Times Sports Editor
When Northview visits Terre Haute North this evening, the Knights will be trying to avoid the school's first 0-3 start since the 2001 season when it went a dismal 1-9 overall.
The Knights made some strides last week against an Edgewood team that appears to be a frontrunner for its first conference title since the WIC was formed.
"We've seen some improvement," commented coach George Gettle. "We played hard for three quarters last week, but we talked to the kids about the fact that that isn't good enough."
One thing the Knights did better was run the football, something they'll have to continue this evening against the Patriots.
Quarterback Trent Lancaster ran the ball 16 times against the Mustangs and Damon Smith ran the ball well for 57 yards in a couple of late carries.
The Patriots' run defense was about as porous as possible last week in a loss to rival Terre Haute South.
North gave up 422 yards on 57 carries against the Braves, more than 7.4 yards per carry. The Knights could gain more confidence on offense if they can get their running game early, which would allow Lancaster to get into an early rhythm and open some passing lanes.
Gettle was quick to point out that limiting mistakes will go a long way towards keeping the game close.
"We're not good enough to play bad and win games," said Gettle. "Two-years ago we maybe could have, but we have to play well to win this year."
Turnovers plagued Northview last week, losing the ball five times and being plagued by untimely penalties. The Knights were flagged six times for 49 yards.
"The kids have been paying attention and are honing in on the mental aspect," commented Gettle. "It's taken awhile to get the kids to understand that this is such a mental game."
Part of that mental game is maintaining assignments and staying focused on what each player's individual job is on each play. The Knights' defense has given up some big rushing games by teams running the spread offense.
They'll see much of the same style against the Patriots, who take the large majority of their snaps in the shotgun formation.
"We need to play assignment football and as long as we do that we're going to be fine," said Gettle. "North is more option-based and they try to get out in space and make you miss."
North's sophomore quarterback, Chad Holler, had a solid game, rushing for 62 yards on just seven carries, but threw for only 60 yards.
Containing Holler's rushing opportunities and keeping the ball out of the hands of North's sizable receivers could spell V-I-C-T-O-R-Y for the Knights. Frank Willis (6'3, 190 lb.) and the speedy Billy Sisson are likely to be the most notable targets for Holler. Sisson is one of the top tight ends in the MIC Conference and at 6'1, 210 lb., will be a tough cover.
Junior Ben King is the starting runner in the backfield and has good size at 5'11, 190 lb. and is coming off a 92-yard performance against the Braves.
The North line has some size, going 285, 225, 240, 280, 261 and 250 on the offensive side of the ball so the challenge is there for the Knights' experienced line. On defense, North's strength is its linebackers with senior Cory Porter (5'7, 215), Stephen Stucker (5'11, 210) on the inside and senior Eli Bean (6'1, 190) and Chris Hawkins (6'1, 175) on the outside.
Lancaster's receiving corp is going to have their work cut out for them this week against the Patriots' athleticism and speed. Seniors David Woodason and Scott Weatherford are at safety and corner.
Northview is going to need to put together some time consuming drives to allow its defense to play at its best this evening. If the Knights can limit the Patriots to a bare minimum of big plays and keep their heads in the game a win is certainly possible against the 5A Patriots.
Northview can't hang their heads or the Patriots could have a field day. Gettle believes that his team can turn the season around as soon as they can get in the win column.
"All we need to do is get that first win," said Gettle. "Once we get that first one I think we'll be fine."