” 

Roncalli faces 3A No. 1 Indianapolis Chatard this week. 

Lions snap streak, start 2-0

Entering the 2022 season, the Rushville Lions had one varsity player who had experienced a victorious Friday night. 

That number now extends to the entire team, as the Lions have won back-to-back games to start the season for the first time since 2013.

The Lions beat Milan 41-35 in Week 1 to snap a 24-game losing streak. It was their first victory since Sept. 20, 2019, when they beat Connersville in overtime. Rushville followed it up with a 41-39 victory over Shelbyville in the resumption of their longstanding rivalry that had been paused for a decade. 

For the Lions, the victories were a long time in the making. Isaac Sliger, a 2013 Rushville graduate, returned to the head coaching job at his alma mater last year and worked to build the culture. Last season, they went 0-10, but were playing a number of freshmen and sophomores and building. 

"When we came in, we understood we wanted to start over completely from scratch and rebuild from the ground up," Sliger said. "For us, that started with creating a culture of living in the weight room, creating high standards, holding players and coaches accountable and creating an environment where our athletes support other athletes and each other in their respective sports. As everyone knows, that is not an easy thing to do every single day, let alone when you are trying to build something from the ground up. Our kids have bought in and have done such an amazing job of doing things the right way." 

The Lions are led by senior quarterback Austin Vance, a four-year starter who missed all but one game last season with an injury. He threw for 217 yards and four touchdowns against Milan and 122 yards last week against Shelbyville. Junior Harper Miller ran for 169 yards in the win over Shelbyville. Sliger described Miller and Jayden Roosa as their "Thunder and Lightning" combo in the running game in their uptempo offense. 

Rushville hosts its first Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference foe, Franklin County, this week. 

"We know and understand we have a lot to prove," Sliger said. "We as a program are in uncharted waters. We are learning how to win games and learning how to raise standards daily, in practice, in film and in the classroom. The EIAC has some great programs that weekly are going to present challenges to each other. Our guys love the challenge." 

Notable

Center Grove extended its winning streak to 30 games last week with a 31-27 win over Carmel behind 180 passing yards from QB Tyler Cherry, 129 of which went to Noah Coy. Carmel’s Jackson Kazmierczak was 22-of-34 for 353 yards and two touchdowns, with Reece Ballin on the receiving end of 156 of those yards. … Evansville Reitz’s Ben Davies was 22-of-30 for 317 yards in a 31-28 victory over Vincennes Lincoln. … East Central’s Cole Burton was 10-of-17 for 291 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-7 win over neighboring Harrison (Ohio). … Guerin Catholic’s Ryan Zimmerman topped the 300-yard mark for the second straight game, as he was 16-of-24 for 313 yards in a 47-10 victory over Lafayette Catholic. … North Harrison’s Sawyer Wetzel ran for 239 yards in a 42-6 win over Scottsburg … Perry Central’s Sawyer Guillaume had 269 rushing yards and three TDs in a 42-21 win over Forest Park. … North Knox’s Caleb Bottum ran for 274 yards and four TDs in a 45-14 victory over Eastern Greene. … Heritage Christian’s Luke Valerio had 185 yards receiving and four TDs on five catches in a 52-33 win over Shenandoah. The Raiders’ Mayson Lewis had 238 rushing yards in a losing effort. … Crawfordsville is 2-0 for the first time in eight years under new head coach Brad Clark. The Athenians had won three games total since 2017 prior to this year.   

Other games to watch this week

  • 6A #1 Center Grove at Louisville Trinity
  • 6A #3 Cathedral at 6A #7 Penn
  • Detroit Cass Tech at 6A #6 Carmel 
  • 5A #9 Fort Wayne North at 6A #9 Carroll
  • 6A #10 Homestead at Fort Wayne Luers
  • Crown Point at 5A #1 Merrillville
  • 5A #2 Whiteland at 5A #5 Decatur Central
  • 4A #1 New Palestine at Yorktown
  • 4A #4 East Central at Cincinnati Moeller
  • 4A #8 Greenfield-Central at 4A #10 Mt. Vernon
  • 2A #8 Heritage Christian at 3A #5 Guerin Catholic
  • 2A #2 Eastbrook at Oak Hill
  • 1A #1 Indianapolis Lutheran at 2A #7 Triton Central
  • Covenant Christian at 1A #2 Adams Central
  • 1A #7 North Decatur at 1A #4 Monroe Central
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And here is the audio version. Enjoy the fastest five minutes in high school football (and again, any radio stations who wish to use this content, please feel free to do so. DM me your email address and I'll send it directly to you). 

 

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