TERRE HAUTE —
Several Wabash Valley high school football teams had statement games in their season openers Friday night.
Terre Haute North ended its statement with an exclamation point, scoring the first 44 points in a 44-14 win over Castle — a team ranked four or five spots ahead of the Patriots in the Class 5A preseason polls.
“I think it gives the whole team more confidence and lets everyone else know we can be state contenders if we keep performing this way,” Patriot running back Ricky Brookins said after that game, during which he had 108 yards rushing and two touchdowns by the end of the first quarter.
Also showing notice were Rockville’s Rox, 42-6 winners over Seeger, and South Vermillion’s Wildcats in a 35-2 decision over Covington.
Not quite as decisive, but just as impressive a statement, was Sullivan’s 30-27 win over Vincennes Lincoln on Kynon Johnson’s late field goal. And Northview’s 22-18 comeback win at Indianapolis Broad Ripple was a good opening for the Mark Raetz era.
In the business-as-usual category were Linton’s 50-12 win over Eastern Greene, North Central’s 66-6 victory over Union and North Vermillion’s 56-0 blanking of Turkey Run. Although the Falcons had some impressive offensive numbers in the latter game, their defense was even better, holding to Warriors to minus 106 yards rushing and minus 80 total yards.
Both West Vigo and Terre Haute South fell in the close-but-no-cigar category, and for similar reasons. The Vikings were behind 22-0 to Evansville Harrison and the Braves trailed Evansville North 24-0 early, but West Vigo got within 28-22 and was inside the 5-yard line as time expired, while South had a pass off fingertips in the end zone that could have completely reversed momentum in the Braves’ 37-20 setback.
Friday’s results also demonstrated what could be a two-level Wabash River Conference. Rockville may be ready to join North Vermillion in the top half along with Fountain Central, a 50-31 winner over Southmont, and Attica, which handed Riverton Parke its 24th straight loss by a 71-0 score.
In other conference outcomes:
• Conference Indiana — The other six members of the new league for North and South went 4-2, the scarier wins a 21-16 victory by Southport over always-strong Roncalli and Bloomington South’s 35-0 pasting of Bedford North Lawrence (although the fact that star quarterback Jesse Millikan went with his father when members of last year’s BNL staff moved on to Evansville North was no doubt a factor). Franklin Central outlasted Decatur Central 58-50 and Perry Meridian downed Greenwood 42-19 for Conference Indiana’s other wins, while Bloomington North lost 49-21 to Columbus East and Columbus North suffered a very surprising 34-32 loss to Plainfield.
• Western Indiana Conference — The other three WIC teams went 1-2 against Putnam County opposition. Edgewood beat North Putnam 34-12 and Brown County defeated Cloverdale 14-6, but South Putnam routed Owen Valley 26-0. South Putnam coach Troy Burgess, of course, used to coach the Patriots, and his current team figures to be an emerging power after dropping back to Class A.
n Southwest Conference — With Linton out of the conference mix, North Central should be battling for the top spot with North Knox — a 79-8 winner over Pike Central — and North Daviess, which beat Tecumseh 30-13. Wood Memorial lost its opener 55-6 to Princeton.
Here are some additional notes from Friday night’s Vigo County games:
• After mostly bending, but occasionally breaking, West Vigo's defense stiffened considerably in the second half, and particularly, in the fourth quarter. The Vikings held Evansville Harrison to only five second half first downs. While the Warriors rushed for 116 yards overall, only six were gained in the final quarter when the Warriors were trying to burn the clock.
“They came up with big stops. Several kids stepped up. I saw Sam Bowden make some big plays. I saw some freshmen and sophomores making plays. Anytime you can get a team like that off the field, it helps. They can break one at any point to break open the game,” West Vigo coach Jeff Cobb said.
• West Vigo saw a hole in the left side of Evansville Harrison's kick return defense on Friday and exploited it to average 31.5 yards in four returns. Most of the damage was done in the first half. Austin Cutliff had returns of 40 and 33 yards and Hunter Voils had a 42-yard return before halftime.
• West Vigo quarterback Jimmy Maples amassed 68 of his 130 rushing yards and 69 of his 131 passing yards in the fourth quarter. Maples had to be helped off the field twice during the game, once after a hit and once due to cramps, but kept on ticking.
• West Vigo earned nine of its 18 first downs in the final quarter.
• Although West Vigo was awarded a victory in last's year's opener against Harrison due to forfeit, the last time West Vigo won its opener on the field was in 2009 when it defeated Indianapolis Howe 27-0.
• Terre Haute South is now 4-6 in its series against Evansville North. A check of websites — too late to be included in Friday’s pregame capsule — found South winning 32-7 in 1971 (South’s first-ever season), 30-0 in 1973 (when the Braves finished 10-0), 39-20 in 1978 and 28-7 in 1982, the last time the teams had met prior to Friday night.
Evansville North’s other wins in the series were 26-0 in 1972, 7-0 in both 1974 and 1975, 28-7 in 1976 and 35-21 in 1977.
• South quarterback Timmy Herrin came off the field Friday for kickoffs, kickoff returns, punt returns and one other play. He also is a linebacker/strong safety on defense, and does the Braves’ punting.
Backup quarterback and cornerback Taxi Brown suffered an early ankle injury and missed the rest of the game.
• Take out plays of 25 yards or more and Evansville North netted just 106 yards in 49 plays against a South defense led up front by Dickie Rollins and Junior Berry. Unfortunately the Braves were gouged six times for runs of 25, 31 and 48 yards and passes of 55, 62 and 68 yards. Chase Whitler of the Huskies caught all three of the long passes.
• The starting Terre Haute North defense didn’t allow a point Friday night and the Patriots created six turnovers overall.
Castle’s first-half highlight was an 18-yard rush on a fake punt. The Knights totaled 56 yards if you take that away.
Linebackers Trey Grimm (4 solo, 3 assists and a fumble recovery) and Wyatt Stoelting (3 solo, 1 assist, 2 pass breakups, tackle for loss and one fumble recovery) led the defense.
“I’m extremely happy with how they performed, just completely shut them down,” North defensive coordinator Alex Bettag said. “We had the punt fake they got on us, but then got another takeaway on that drive.”
• Terre Haute North kicker Zach Potter helped stifle the Castle offense through special teams, nailing five kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks out of eight tries.
Potter also connected on 5 of 6 extra point attempts and drilled a 30-yard field goal.
• Terre Haute North quarterback Chris Barrett II made only one glaring mistake all night, trying to squeeze a throw into tight coverage in the first quarter that resulted in an interception.
Especially impressive was his decisiveness on when to leave the pocket. He scrambled 17 yards for a first down and finished with 38 rushing yards.
• Terre Haute and Northview were two of 19 Indiana teams to avenge 2012 losses in Friday’s 2013 season openers.
The Patriots’ 41-point turnaround was only the 12th largest turnaround in differential. North Knox, a 79-8 winner over Pike Central, had the largest at 86 points.
Todd Golden, Craig Pearson and columnist/editor writer Mark Bennett contributed to this report.