News From Terre Haute, Indiana

High School

November 22, 2013

Patriots, Miners in great shape heading into football semistates

TERRE HAUTE — There were times during this high school football season when both Terre Haute North and Linton were wondering how to fill openings created by injured players.

Neither team stopped winning as a result of those injuries, however, and now most of the key personnel have returned to full-time action. That leaves both the Patriots and Miners in enviable positions when it comes to depth as they play road games tonight with the opportunity to represent the southern half of the state in next Friday’s state championship games.

Second-ranked North (10-2) plays fifth-ranked Indianapolis Cathedral (8-5) at 7 p.m. today at Indianapolis Tech in Class 5A semistate action. Top-ranked Linton and fourth-ranked Eastern Hancock, a pair of 13-0 teams, play at 8 p.m. at Eastern Hancock in a Class A semistate game.

Each game features a tradition-rich program against a relative postseason newcomer, and the first-ever regional champions from North go against a team that was moved to Class 5A because of the new Indiana High School Athletic Association success factor: Cathedral has won 10 state championships, including the last three in Class 4A.

“Cathedral is Cathedral,” coach Chris Barrett said this week, “and our guys know enough about football to realize their record [which includes losses to two teams from Cincinnati and one from Louisville] doesn’t mean much.

“They play a Midwestern schedule, not an Indiana schedule.”

“Once you get past week two, everybody’s involved in conference play,” explained coach Rick Streiff of the Irish, who opened their season with close losses to Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference powers Ben Davis and Warren Central. “We look to play the best [opponents] we can play.”

Eastern Hancock’s regional championship last week was its first since 1985, but the Royals also went on to win the state championship that season. The Miners, coming off a third straight regional championship and their eighth overall, have yet to reach the title game.

“Obviously this team wants to be the one that gets over the hump,” coach Brian Oliver of the Miners said this week, and although Linton has had outstanding regular-season records for a long time the Royals — who were 6-6 a year ago, losing in their sectional final — haven’t had a winning record since 2006.

North’s injuries started near the midpoint of the regular season but, with the exception of offensive tackle Austin Vermillion, all the wounded have returned. The Patriots are not only deeper now — although still, Barrett says, not as deep as the Irish — but have seasoned players available for special teams.

Linton’s problems seemed to hit as postseason football arrived, and the Miners will be without receiver/defensive back Grant Stamm the rest of the way (and lost defensive lineman Jace Brewer for good early in the year). Lineman Indiana Miller is a game-time decision today, but senior Dane Rupska — who has probably played every position except down lineman — is back to full speed.

“We’ve been having a lot of kids step up,” Oliver said this week, “and they’ve come out and played great — a different one [in a starring role] each and every week.

“We’re starting to get a lot of guys healthy now, and for a Class A team we’re developing a lot of depth. We can move Dane around a little bit this week, and rest a few people as well.”

The North-Cathedral game tonight, Barrett predicted will be “old-school football” at its finest.

“It will be physical and tough,” the North coach said. “Ball security will be crucial. We’ll have to play well in all three phases … and need to finish drives offensively, and limit [Cathedral’s] big plays.”

Cathedral is led by Ohio State recruit Terry McLaurin — “He might be the fastest guy I’ve ever seen,” Barrett said — at wide receiver and running back, plus Ball State-bound tight end Zach Sahm, Indiana State recruit James Officer at center and 6-foot-7 quarterback Collin Barthel.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Barrett said. “They’re the biggest challenge we’ve faced all year.”

“North is an outstanding football team,” Streiff said. “I like their kids and the way they go about their business … they are head and shoulders the best team we’ve played in the tournament.

“We’ve got to control the line of scrimmage,” Streiff added. “If we can handle [North’s] size up front, we have a chance.”

“Eastern Hancock has two very good running backs,” Oliver said. “They like to spread the field and give it to those guys. They also have a very good offensive line and a very good quarterback … and very good team speed, maybe better than we have.

“We have to stay focused and believe, come out and do our jobs each and every play.”

Both winners tonight play a week later at Lucas Oil Stadium, with the Class A game beginning at noon and the Class 5A contest at approximately 7 p.m. The Class 3A championship will be the other one played that day, at approximately 3:30.

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