TERRE HAUTE —
Jimmy Maples was prepared to help West Vigo contend for a Western Indiana Conference title in 2012, but the Viking junior planned to do so as a wide receiver.
When Tyler Hayes broke his leg a week before two-a-days began, Maples was moved under center.
With his speed an integral part of the Vikings’ potent rushing attack and his arm hitting for the occasional big play, Maples quarterbacked the Vikings to a share of the WIC title.
Now he faces his biggest challenge of the season, leading the team against undefeated Greencastle in an IHSAA Class 3A Sectional 21 football game tonight at Jay Barrett Field.
The Tiger Cubs have allowed just 14 points all season and beat the Vikings way back on Aug. 24 by a 44-0 margin.
“Their defense is pretty good,” Maples conceded. “Our offense has improved. We made a lot of errors that game. Can’t do that this time.
“We’ve grown as a team [since then],” Maples added. “I think they’re overlooking us. I think we’ll have a pretty good chance at winning the game.”
Vikings coach Jeff Cobb agrees that his team is much improved on both sides of the ball since early in the season.
“We’ve got kids that have kind of grown up into the positions they’ve been given,” Cobb said. “Really started noticing about week 5, in the South Vermillion game and Week 6 with the Edgewood game, kids feeling more comfortable with where they were. In Week 2, we still had a lot of new kids, some of them playing new positions. We’re familiar with what we’re doing. We feel a lot better about ourselves as a team.”
The No. 4 Tiger Cubs are just one of three teams in the toughest 3A sectional in the state; No. 3 Indianapolis Chatard (7-2) and No. 7 Brebeuf Jesuit (7-2) loom on the opposite side of the bracket. Chatard’s first-round opponent, 7-2 Danville, is just outside the top 10.
Greencastle’s schedule strength shows the West Central Conference isn’t at its strongest in 2012, but Cobb knows Tiger Cubs quarterback Nick Gilliam and a veteran defense will be ready to play.
“Everything goes through him, he’s got some great receivers, great lineman. Very good offense,” Cobb said.
The Vikings’ defense has only allowed seven points the last two weeks, holding a pretty good Sullivan passing attack to just one touchdown last week.
“The Sullivan game taught our defense they could bend but couldn’t break,” Cobb said. “I think we have a chance. Some things need to roll our way.”
Class 5A Sectional 6
Terre Haute North (5-4), ranking 18th overall in the state Sagarin rankings with a schedule rated the sixth toughest, will try to take down city rival Terre Haute South (3-6) twice in the same season. (See related story).
Terre Haute North dominated the line of scrimmage in the first meeting as Brother Scank, Ricky Brookins and Kai Stratten led the Patriots to 265 yards rushing. Linebacker Lee Davis and the defense held South to 84 yards on the ground.
South showed improvement in that department last week, with sophomore running back Michael Watt rushing for 140 yards in the Braves’ victory over winless Lawrence North.
Watt and Ian Newton will have to get the South ground game so that quarterback Danny Etling and Tyler Seibert can have opportunities to make big plays in the passing game. South was held without an offensive touchdown in the first meeting, Watt providing the only TD with a kickoff return.
The winner will earn a home game with Avon (5-4) or Decatur Central (4-5). Ben Davis (8-1), Zionsville (7-2) and Brownsburg (9-0) will duke it out in the opposite side of the bracket.
Class 4A Sectional 14
Don’t be fooled by Indianapolis Cathedral’s 4-5 record. With Warren Central, Ben Davis, Louisville Trinity and Cincinnati Moeller on the schedule, the Fighting Irish play a schedule as tough as any team in the state.
The Knights’ young team has shown improvement all year long but they’re likely to be overmatched in this one.
Class 2A Sectional 32
Sullivan (6-3) finally caught a break in a very tough sectional field after drawing traditional power Evansville Mater Dei on the road in the opening round the past two seasons.
The Golden Arrows will have a home game against South Spencer (3-6) and would play 1-8 Forest Park with a victory.
Mater Dei (7-2) and Southridge (6-3) play in the first round of the opposite bracket, with North Posey (9-0) likely playing the winner of that contest in the second round.
Sullivan coach Trent Olson isn’t counting on a trip to the championship game just yet.
“If we switched schedules [with South Spencer], we could very well switch records. Not that our schedule’s terrible but they play in a tough league,” Olson said of the Pocket Athletic Conference that includes Southridge, Heritage Hills and Gibson Southern.
Plus, Sullivan is coming off a game in which it left a lot of potential points on the field. Quarterback Payne Fortner passed well at times, but the Golden Arrows only scored one touchdown in an 8-7 loss.
“We threw it around well last week,” Olson said. “We bogged down in the red zone. Have to find a way to get those tougher yards.”
Looking on the bright side, the loss was a wake-up call to the Arrows.
“We’ve got to be more physical,” Olson said. “The big thing was for us last week, probably a little overconfident. I think it grounded us a little bit. Might have been a good thing going into the tournament.”
Class 2A Sectional 30
South Vermillion (2-7) coach Chuck Sorrell made progress this season with the Wildcats, but he runs into an undefeated and No. 1-ranked Indianapolis Ritter team in the opening round.
Ritter is averaging 51 points a game, including a 56-33 victory over Class 3A Chatard, a team that ranks in the top 10 overall in the state in the Sagarin rankings.
Class A Sectional 38
North Vermillion is the team to beat after a 9-0 regular season in which the Falcons outscored opponents by an average of 38 points per game.
Junior quarterback Brayden Woodard has ran for more than 1,200 yards with 21 TDs and passed for over 1,100 with 15 TDs.
“He’s a talented young man, but he’s humble about it too,” coach Brian Crabtree said. “A big part of his success is the five guys in front of him.”
While the Falcons, who play 2-7 Covington in the opener, are known for a high-powered spread offense, the defense has been strong recently, Crabtree said.
“Ethan Kunkel, a linebacker’s just a really good football player on that side of the ball,” Crabtree said. “A lot of talented kids around him as well. Sometimes the defense is overlooked because of the amount of points we’re scoring.”
A first-round win would set up the Falcons for another matchup with North Central (7-2), which was Crabtree’s first head coaching job. North Vermillion won the first meeting 48-0. The Thunderbirds play 3-6 Turkey Run at home tonight.
“They’re such a good football team, so athletically talented,” said Crabtree, who hopes the Falcons can make an extended run in the state tournament.
“I think if we’re playing our best football, no reason we can’t look at that as a possibility,” he said of the state finals. “You set goals big but approach it with humility and realize you’re vulnerable every Friday night.”
Riverton Parke (0-9) and Cloverdale (0-9) will be looking to advance to the second round with a first victory of the season.
Rockville (4-5) plays Attica, and coach Herb King said the Rox are a much better team than they were early in the season.
Lightning fast Kiontre Wilkey (5-foot-5, 135 pounds) took over at quarterback and Ryan Lewis moved to wide receiver in the fifth week of the season.
“We think both of those moves have helped us,” King said. “The offensive line has improved drastically. Those kids have done a job at getting much better. We can see marked improvement on a weekly basis.”
Robby Foster, one of only two seniors on the Rox, leads the defense. He’s led the team in tackles the past three seasons.
The Rox had seven turnovers in a 27-6 loss to Attica in early September.
“We’re playing much better as of late,” King said. “We’re playing extremely hard. I think we’ve gotten a lot better. It’s been an enjoyable group of guys to coach. Early in the year we were turned the ball over a lot.”
Class A Sectional 40
Undefeated Linton is the heavy favorite. The Miners take a 5-0 record against the sectional field into the state tournament.
Linton has averaged 55 points, while its defense has pitched five shutouts.
The Miners go on the road to North Knox (4-5) — a team they beat 64-0 — and then likely visit Perry Central (6-3) next week.