By GREG MENGELT
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Charlestown, Jeffersonville and Clarksville survived the first round of the tournament, giving the three programs continued hope for a coveted sectional championship.
As much success as the three programs have had in their respective history, all three have long sectional championship droughts.
Jeff is the most recent champion among them. The Devils won the 2007 Class 5A Sectional 8 championship by beating Evansville North — this week’s opponent — in the championship game.
However, it was Jeff’s only sectional title in the last 14 seasons.
Despite six consecutive outstanding seasons, Charlestown has yet to win a sectional under coach Jason Hawkins. Unbelievably, the Pirates last won a crown in 1996.
It was this week’s Sectional 23 opponent — Corydon Central — that kept the Pirates from winning it last year on its way to its first-ever sectional and regional championships.
Clarksville last won a sectional in 1999, two years after making a run to the state championship game under former coach Dennis Hawkins, Jason’s father. Steve Cooley — now the head coach of the Generals — led Jeff to its last sectional crown before moving over to Clarksville.
DEFENSE EQUALS OFFENSE
Class 3A No. 2 Charlestown (10-0) continued to set offensive records last Friday in its 82-point performance, but Hawkins said a lot of the offense’s recent success is due to the defensive play.
“We’re getting the ball a lot on the short side of the field,” Hawkins said. “That’s the key. We don’t have to go very far to score. I think it really helps when you have a great defense like we do.”
Quarterback Aaron Daniel has always been known first for his running abilities. However, this year he’s thrown for 1,549 yards on 91-of-131 passing and 28 touchdowns through 10 games.
A big reason has been his weapons. Tyler Odle is the leading receiver in the history of Charlestown football and Gage Brafford, Wesley Sexton and Cody Donahue have 823 yards and 12 touchdowns between them.
“We knew we would have a lot of weapons,” Hawkins said. “Aaron just had to get a little more comfortable throwing to everybody. Now, whoever’s open is getting the ball. Aaron feels comfortable throwing to all four of them.”
A RECORD DAY OF ITS OWN
The Jeff offense also continued to compile points and yardage at an impressive rate in scoring a Blair Field-record 62 points in a 27-point win over New Albany last Friday. That included a 49-point first half in which four different Red Devils scored.
Jeff (7-3) finished with 543 yards and 28 first downs on 84 offensive plays to just 41 for the Bulldogs.
“We have really five kids who can do something with the ball, and that doesn’t include the quarterback,” Jeff coach Lonnie Oldham said.
Although its offense and special teams bear some responsibility, Jeff has given up 123 points in the last three games after surrendering just 116 through the first seven weeks.
“Friday night was uncharacteristic. We made two big mistakes,” Oldham said of a blown assignment in the defensive backfield and a coaching gamble that resulted in a big touchdown run for the Bulldogs. “I thought we played pretty well defensively overall. The defense has been a little concerning of late, but I think we will come around.”
Clarksville (6-4) earned its third shutout of the season and its second in three weeks in a 32-0 win over Eastern in last Friday’s Class 2A Sectional 31 opener.
“Our defense played outstanding,” Cooley said. “We executed the game plan. You want to be playing your best football come playoff time. Right now, we are. Our best game is ahead of us.”
Cooley said the recent insertion of three players — sophomores Devin Grooms, Wyatt Kissel and Nick Jones — has helped make the General D formidable.
“The last couple of weeks, we are starting some good young kids,” Cooley said. “They kind of give us a spark on defense that takes us to another level.”
Led by Christian Brown’s 318 yards, the Generals rushed for more than 400 yards against the Musketeers. Clarksville has been forced to go to the ground game because of an ankle injury suffered by quarterback Aidan McEwen about a month ago.
Now that McEwen’s near full health, Cooley should have several options for his offense.
“We’ve been very careful with him the last two weeks,” Cooley said of McEwen. “This will be the first week where he’s practiced all week in a while. He’s 100 percent now.”
INJURIES COST PIONEERS
Who knows if Providence (3-7) would have had a shot to beat Paoli, ranked 12th in the final Class 2A coaches poll, if it was healthy? It would have been nice to have found out.
The Pioneers were without their top four running backs and several others as the Rams, who are surrendering just nine points per game, earned their fourth shutout of the season, 40-0 in last Friday’s Sectional 31 opener.
The season ended with disappointment for New Albany (5-5) in its second loss of the season to rival Jeff. But the four-game improvement over a year ago is a sign that the program is in good hands under coach Charlie Fields.
After earning a shutout against Madison in Week 6, however, the Bulldogs’ defense gave up 40 points per game in its final four outings. That’s something that will have to be addressed in the offseason for New Albany to continue back to the top of the Hoosier Hills Conference.
SIGNS OF HOPE
Even with seven losses, including a 42-8 defeat at the hands of Corydon last Friday, almost everything about the 2012 season was a success for Silver Creek (3-7).
Consider this: The Panthers scored 70 points on Creek in their regular-season meeting just seven weeks prior. That’s a four-touchdown improvement for the Dragon defense.
There are a lot of reasons for fans of the Dragons to be excited about the future once the program catches up with others that have been playing for nearly a century.
The loss of star running back Layne Taylor will be difficult to overcome, but there’s little doubt that the buzz surrounding the program will continue to grow in 2013.
EXPECT A COMEBACK
Floyd Central coach Brian Glesing has never coached a team to back-to-back losing seasons. In fact, Glesing followed his only previous losing season at Floyd in 2007 with a 6-5 campaign the following season and a sectional championship two years later.
Although growing pains were expected, there’s no doubt that 2012 was a disappointment in the Knobs.
The first-round 56-12 loss to Castle certainly stung, but don’t expect the Highlanders to stay down long. There is plenty of talent at the lower levels of the program and running back Garry Posey will return for what should be a monster season in 2013.
WEEK 10 AWARDS
• Player of the Week: Tyler Odle, Charlestown. Arguably the greatest wide receiver in Pirate history — and that’s saying something — Odle added to his legacy in last Friday’s win over Mitchell. The senior caught three passes for 100 yards and scored twice — and he didn’t play an offensive snap in the second half. He returned a kickoff 80 yards for a third touchdown, giving the Pirates a 56-0 lead 10 seconds into the second half.
• Team of the Week: Jeffersonville. The Red Devils beat rival New Albany and set records all over the place. Their 49 points scored in the first half tied the 1968 team’s mark set against Clarksville. Tyler Fridley’s 2,543 passing yards and 2,953 yards of total offense set single-season Jeff records. Ricky Embry’s 11 touchdowns tied Jim Croudep’s school record and Embry is 10 yards short of Dionte Allen’s single-season mark of 791 yards set last year. With 62 points on Friday, the Red Devils have now scored 451, setting a new single-season high.
• Play of the Week: Christian Brown’s romp. After scoring three touchdowns to give Clarksville a 20-0 lead over Eastern, Brown went 96 yards for his fourth score to put away the Musketeers. In the past two weeks, Brown has rushed for 484 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run on the final play of the game that gave the Generals a 24-20 victory over Providence in the city championship.
• Coach of the Week: Chris Brafford, Charlestown defensive coordinator. Everybody knew coming into the season that the Pirate offense would be virtually unstoppable — and it has been in racking up a state-high 609 points. Brafford’s defense has been equally impressive and earned its fourth shutout of the season against Mitchell. The Pirates are giving up just 6.3 points per game, which is fourth in the state, giving Charlestown a whopping state-high 54.6-point average winning margin. “Chris has done an excellent job keeping the kids focused and prepared,” Hawkins said. “We are lucky to have him.”