Times Sports Editor
One last tune-up for the postseason, the only season that matters now, remains for the Northview football team.
This year has been a trying one for a team that has stumbled to a 3-5 mark with tonight's game against Brown County remaining before sectional contests begin. The Knights have a shot at gaining some confidence before opening the postseason with a game on the road against defending state champion, Evansville Reitz.
Northview football isn't used to three-win seasons these days, which has made it even more difficult to stomach. But then again, the Knights aren't used to the bevy of injuries that the team has had to endure this year.
"I guess we were due," said coach George Gettle. "We haven't had many major injuries since I've been here. But this year we're on player number four or five. We've had several guys who have missed most of the season. The injury bug bit us big this year."
While it's hard to ever say that the team was 'due' for series injury, it's hard to deny Gettle's thoughts on an especially untimely rash of season derailing injuries.
Linemen Beau Judd and Scotty Wheeler have missed most, or all, of the season, though Wheeler has returned to the field. Playmaking senior defender Kyle McCoy, is done for the year following a broken leg a few weeks ago and last week, a leg injury will likely keep leading receiver Zac Niehaus off the field this week.
Already thin depth-wise at several spots, injuries are further amplified.
But Gettle wasn't making any excuses as his team prepared to end the regular season tonight against a 1-7 Eagles squad that played pretty well in losing to WIC champion Edgewood by just six points last week.
"This is an important game," said Gettle. "Our goal is always to win all of our home games and you always want to get your seniors a win on Senior Night."
Those factors alone should be plenty of fuel for the Knights against the Eagles this evening, but washing out the taste of a loss to West Vigo last week is also a priority.
Injuries have relegated an already youthful team, even younger for the remainder of the season, which means that the Knights have focused plenty on correcting their own mistakes.
"We're concentrating on ourselves," commented Gettle. "We've got a chance to gain some momentum (tonight)."
Despite the 1-7 mark this year, the Eagles aren't to be taken lightly, especially after playing the Mustangs to a 34-28 contest a week ago.
In that game, quarterback Ben Scalf went to the air 35 times, completing 21 for 218 yards.
Gettle is aware of the Eagles' success in the air last week and won't be surprised to see the same tonight.
"(Brown County) got behind early and their quarterback started chucking it," said Gettle. "They've got a 6'3 receiver who outjumped some guys for balls.
That 6'3 receiver is Garrett Davis, who caught six passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Davis has four of his scores in the past two weeks. Fullback Shane Hedrick also caught six passes with five going to Nate Isley and Chas Harper.
Harper also returned a kick 80 yards for a score two weeks ago against Sullivan.
The Eagles have been using two quarterbacks for at least part of the season as Scalf has 583 passing yards, completing nearly 50 percent of his passes. Clint Fowler has completed 70 percent (38-of-54) for 358 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
"They run a lot of formations and have started to go to the spread look," said Gettle of the Eagles' offense. "They weren't able to run the ball last week, but they had some success passing. So we expect to see the ball in the air."
The Knights hope their own passing offense can make some headway after completing just four passes for 68 yards last week. Part of that was losing Niehaus early in the game. The sophomore has more than 500 yards receiving and has a pair of touchdowns. But quarterback Trent Lancaster needs to continue strengthening his rapport with the rest of his receiving corps, which includes Zach Boetjer (10 catches, 214 yards), Drake Stevenson (13 catches, 141 yards), Jonathan Bradshaw (four catches, two TD's) and Kade Baker (five catches, 50 yards). A balanced offensive attack will not only be necessary to win this week, but for a postseason run against a stout sectional field.
Lancaster had a 100-yard rushing performance against the Vikings as Northview piled up 161 rushing yards. But the Knights running back by committee ground game needs several successful backs to pound opponents.
Wes Sorlie has close to 400 yards on the season and Baker has more than 200 on the ground. That rushing trio as well as the big guys blocking for them are going to be a pivotal factor in any future success.
On defense, the Knights are continuing to work on controlling the line of scrimmage according to Gettle.
"We've backed off blitzing very much," said the Knights' coach. "We should be able to get some pressure with just our front four. We need to keep working on swat and swimming to pressure the quarterback."
Winning the turnover battle is imperative for the Knights who don't have as much room for error as in the past.
The first step towards that first sectional championship begins with tonight's regular season finale.