Times Sports Editor
The real season begins tonight for the Northview football team as they head into round one of sectional play with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
The Knights capped off a sterling regular season campaign by clinching the outright Western Indiana Conference championship with a perfect 6-0 record and an 8-1 mark overall. Tonight the battle for postseason glory begins as the Class 4A No. 3 ranked Jasper Wildcats come calling with an unblemished 9-0 record. Northview is looking at handing Jasper its first opening round sectional loss since 1996 while the Knights are planning on its first sectional win since the 2004 campaign against Bloomington North.
Both teams have based a lot of their success on experienced signal callers under center as Northview has junior QB Trent Lancaster at the helm and Jasper has four-year starter Austin Ahrens at the helm.
The two quarterbacks were both taking snaps the last time these two teams faced each other in the postseason three years ago as Jasper held off the Knights 13-10 in 2007.
Ahrens has put together a solid season, throwing for 1,112 yards and 12 TD's against just one interception this year. He's also run for 463 yards in the Wildcats run oriented offense.
In fact, Jasper has run for 2,234 yards as a team this year and has scored 35 touchdowns on the ground while averaging six yards per carry. Taylor Day is the top rusher for the Wildcats with 1,087 yards and an impressive 7.2 ypc. with 16 scores. Ahrens is second on the team in rushing with Jacob Bawel gaining 248 yards on 50 carries.
The Knights counter with Lancaster leading the spread/option attack for Northview. He's thrown for just shy of 2,000 yards (1,927) and has completed 133-of-231 58 percent of his throws, 23 going for touchdowns. On the ground, Lancaster has also been a threat with 947 yards rushing, good for 105 yards per game. He's also found the endzone 13 times via the run.
Northview also has Damon Hyatt in the backfield and the junior has run for 548 yards and just short of seven yards per carry this season. He's also scored 11 touchdowns for the high-powered Knights' offense, which has averaged 42 points per game. Jasper counters with a defense that allows just 12.6 points per game and has given up a combined 21 points in the second and third quarters of games this season.
As most successful teams do, Jasper and Northview each lead the season takeaway battle with Jasper forcing 12 turnovers while giving the ball up just five times. The Knights have meanwhile racked up an eye popping 26 takeaways, 15 via interception and 11 on fumble recoveries.
The game tonight could come down to which team's defense can halt the other's powerful offense. Jasper has allowed just 175 yards per game, but it's unlikely the Wildcats have seen as versatile an offense as Northview has in store for them. The Knights are going to have to put the clamps on Jasper's rushing attack to gain the upper hand. More rain is in the forecast for the afternoon and that could make the turnover battle pivotal as well.
Both teams have a number of wide receiving weapons as Northview has three receivers who average four receptions per game. Drake Stevenson has caught 39 passes for an average of 71 yards per game with Zac Niehaus close behind with 38 receptions for 582 yards. Jon Bradshaw adds 33 receptions this season from his tight end spot.
Jasper counters with some big play receivers in Scott Wendholt, who has 15 catches and a 22.7 yards per catch average. Casey Nelson has 16 grabs for 250 yards and Adam Knies has averaged 21.1 yards on 14 catches.
The line play is going to be important as well on both sides of the ball as Northview's depth has worn opponents down this season late in games. Don't underestimate the importance of strong fan support as well as home field advantage could give the Knights an extra spark tonight for a 7 p.m. start.