Times Sports Editor
This may be just the second week of the high school football season, but make no mistake, there is plenty on the line tonight when Northview heads to Elletsville to take on Edgewood in a conference match-up.
Both teams are coming off disappointing losses in their season openers, but the Knights are riding a 24-game Western Indiana Conference winning streak. A win this evening would give them a leg up on a fifth straight WIC Championship.
The Mustangs opened quite a few eyes when they took Bloomington North to the wire before a late interception return for a touchdown ended dreams of an upset, 41-35. That narrow loss comes just one year after a 74-0 throttling by the Cougars.
Edgewood is under its second-year of direction by coach Jerry Bland's system and the team played well in the season opener. Northview coach George Gettle is familiar with Bland's ability to shape a program.
"Edgewood is very much improved," said Gettle. "I coached with Jerry Bland at Jennings County. He's got most of his kids back from last year and they've learned his system. They played a heck of a game against Bloomington North and probably should have won."
Leading the way for Edgewood will be a pair of long-term starters at skill positions.
Josh Collier, a 6'0, 200 lb. senior, returns at quarterback for the Mustangs and is coming off a huge game against the Cougars.
Collier completed 10-of-17 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns and added 76 yards rushing on 22 attempts as well.
Northview is well aware of Collier's talents and Gettle commented on the Mustang senior during practice on Wednesday afternoon.
"Looking at tape (the coaches) just looked at each other and said 'Man (Collier) is still there?' He's played there for four years and so has Wagner. Collier is a great athlete and he brings a lot to the table," said Gettle. "Wagner is an awfully good player as well and both of them are team leaders."
Both players are playmakers on the defensive side of the ball as well, which makes their experience twice as troublesome for Northview this evening.
Last year the Knights got a late touchdown drive to edge the Mustangs 14-9 and were able to limit Collier to just nine yards rushing and just 64 yards through the air.
Gettle feels that his team has the personnel to do the same this season.
"Most of the kids who were able to do that are here this year," said Gettle. "Edgewood is a little more spread this year, kind of like Franklin. Last year Edgewood ran the spread about 50 percent of the time, but they run things out of the shotgun a lot more this year."
In order to score a win tonight, Northview can't allow Edgewood to have the same success that the Grizzly Cubs did last weekend, completing 16-of-19 passes for over 200 yards while also rushing for over 200 yards.
Creating more of a pass rush is one of the first goals for Northview and certainly a key to a victory this evening according to the Knights' coach.
"The pass rush was pretty disappointing last week," said Gettle. "(Franklin) had a rookie quarterback in there and we didn't pressure him and make him hurry or hit him that much."
Getting better line play will provide the foundation for better results for the Knights this week, but Edgewood counters with size and experience on both sides of the ball.
The offensive line returns intact from last year in seniors Grant Quimby (285), Cody May (225), Thomas Pain (230) and juniors Cody Hayes (190) and Joseph Mimms (225). Senior backups include Jesse Spurgeon (270) and Chris Brummett (275).
Brummett and Wagner are the key to the Mustangs' 4-3 defense.
The Knights rushed for just 50 yards last week and improving that statistic lies squarely on the capable shoulders of the Knights' own line as well as the running attack led by Kade Baker and Trent Lancaster at quarterback. Drake Stevenson should also see some carries along with Nathan Williams.
"I expect us to play better up front," said Gettle. "We need to run the ball better. Offensively I feel good about what the kids are doing, but if we can run the ball it will help us gain confidence."
One aspect that Gettle feels his team could take advantage of is some big plays through the air.
"I think (Bloomington North and Edgewood) had trouble stopping the pass last week," said Gettle. "I feel that if we can get some good protection and run routes hard that we can make some plays deep down the field.
Justin White got a long pass for 44 yards last week and Zac Niehaus added 94 receiving yards with Zach Boetjer picking up 77 yards on just two catches for the Knights.
Edgewood counters with its own experienced receiving corp in Hayden DuMond, Jarrod Ferguson, J.T. Finch, Jonathan Ellett and Matt Erwin.
DuMond caught six passes for 135 yards and two scores against the Cougars and both Ferguson and Finch went deep for receptions.
Despite the loss, Gettle feels the team has prepared itself to win this evening.
"The mistakes we made last week were correctable," said Gettle. "There's plenty of season left, we've got a lot of young guys on the team and sometimes you learn more from a loss than a win."