There are several factors that go into determining just what is the Game of the Week when opening Sectional play. At the mercy of the IHSAA random draw, some opening weeks are duds while others have a multitude of solid games to choose from.
So we bounced around a few ideas for this week with quality games making up each class before we settled here, where Churubusco has been fascinating in the area all year and Southwood, just on the edge of our coverage, sits perfect with some in the Outside the Huddle coverage area wondering just how ‘for real’ the Knights are.
1. WHAT DOES UNBEATEN MEAN?
A little backstory on Southwood for Outside the Huddle readers since the Knights are just outside our coverage area. 16 teams across Indiana finished the regular season with a perfect record, including the 9-0 Southwood Knights. Their mark leaves them third in both Class 1A polls behind Indianapolis Lutheran and South Adams, but with a strength of schedule better than the Starfires.
Southwood is ranked 79th in the most recent Sagarin rating and were actually in this same position last year at 9-0 entering the playoffs. They won two postseason games before falling to Adams Central 38-0 in the title game despite giving up just 61 total points in their 11 wins. This year, they’re defense has surrendered just 50 points total.
2. THE JAKE FULK SITUATION
While he won’t be listed as a player to watch below, ignoring the impact that Jake Fulk has had would be a critical mistake. Of teams reporting stats to MaxPreps, Fulk ranks 29th in rushing yards with 1,688 yards. That total ranks him fourth in the state with 187.6 yards per game and 20 touchdowns.
Fulk has ran for 200-plus yards on three occasions this season and is likely the biggest individual offensive weapon that will be on the field on Friday night.
3. PLAYING AT CHURUBUSCO
You want to play at home as much as you can, that is certainly true into the postseason. But, the Eagles have gone just 2-2 at home all season versus 5-0 on the road. Can the troops in Churubusco be rallied to make sure that this is a major home field advantage? Since Paul Sade took over coaching in 2013, the Eagles are 4-2 at home in Sectional play on their home field. With the draw coming out with this game on top of the Sectional, this would be Busco’s only home game no matter the outcome.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB GAGE KELLY, SENIOR, CHURUBUSCO
In the event that Southwood can slow Fulk, which has happened just once this season, Kelly is more than capable of stepping up his game offensively. If both he and Fulk are on at the same time, that is a danger zone. Kelly is a diverse back and has run for 632 yards on the season including three 100-plus yard games.
RB GABE LLOYD, SENIOR, SOUTHWOOD
The anchor of a balanced Southwood offense, Lloyd had run for 592 yards on 107 carries. Lloyd continues to be effective when used in the passing game too. He had two catches for a team best 45 yards last week as Southwood had to battle for every inch in their win over Tippecanoe Valley.
DL HUNTER BIASNKI, SOPHOMORE, CHURUBUSCO
A monster off the line, Bianski is coming off his biggest game of the season with seven solo and seven assisted tackles against Fairfield. He is third for the Eagles with 67 total tackles, but has a team high 21.5 for loss. Nobody else on either team has more than 14.5 tackles for a loss this season. He also has a team high five sacks.
OLB/WR CARSON RICH, JUNIOR, SOUTHWOOD
Rich is capable of changing the game on both sides of the ball. While his team high 330 receiving yards, 17 receptions and five touchdowns are critical to Southwood’s offense, he is a defensive minded player. He has seven touchdowns, a fumble recovery, a sack and a team third best 64 tackles. Churubusco is going to want to avoid this Rich and Connor, the other OLB. But of the two, Carson is the most likely to cause havoc.
KEYS TO VICTORY – SOUTHWOOD
1. AVOID PENALTIES
In their second closest game of the season, Southwood beat Tippecanoe Valley last week after seven penalties for 70 yards. That kind of penalty yardage could be a killer against a team like Churubusco that grinds things out and yardage and time of possession mean so much against. Southwood should really want to win the battle of penalty yardage in this game, helping them offset any yardage battles they may lose otherwise.
2. TAKE CARE OF THE BALL
Southwood has fumbled the football nine times all season, but four of those came a week ago. Gabe Lloyd, Alex Farr, Jackson Simmons and Tristin Hayslett all had fumbles and Farr also threw an interception. While the Knights only lost one of those fumbles last week, they have lost five of the nine they have had on the season. In postseason play, limiting mistakes is critical.
KEYS TO VICTORY – CHURUBUSCO
1. POUND THE GROUND GAME
Why stop now? The ground game has worked and has accounted for 82 percent of the Eagles’ offensive yardage. Churubusco has run for 2,920 yards behind Fulk, Kelly and Sam Wood have combined for most of it and they run for 324.4 yards per game. They have also scored 36 of their 45 touchdowns rushing.
2. PRESSURE ALEX FARR
While Southwood will look to stop the Churubusco run game, the Eagles need to try and make Southwood as one dimensional as they can. Farr has thrown seven interceptions versus 10 touchdowns and has three fumbles (all lost) in nine games. The biggest hope in making Southwood falter is by putting a lot of pressure on Farr with Bianski, Case Lemper and Reese Wicker heading at him.