With the regular season wrapping up tonight, area coaches are hoping for a strong finish to springboard them into the postseason next Friday.
Bremen and Culver Community will look to bounce back from disappointing losses to Jimtown and John Glenn, while Culver Military Academy is looking for its consecutive wins in four weeks on the road at Fairfield.
CULVER COMMUNITY (2-6, 1-5 NSC)
at LaVILLE (4-4, 3-3 NSC)
The Northern State Conference can be a meat grinder for small schools. With a mixture of Class A programs up against powerhouse programs like 3A Jimtown and 4A New Prairie, the wins can be hard to come by, and such has been the case for Culver Community.
But with a match-up at fellow Class A LaVille — also scheduled to leave for the fledgling Hoosier North Athletic Conference in 2015-16 — this week’s football game is an opportunity for the Cavs to pick on somebody their own size.
It’s a big game and a big opportunity to grab some momentum rolling into the playoffs next week, says Culver head coach Andy Thomas.
“We need to get some confidence. Sometimes it’s hard to get some confidence with who we play. But we need to understand that LaVille’s in the same boat we are. They’re a good team, and we feel like we’re the same as them and we need to compete and play with confidence,” said Thomas.
“We’re playing 1A schools form here on in. We need to go into the tournament playing our best football. We need to play well and put a complete game together, play well in all phases of the game. This is a big, big road game for us. As big as we’ve had in our program. We want to finish the season the right way and try and get some momentum going into the playoffs.”
Last week’s 46-14 loss to John Glenn was a particularly disappointing one for Thomas and his staff. Besides the turnovers — and at five by the Cavs there were plenty of those — the Culver boss didn’t feel like his team was willing to compete for the first time this season. Limiting those TOs and playing with passion will be two keys to success this week.
“They were the better team. We knew we’d have a hard time beating them if we played them 10 times. But I’m disappointed that we didn’t compete very well,” said Thomas. “We’ve had some rough scores this year, but I’ve thought that we’ve at least tried to compete, tried to take something away or establish something that we didn’t in our previous games. Last week we turned the ball over five times, and you just can’t beat anybody, especially a team that’s better than you are if you turn it over like that.”
Another key to the match-up will be reading LaVille’s keys. Thomas is stressing assignment football to his players and, by the same token, telling them not to try to do too much on the field.
“We’ve got to talk and communicate and read our keys on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We’ve been talking to our guys a lot about really trying to focus and read their keys. And we keep telling them ‘See a little, see a lot; see a lot, see nothing.’ We’ve got to really worry about doing our job just reading our key and focus on the little things that’ll tell us what we need to know instead of trying to watch everything or do everything.”
BREMEN (5-3, 4-2 NSC)
vs JOHN GLENN (1-7, 1-5 NSC)
Early in the season, Bremen’s Lions struggled to put together four consecutive quarters of good football. The Long Green Line seemed to figure things out with four straight wins in Weeks 4 through 7, but the Lions backslid a bit on the consistency issue in last week’s 24-6 loss at Jimtown.
Coach Bob Holmes knows his players will need a faster start if they hope to compete against a potent John Glenn squad coming off a big 46-14 win at Culver Community last Friday.
“I thought we made a lot of mistakes in the first half. I’m not taking anything away from Jimtown, but our mistakes put us in a 17 to nothing hole,” said Holmes. “We battled back in the second half and played very, very good football, especially defensively, and evened them up in the second half. But we’ve got to come out with that passion and fire at the beginning of the game and not wait for the second half to play and not make too many mistakes and not have the opportunity to win the game, and that’s exactly what we did at Jimtown.”
Limiting big plays is going to be crucial for Bremen. The Lions are also going to need to control the clock against a high-powered John Glenn offense that’s dropping some big numbers on unprepared opponents.
Luckily or unluckily for the Lions, in Jimmies alum Dave Sharpe’s first year at the helm of Glenn, there are plenty of similarities to Jimtown, giving the team opportunities to apply lessons learned last week.
“There are a lot of similarities. The style of running game that they have, the type of defense that they play is very similar to Jimtown,” said Holmes. “They have the advantage because they had the opportunity of watching where our weaknesses were last week, and I’m sure they’re going to try to exploit them.”
A win for Bremen would mean a third-place finish in the Northern State Conference behind New Prairie and Jimtown. It would also ensure some momentum headed into the postseason against Manchester next week.
“It’s very important,” said Holmes. “You want to go into the tournament on a good note, and we’re playing for basically third place in the conference. We definitely want to earn that and not slip into fourth.”
CMA (5-3) at FAIRFIELD (7-1)
Like everyone else, Culver Military is not just playing for regular-season stakes this week, but for a dual purpose — to springboard into the postseason as they travel to Fairfield.
But the stakes might be even higher for independent CMA, which won’t be looking for a top finish in any conference. And then there’s the possibility of seeing Fairfield again in the playoffs.
“We’ve always tried to instill in the kids that we don’t play in a conference so what we play for is the tournament and the opportunity to play for a sectional championship is always something we get excited for. We need to build momentum going into the playoffs,” said CMA coach Andy Dorrel.
“We have a chance to play Fairfield again in Week 2 (of the postseason), which is interesting. We’ve not had the opportunity before to play a team in Week 9 and then play them again in two weeks, so hopefully if we can win and they can win, we’ll have that match-up again.”
The Eagles find themselves entering tonight’s game without the benefit of several key plays. Leading rusher David Dilts is sidelined with injuries, as is two-way starter Eric Burns. Starting safety Shane Comiskey will also be forced to sit the game out, and left guard Alec Hammood continues to watch from the sidelines with injuries.
Dorrel has been happy with the way his squad has galvanized around the absence of several of its playmakers. With hopes that Dilts and company will be able to return next week, the Eagles will need to step up again this week.
“Fairfield plays with a lot of emotion, and it’s really going to challenge our guys who are a little bit short-handed with a couple starters out with injuries. We’re going to have to make sure that the guys that we have on the field are able to execute the way we need to to be successful,” said Dorrel.
“I’m just really proud of our seniors the way that we’ve been able to manage our injuries the way that we have and the way our different kids have stepped up. They’ve got great team chemistry.”
In other area action…
Triton (2-6, 1-5 NSC) hasn’t had a win on the field since Week 1 — the Trojans’ second win came via forfeit when John Glenn self-reported an ineligibility issue last week — but the team has definitely made some big strides regardless.
Triton gained ground with a pair of scores in a Homecoming loss to LaVille back on Oct. 4, and they carried the momentum forward into a narrow 14-13 defeat at Knox last week. The Trojans will have their work cut out for them against an NSC second-rated Jimtown (6-2, 5-1 NSC) squad this week, but they’re looking to continue competing and finish out the regular season on a high note.