TERRE HAUTE —
With only one week of the IHSAA football state tournament in the books, the Wabash Valley is down to three possibilities for a sectional championship heading into tonight’s second-round games.
n In Class 5A Sectional 6, No. 11-ranked Terre Haute North (6-4) will play host to Avon (6-4), the same school that eliminated the Patriots in 2011 and 2005, at 7 o’clock.
“The one thing that will be consistent with those two games is that both were very tight contests, very good football games [35-26 in 2011 and 38-21 in 2005],” North coach Chris Barrett assessed Thursday. “And this one will be the same way. I think what could make this different is our ability to make plays on both sides of the ball and on special teams.
“We’re a lot better football team [than North demonstrated in 2011 and 2005]. We’re a lot more sound in all three phases of the game. Our offensive and defensive lines have played extremely well, but I could say that about all of our position groups.
“With that said, Avon is very well coached [by former North assistant Mark Bless]. They’ve got a lot of good football players… Coach Bless does a great job with his teams. [Senior defensive end] Elijah Daniel, No. 90 for them, is one heckuva football player. We’re going to have to know where he is… Defensively, they just seem to bring people from everywhere. So we’re going to have to keep our poise and pick up the blitzes. And the quarterback’s going to have to make good, quick decisions.”
In his last comment, he was referring to his son/quarterback — junior Chris Barrett II — who has completed 98 of 190 passes for 1,254 yards and 11 touchdowns with nine interceptions this season.
The Patriots’ leading rushers are junior Ricky Brookins with 630 yards (three TDs) and senior Brother Scank with 572 yards (five TDs). Senior Austin Lewis is one of their top receivers with 26 catches for 397 yards.
n In Class A action, the No. 2-ranked Linton Miners (10-0) will welcome Perry Central (7-3) to their field for an 8 p.m. clash in Sectional 40. Also, No. 12 North Central (8-2) will travel north to No. 6 North Vermillion (10-0) to battle for the right to meet the Cloverdale-Attica winner for the Sectional 38 championship next weekend.
The North Central-North Vermillion matchup is interesting for a couple of reasons.
First, these same teams squared off in the regular season Sept. 8 at North Vermillion, with the host Falcons emerging with a surprisingly lopsided 48-0 triumph. Second, North Vermillion coach Brian Crabtree formerly guided North Central for six seasons — leaving the program after the 2010 campaign — and some of the Thunderbirds’ assistant coaches remain from Crabtree’s staff there.
“Most of the [North Central] kids, I worked with in the weightroom when I was there,” Crabtree told the Tribune-Star. “I think [going against North Central] was stranger the first time we played each other. Come tournament time, you want those guys to do well, but not at the expense of the guys you’re working with now.”
From the North Central perspective, second-year coach Travis Nolting said his team is “100-percent healthy now” after junior fullback Chase VanSchoyck missed last Friday’s 20-7 sectional victory over Turkey Run with a concussion suffered one week earlier.
“It’ll be tremendous [getting VanSchoyck back],” Nolting admitted. “He’s our leading rusher [with 1,773 yards in 2012] and a lot of our offense goes through him.”
Regarding tonight’s contest, Nolting stressed that the Thunderbirds — coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the second time in school history (the first time came with 8-3 marks in 2006 and 2007 when Crabtree was coach) — cannot commit nine turnovers (according to North Central statistics) the way they did against North Vermillion in the regular season if they want a chance to win or even stay close.
“They had 34 points and 75 yards of offense in the first quarter,” he recalled. “When you turn the ball over that much, it leads to problems.”
“I don’t think they played as well as they’re capable of,” Crabtree said of the T-Birds.
Meanwhile, Nolting emphasized that North Vermillion is “definitely a good team … no doubt about it.”
“We’ve got to play flawless football,” the T-Birds’ coach continued. “We can’t have turnovers.”
Nolting is probably correct. Just look at some of North Vermillion’s statistical leaders for the season.
They include junior quarterback Brayden Woodard, who has passed for 1,341 yards and 18 TDs and rushed for 1,202 yards and 26 TDs, and senior running back Kody Zumwalt, who has gained 1,293 yards on the ground with 19 rushing TDs and four receiving TDs.
“Woodard has thrown only four interceptions and he’s completed 65 percent of his passes,” Crabtree noted. “That’s pretty efficient for a high school quarterback.”
Turning to Perry Central vs. Linton, coach Steve Weber and the Miners will tangle with the same oppponent they faced to open their 2011 tournament run, which ended in the semistate, and they would be happy with a similar result — a 48-7 win for Linton.
“They’ve changed their defense around a little bit to better handle the spread offense this year,” Weber warned about the Commodores from the town of Leopold.
“As for us, we’ve played pretty well, we’ve stayed healthy and we most defeinitely hope that continues. We strive every week to outdo what we did the week before.”