Heading into Friday evening's road matchup with Western Indiana Conference foe Sullivan, Northview's football team sits at a cross-roads of sorts.
After losing an emotional game at home versus Terre Haute North last week, the Knights are 1-2 overall with a 1-0 conference mark. With a solid Sullivan team awaiting them on their home turf, this is where the squad can choose their own fate.
The Golden Arrows are 2-1 after a 35-0 pasting of North Knox last week and a 62-0 whitewash of North Daviess in week one sandwiched around a 12-7 loss to rival Linton. So Sullivan has proved they are a solid team, but where do the Knights stand in preparation for the road trip. Does the emotional loss last week coupled with some injuries leave the team a little bit down? Or is the team anxious once more to prove that they are one of class squads of the conference?
I'd place my bet on the latter, despite the fact that North is a big rival and the Knights were moving in for what could have been the killing blow before the tables shifted. Head coach George Gettle and his staff seems to have done a good job at keeping the athletes on an emotionally even keel much of the time and while they should be pumped up for a WIC opponent, the Knights won't over emphasize this game compared to the remainder of the season. Those things said, here is a preview of the matchup.
The Northview defense continued to mature last week despite the loss. Craig Greenwood continues to be a monster at defensive end and now has three sacks along with three fumble recoveries on the season. The linebackers, as expected, are also making some big plays as Jordan Garrison leads the team with 37 total tackles and Doug Porter is second with 25. Craig Trout has also shown good pursuit ability with his 23 tackles.
The Knights did a good job of handling the speedy Jeremy Brown on Friday night but had a tougher time with the Patriots' power back, Chase Bauer who seemed to wear Northview down late.
Run defense will be the key this week as Sullivan will run the large majority of the time in an option offense.
The Knights walloped Sullivan 47-6 last season as Northview held Sullivan to 58 second half rushing yards and zero passing yards while ringing up 510 total offensive yards of their own.
Gone from last year's Sullivan offense is running back Aaron Emmons who had 81 rushing yards, and Zach Wright who had 29 yards on the ground.
However, senior running back Korey Grow (5'11,178) returns and leads the team with 194 yards on 27 carries, good for 7.2 yards per carry. Quarterback Evan Hamilton (5'10, 148) is second on the team at 189 yards with four touchdowns and Kyle Shorter (6'1, 178) has nearly 100 yards as well.
Containing those three will be the key to handling the Golden Arrows offense. The Knights have put a premium on mobility up front on their defensive line and that will be very important on Friday.
If the Northview defensive line can get penetration into the Sullivan backfield and disrupt the option pitches the Knights' linebackers will be free to seek and destroy the Sullivan ball carriers.
On the flipside, Northview's offense worked well against the Patriots and has the potential to do the same this week.
Gone from the Arrows are four-year letter-winning linebackers, Emmons and Cody Gettinger along with defensive backs Kevin Arnett and Josh Samm. Linebackers Luke Steele (6'3, 187) and Nick Vandergriff (6'1, 202) are the linchpins of Sullivan's defense that has allowed just 12 points this season.
They will see a whole new look in Northview's offense that likes to air it out as much as it runs.
The Knights have run for an unofficial total of 418 yards lead by Logan Whitman's 191 yards and Cory Grigsby's 83. But Whitman has also thrown for 560 yards this season on 30-of-75 passing. One question will be the availability of top receiver Michael Landry who left the Terre Haute North game with a late injury. Landry has nine catches for a team-leading 214 yards while T.J. King has 10 receptions for 125 and Craig Greenwood has nine catches for 163 yards.
Whether or not Sullivan's defense can halt the Knight's potent offense remains to be seen but Northview's defense will need to be up to the task in stuffing the Golden Arrows backfield. If the Knights can do that, then the loss to the Patriots will be a mere memory.