Times Sports Editor
In week 10 of the football season, it's all about tweaking this or fine-tuning that, there isn't much time to make any big changes when you have to game plan for an unfamiliar opponent. That is the case this week as the Knights get ready for defending state champion Evansville Reitz tonight at 7:30 p.m. With a very large crowd expected for the game, Northview coach George Gettle discussed how the Knights are getting ready for the biggest challenge of the year.
"One of my philosophies is you try and change as little as possible. You get people in a routine and the philosophies, you've worked on things all year long and really throughout the careers of kids that are juniors and seniors," Gettle said. "So there isn't going to be a lot of change, it just boils down to playing hard and hustling, giving it your all and executing to near perfect. We preach about trying to reach that perfect plateau and we haven't done it yet so it's out there and it's something that's attainable. When you're playing a fine program like Reitz I think that's what you're shooting for."
The battle between each squad's linemen will be pivotal in tonight's game and as far as size goes, the Knights match up well with the Panthers.
Up front on the offensive line, Zach Tinner (5'11, 236 lb.) and Cory Smith (5'9, 223 lb.) are two of the Reitz guards with Kurt Nelligan (6'3, 230 lb.) playing center with Austin Carlton (6'2, 285 lb.) as one of the tackles. Josh Balbach (5'10, 200 lb.) is a two-year letter winner on either side of the ball and 6'6, 282 lb. sophomore, Brishaun Horne is a key component as well along with Jake David (6'1, 217 lb.).
On the defensive side, Balbach, Carlton, Tinner and David are all listed as two-way players and you add in Logan Houchin (5'10, 171 lb.), sophomore Mason Schnarr (6'1, 202) and Maurice McRae (5'9, 215 lb.).
McRae has proven to be most disruptive with 7.5 sacks this season and six tackles for loss and eight quarterback hurries. Schnarr has added four sacks and Rion Irvine (5'10, 263 lb.) has 2.5 sacks.
"The real nice thing about Reitz offensive and defensive fronts is they may not be the biggest of kids, but they are very disciplined, they execute extremely well and they are awfully good athletes," Gettle said. "When you watch them on tape, you see a lot of good things you try and coach up and you try and get out of your own kids. We're hoping to execute at a little higher level than they do and it'll be a challenge, but it'll be a fun challenge."
The Knights counter with seniors Taylor Pinnick (5'11, 220 lb.), Beau Judd (6'3, 280 lb.), Brandon Pleake (6'0, 220 lb.) and junior Aaron See (6'1, 225 lb.) and Bryant Pestoff (6'5, 250 lb.) on defense with Jacob Musgrave (6'5, 260 lb.) at center on the offensive line. He is joined by Judd, Pestoff, Ethan Stewart (6'2, 220 lb.), Brock Wheeler (6'2, 235 lb.) and John Rollings (6'8, 285 lb.) on the offensive side of the ball.
Though Reitz isn't especially big on the line, their linebackers do have plenty of size and swarm to the ball. Damion James (5'10, 200 lb.) and Brandon Kemp (6'3, 225 lb.) are two-year letter winners and have combined for six sacks with Kemp causing four fumbles and deflecting four passes.
"(Evansville Reitz) linebackers remind us a lot of our linebackers," Gettle said. "As far as size and skill-wise, very similar, Reitz might have a little more experience than ours, but (Reitz) linebackers are very aggressive and they play close to the line of scrimmage and they make a lot of tackles. I believe two of their linebackers lead the team in tackles. They are an intelligent and well-coached group like the entire team is."
The Knights are led by Chance Talbot (6'2, 225 lb.) and Jesse Miller (6'0, 210 lb.) along with Larry Shaffer (6'0, 160 lb.), Nathan Duregger (5'11, 200 lb.) and Jed Thomas (6'1, 180 lb.) at linebacker.
Pleake and Miller each have interceptions this season and Thomas, See and Pinnick have fumble recoveries.
The Northview secondary has 11 interceptions this season led by Tyler Wilson's five picks. Tyler Trout, Damon Hyatt, Andrew Butts and Hunter Robertson all have interceptions as well for the Knights.
Reitz has 16 takeaways this season with Hamilton Carr recording four interceptions to lead the Panthers and eight different players have recovered fumbles.
In getting ready for tonight's game, Gettle is just trying to get the Knights focused on playing to their capabilities.
"We're trying to keep things normal and trying to eliminate the things that get you beat in a big game," Gettle said. "We're trying to improve on the things that we do well. If we can put all that together and play a little faster, a little tougher and execute as well as we can, then we'll see where the chips fall."