Times Sports Editor
The Owen Valley Patriots come calling for a Homecoming match-up with the Northview Knights this evening. The Patriots bring a 1-3 mark into the Western Indiana Conference battle with the lone win coming against a winless South Vermillion squad.
Coach Duane Potts is in his seventh season as the coach of the program and has just seven starters returning from a team that battled the Knights before falling 26-20. Gone is Gus Hancock, who was The Herald Times All-Area Defensive Player of the Year and a fixture on both the offensive and defensive lines. Owen Valley has also had to replace much of the rest of the lines as well as the entire backfield, all-state defensive back Gryfen Brinson and linebacker Chase Behrman.
So the youth movement is in full effect for the Patriots, who start junior quarterback Gunnar Ranard along with classmate Drew Bradley at running back.
Bradley has been by far the most effective at his position as he has run for 618 yards in four games, good for an average of 154 yards per game. He's averaged nearly nine yards per carry this season for the Patriots and has scored six of the team's 10 touchdowns. The other three have come via the pass from Ranard to senior Evan Rice, who has also intercepted three passes and returned two for touchdowns.
Bradley is a power back with plenty of size at 6'1, 225 pounds, which is in stark contrast to the most recent breed of Patriot tailbacks like Andrew and Jonathan Hershberger or Evan White, who ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns in last year's contest.
Ranard has completed 34-of-72 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions. Rice is easily his favorite target with 19 of those completions going to the senior, who averages over 12 yards per reception.
On defense, the Patriots are led by senior Kaleb Smith, who has 26 solo tackles and 10 assists. Linebacker Logan Britton is tied for the team-lead with 26 solo tackles and has 16 assists.
The Knights had to battle their way past a very game Sullivan squad on the road last week, remaining unbeaten in the conference with a 27-21 victory that evened the season mark at 2-2 with a 2-0 mark in the WIC.
Special teams and even more special plays were the catalyst to the win as Damon Hyatt put the game-winning score on the board via a 75-yard kickoff return with just 42 seconds remaining. The senior also scored on a 69-yard pass from senior Patrick Durcholz that nearly went over his head, but was gathered in and taken to the house with 5:25 left in the game.
It's no secret that Hyatt is one of the Knights' biggest weapons as he's ran 48 times for 186 yards and four touchdowns and has 17 catches for another 215 yards. In last year's game, Hyatt didn't have much room to run with the Patriots big linemen clogging the lanes, but he should have space to work with tonight along with teammate Jesse Miller, who has averaged 135 yards per game and two touchdowns per contest. Owen Valley gave up 212 yards rushing to Edgewood last week as Bryan Delos Santos rushed 18 times for 136 yards. Two weeks earlier, Brown County racked up 238 yards on 44 carries in a 33-19 win over the Patriots.
The Knights experience on both sides of the line could go a long way in deciding this contest against Owen Valley's younger units. Northview has size and experience on its side in the war in the trenches, but has to take advantage of that and dominate at the point of attack.
Kick-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. this evening as Homecoming festivities are slated to take place before the game.