By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — Cass County’s two Midwest Conference football powers, Pioneer and Caston, meet again at 7 o’clock tonight in Fulton for their annual grudge match.
The Comets have actually played the Panthers closer than any other team in the conference in recent years until Winamac’s take down of Pioneer in Week 2 this year.
“It’s probably going to be a typical Caston-Pioneer game,” Panthers coach Mike Johnson said.
The Panthers (1-2, 1-1 MWC) gathered momentum on offense at the end of that Winamac game and took it to South Newton early last week in rolling the Rebels, 66-28.
Caston coach Chris Ulerick said his team needs to be ready to play from the start.
“We’ve got to stop that before they get a chance to get that machine going,” he said. “We’re going to have to play well like we did the second half last week to have a chance. We fought hard and did what we needed to do. We need four quarters of that in order to be in position to win.”
The Comets (1-2, 1-1) are also coming off their first win of the season, scoring the game’s final 21 points in a 21-14 win over a hungry and improved Frontier squad.
Quarterback Quentin Douglass was 13-of-17 passing for 106 yards in the win and added a rushing touchdown. Jake Kingery was his top target with six catches for 76 yards. Fullback Conner Martin added 92 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
“We have to contain Quentin Douglass. He makes their offense go,” Johnson said. “They also have very capable halfbacks who won the game for them last week. They ran jet sweep 10 times in a row to score at the end. We have to contain their offense and move the ball against a traditionally stubborn defense against us.”
Fullback Justin Mersch had 174 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and quarterback Sam Kiser added 104 yards on the ground and three scores in the Panthers’ win over South Newton last week.
“I think we played better. Hopefully it continues,” Johnson said. “Hopefully it wasn’t just poor defense and a little bit of us.
“Caston plays us very well defensively and traditionally has guys on that side of the ball to do that. Offensively I know that any yards that we get will be hard to come by. And it’s not because of poor play or execution on our part, it’s because of good play on their part.”
Both teams will have quite a few new faces on the field that did not play in last year’s 20-6 Pioneer win at a mud-filled Pit.
“I think it’s a theme throughout the conference minus a couple of teams,” Ulerick said. “We’ve got at least one freshman starting and a handful of sophomores and juniors who haven’t seen a whole lot of time because we’ve graduated a bunch of seniors the last two years. It’s catching up to us and it caught up with them as well. We run the same system and in both you have to jump in and get acclimated to varsity.”
The Caston coach added the Panthers are always good at attacking opponent’s weaknesses.
“They’re well coached, they watch film just like everyone else. ... I’m sure they’ve studied us and know how they want to attack us. Hopefully our kids are ready to respond. That’s something they do well over there. Hopefully we can match what they’re able to do,” he said.
Anderson (0-3, 0-1 NCC) at Logansport (0-3, 0-1 NCC)
An unfortunate string of events at the end of the first half took the Berries out of last week’s game at Huntington North.
The good news was they finally got some sustained offense going. Fullback Jacob Shelton led the way with 149 yards rushing and two TDs.
“We scored four touchdowns but there were more out there we needed to get,” LHS coach Brad Urban said. “From what I’ve seen in the conference, all of the teams have very good offenses. Richmond, Anderson and Huntington North are the teams I’ve seen thus far and they all have all kinds of skill on the offensive side of the ball.”
The Berries were hurt by the pass against the Vikings in the 50-26 defeat but did better in the second half in allowing just 9 points.
“In the second half obviously they ran the ball a lot more but we did have two picks,” Urban said. “We’ve got to play four quarters on both sides of the ball.”
The Berry defense was stout in the opener against Twin Lakes but has struggled in back-to-back weeks against Peru and Huntington.
“The difference in the Twin Lakes game was we were able to make up for our mistakes defensively, alignments and those kind of things. The last two weeks those teams have been good enough to take advantage of those. Twin Lakes didn’t take advantage of those,” Urban said.
Anderson is coming off a 48-26 loss to defending NCC champion Richmond. The Indians have scored 21.7 ppg but have allowed 47.7 in losses Fort Wayne Wayne, Pendleton Heights and Richmond.
“Their tailback is extremely fast. They have an explosive offense,” Urban said. “Basically they haven’t been able to outscore people as they’ve struggled on defense. It’s the same M.O. they had last year. They’re a little different. Their fullback is not as big. They have a good tight end they get involved more than last year. Their quarterback is changed. They run pro-I and play-action pass iso. We need to play strong run defense and not fall asleep on the pass. They’re a talented football team. From a talent aspect they’re the most talented team we’ve seen thus far.”
Urban is looking for his team to take another step forward.
“In three weeks we have not nearly played the best football we can play. At some point we’ve got to turn it on. I still have faith in the team. There’s a lot of untapped potential. We’ve got to keep improving to get where we need to be,” he said.
H. Heights (2-1, 1-0 MIC) at Cass (1-2, 0-1 MIC)
Cass’ last two games against Class 3A opponents have not been kind to the Kings.
The Kings face another one this week in No. 7-ranked Hamilton Heights.
“I compare Hamilton Heights to West Lafayette,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said. “They’re very talented with good size. Their skill positions are particularly exceptional — at running back and they probably have a D-I receiver in [Grant] Weatherford. It’s going to be a tough matchup for us.”
Weatherford, a 6-3, 180-pound junior, is also receiving some D-I interest as a point guard in basketball.
He has 13 catches for 372 yards and six TDs this season.
A year ago he had 46 catches for 790 yards and 13 TDs and also had seven kickoff or punt returns for scores for the Huskies, who went 13-2 and lost to Bishop Chatard 30-13 in the Class 3A title game.
Like they did a year ago, the Huskies opened with a loss to Tipton (28-7) before back-to-back wins over Sheridan (46-6) and Maconaquah (61-14).
The Kings are coming off a 14-8 loss to Northwestern when they mustered up only 129 yards of offense.
“I’m disappointed in the last two weeks. We have not competed at a level good enough to win,” Mannering said. “A lot of that is on our offense. We’ve got to move the ball better and get more first downs and more points. Hopefully we can throw the ball better than we have been and run the ball better. Across the board we need to get better as a team.”
Winamac (3-0, 2-0 MWC) at S. Newton (1-2, 1-1 MWC)
The Warriors are ranked No. 1 in this week’s Class A coaches’ poll.
Winamac coach Tim Roth said it’s the highest the program has ever been ranked. The Warriors’ semistate team in 2000 was ranked as high as No. 2 in Class 2A.
“We’ve been 2, we’ve never been 1,” Roth said. “It’s a new experience for us. The kids were pumped up about it when it came out on Monday. The task for the coaching staff is for us to stay grounded. Take it one play, one quarter at a time like we said back in August.”
The Warriors are ranked No. 3 in the AP poll. They play in Class 2A in the other class sports other than football. They just recently moved to Class A in football. Roth said with the enrollment numbers they’ll likely stay in Class A for the foreseeable future. Though if they make a deep run in the tournament the next two years they could bump back up to Class 2A.
The Warriors drilled a previously unbeaten North White squad 56-0 last week in a game they scored 28 points in the first nine minutes.
They’re facing a South Newton squad that has a 2-point win over Frontier and is coming off a 66-28 loss at Pioneer.
“They present a whole different type of game than we’re used to the last three weeks,” Roth said. “They run a five-wide shotgun offense and 98 to 99 percent of the time he’s going to throw it.
“For the fourth week in a row we’re going up against a sophomore quarterback. We’ll have to get after him and pressure him and razzle him a bit. If we can maybe he won’t make such accurate throws and we can pick some of them off. I don’t know how physical they are on film. We’ve had a different week of practice working on our combination man, cover 4, cover 2, what we have to do this game.”