Times Sports Editor
Northview versus Franklin.
There isn't exactly a backlog of football history between the two schools, but the little there is should be enough to get Knights' fans riled up.
You need only go back to the fall of 2006 when Northview's football team came rolling into sectional play unbeaten and piling up offensive numbers at an impressive rate. On that October evening against the Grizzly Cubs, Northview continued its offensive roll with 51 points, but Franklin was a little better, scoring 54, leaving Northview fans dumbfounded.
Unbeaten record gone. Season over.
There may not be any players on the 2008 roster that were part of that game on either side, but the loss still is fresh in the memory banks for the Knights.
Fast forward to this Friday when both teams open the season with a non-conference kickoff against each other at 7 p.m. Players on both sides are undoubtedly anxious to get the regular season underway.
For Franklin, graduation losses were heavy and at key spots for the Grizzly Cubs.
Gone is quarterback Brad Hook, whose experience at running the spread offense will be missed. So will his 1,800 passing yards and 500 rushing yard and 18 touchdowns.
Senior signal caller Dan Bechman takes the reigns this year and saw spot action last year with 15-of-36 passing for 139 yards and a score.
"Their quarterback has been in the program for awhile and has been through the practices and the JV games," said Northview coach George Gettle. "But this is his first true varsity start so we need to get in there and try and get him rattled."
The Knights, to a lesser degree, are in the same situation as sophomore Trent Lancaster gets his first opening night start as the varsity QB for the Knights.
His more extensive time on the field last year gives Lancaster an advantage that Bechman doesn't have Gettle believes.
"Trent gained a lot of valuable experience last year by making the sectional start against Jasper," Gettle commented. "In the scrimmage, he showed composure and I don't think he looked like a sophomore out there."
One aspect that the Knights might be able to exploit is Franklin's relative youth on the defensive side of the ball.
Just four starters return and three of those are in the secondary. Only one player on defense is bigger than 200 pounds and that is a linebacker, Josh Pfifer, who transfers from Greenwood.
The smallish Franklin defensive line could be an advantage for the Knights who feel that one of their strengths is its own line. But don't completely discredit Franklin's ability due to their size.
"Overall (Franklin) is a more quick, agile defense," said Gettle. "They don't have a lot of run stuffers, but some might see that as an advantage because they are quick and can pursue the ball."
The Knights' offensive line features 6'0, 235, Jordan Keller at right guard, Tony Fabbri (6'0, 215) at center, Junior Hubbard (5'10, 215) at left guard, Mitch Haviland (6'4, 235) at right tackle and Scotty Wheeler (6'3, 250) at left tackle.
Whether they can exploit their size advantage over Franklin on Friday night might have as much to do with sheer will and execution than any other factor.
One area where Franklin does have experience is at running back as Clayton Simmons returns following a 763-yard effort last season. The 5'8, 174 pound back is one of the Indianapolis area's top returning rushers.
Leading the way for Simmons will be an offensive line that has size and experience according to Gettle.
"They have four returning linemen who have decent size," said the Knights' head coach. "They are probably even a little bigger than we are. They play in a great conference. Offensively they are probably a little ahead of the game."
Up front, Mark Mathews (5'11, 220), Neal Lane (6'4, 250), Dillon Johnson (6'2, 285) and Austin Mentzer (6'2, 235) are matching up with the Knights Keller, Haviland and Hubbard along with senior Tony Fabbri (6'0, 215) and Damon Smith (5'11, 170).
Franklin had trouble running the ball last season, so making sure they don't get rolling on Friday is key for the Knights.
The Grizzly Cubs run a true version of the spread offense, which has taken off in popularity amongst a large number of collegiate teams, who have had great success.
"Their coach (Mike McClure) used to run the spread when he coached at Franklin College" said Gettle. "So he has a vast knowledge of that offense, which tries to get players out in to space."
According to Gettle, the true key for the Knights is achieving balance in Friday's game.
"I think the keys for us are to get out and to execute," said Gettle. "We need to minimize penalties and mistakes and just come out here and have fun. We typically have good crowds so I think if we can limit our mistakes we'll be successful."