By GREG MENGELT
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
We’re down to three.
Clarksville, Charlestown and Jeffersonvile will represent Clark County in Friday’s sectional semifinals.
All three were expected to win — and win easily — in the opening round. All three did. It gets much tougher from here.
Charlestown is still a heavy favorite against Corydon Central, Jeff is probably considered a toss-up at home against Evansville North and the Generals are a heavy underdog at Lawrenceburg.
On to the picks:
CLASS 5A, SECTIONAL 8
• Evansville North (5-4) at Jeffersonville (7-3): Jeffersonville’s offense is back.
After being held to six points by Columbus East in Week 8, the Red Devils’ offense that is eighth in the state at 45.1 points per game has scored 129 in the last two weeks. Yes, 129.
Jeff has so many weapons, including quarterback Tyler Fridley, who has been outstanding as a first-year starting senior. Fridley has thrown for 2,541 yards, 36 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
Fridley can throw to four or five different receivers — Ricky Embry (781 yards and 11 TDs), Jacquari Chandler (687, 9), Dionte Allen (651, 9), Dalton Adkins (315, 4) and running back Austin Hines (174, 3) — who can score any time they touch the ball. Plus, he can hand it to Hines, who went over 1,000 yards last week and looks like he’s getting better every single game.
North will try to slow things down with a power running game. The Huskies have a 1,000-yard rusher of their own in Blake Howell. And when North needs to throw, it can.
Jeff coach Lonnie Oldham said one key could be the weather. On a dry field, Jeff has an advantage with its passing game. If it’s rainy, North’s power running game could shine.
“They’re physical,” Jeff coach Lonnie Oldham said. “They’re more of a running team, but they can throw the ball. Our run defense is really going to be tested this week.”
I think North’s style plays right into Jeff’s hands. Jeff is going to score and the Huskies will have to try to keep up. They can’t. Jeff will pull away late for a two-touchdown win and move on to the sectional championship for the first time since it won it in 2008.
THE PICK: Jeffersonville 40, Evansville North 26.
• Bedford North Lawrence (5-5) at No. 3 Castle (10-0): What the Stars have done has been amazing. Bret Szabo has done another masterful job. After an 0-4 start, BNL has won five of its last six with the only loss coming in the regular-season finale, 35-31 to Class 4A No. 1 Columbus East.
The Stars have come a long way. Far enough to beat unbeaten, third-ranked Castle? Probably not, but I wouldn’t put it past them.
THE PICK: Castle 28, Bedford North Lawrence 23.
CLASS 3A, SECTIONAL 23
• No. 17 Corydon Central (8-2) at No. 2 Charlestown (10-0): So there’s a theory going around Corydon.
Last year, Charlestown beat Corydon in the regular season, then the Panthers knocked off Charlestown on their way to sectional and regional championships.
News flash: This isn’t the 2011 Pirates.
“We’ve got to do a very good job of coaching this week, explaining to the kids that this is what happened last year,” Charlestown coach Jason Hawkins said. “They need to remember the feeling we had a year ago leaving the field. We need to make sure we do whatever we need to do not to have that feeling again.”
If quarterback Aaron Daniel is any indication, the Pirates have gotten the message.
“This year, we know if we lose it will be our last game,” Daniel said. “Everybody knows that, so we’re going to come out to play.
In the regular-season meeting on Sept. 28, then-No. 3 Charlestown had its way with No. 5 Corydon in a 47-0 Mid-Southern Conference victory. The Pirates did whatever they wanted offensively. The Pirates did whatever they wanted defensively.
“To go out and beat them like that, I didn’t expect that to happen,” Daniel said. “But this is going to be a totally different game. I expect them to come out and fire back at us. It will definitely be a good game.”
Corydon coach Darin Ward is a good coach. Very good, in fact. But not even Ward can find a way to make up 47 points.
One difference could be the terrain. In the first outing, Corydon’s passing offense couldn’t get anything going during a first-half downpour. If Friday’s dry, the theory is that things could be different.
“The field was pretty muddy and it seemed like the quarterback couldn’t get very good traction,” Hawkins said of Panther star quarterback Chase Burton. “But also, it was a muddy field for our pass rusher, too. They may be able to throw a little better on a dry field, but our pass rush may be able to get to the quarterback better on a dry field, too.”
I tried everything I could to get Daniel to predict a victory. He wouldn’t do it. Deep down, though, he knows the Pirates are going to beat Corydon again. And they will. Not as easily as the first time, but it won’t be close, either.
THE PICK: Charlestown 35, Corydon 14.
• No. 11 Brownstown Central (9-1) at Salem (4-6): Salem has had what has to be considered a successful season in its second year under coach Mo Moriarty.
After no wins in 2010 and two in 2011, the Lions seemed to have turned a corner. Expect for one thing, they can’t score. Salem has been shut out five times this year and was beaten 31-7 by the Braves in their first meeting.
The Salem defense has been very good. It’s good enough keep this game somewhat competitive, but Brownstown will win its ninth-straight game, including an impressive 27-24 win over Heritage Hills in the sectional’s opening round, and move on to the championship game for the bazillionth time.
THE PICK: Brownstown Central 28, Salem 6.
CLASS 2A, SECTIONAL 31
• Clarksville (6-4) at No. 10 Lawrenceburg (9-1): On paper, Lawrenceburg should advance to next Friday’s sectional championship.
The Tigers are 9-1, ranked 10th in the state and own impressive one-point wins over Franklin County and Greensburg.
The Generals are 0-4 against ranked teams (6-0 against all others). However, they were competitive with 9-1 Brownstown Central and 8-2 Corydon Central.
“I would hope that our schedule has prepared us for the 2A tournament,” Clarksville coach Steve Cooley said. “We’ll find out Friday night. It will be a tough game for us, but we’ll be ready to play.”
The Tigers have one of the top rushers in the state in Chad Banschbach, who has rushed for 1,940 yards and 28 touchdowns, including nine scores in the past two weeks.
They can throw it a little, too. Sophomore quarterback Sam Fette has thrown for 1,692 yards and 17 TDs.
“Lawrenceburg is good,” Cooley said. “Coach [Ryan] Knigga does a great job. He has 21 seniors and they’ve all played for a long time.”
The computer-based Sagarin ratings say Lawrenceburg is an 11-point favorite. That seems about right. But that means Clarksville could be one big play or two away from pulling off this upset. Don’t be shocked if it happens.
THE PICK: Lawrenceburg 33, Clarksville 21.
• No. 12 Paoli (8-2) at No. 13 Triton Central (7-3): A couple of coaches I talked to off the record this week said Triton Central will win this game, but Paoli’s defense is so fast and disruptive, I find it hard to believe. If the Trojans score more than a couple of touchdowns, I’d be surprised.
This one is going to be close. It could go either way, but I’m taking the Rams to win — I guess in an upset.
THE PICK: Paoli 14, Triton Central 7.
GREG’S SEASON RECORD: 71-17 (81 percent)