High School Football Game of the Week Preview – Mater Dei vs Southridge
The Wildcats head northeast to face a familiar foe to play for a fifth straight sectional title.
Since 2010, Mater Dei's road to a sectional championship has gone through Huntingburg during one of the sectional weekends. Last year it started there, in 2012 it ended there with the Wildcats beating the Raiders on their way to a state title appearance, in 2009 the teams met up in the second week. The point being that if Mater Dei wants a sectional title, they have to beat Southridge at some point to get it.
For the fourth consecutive year, the game will be played on the home turf of the Raiders thanks to the method by which the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) selects the tournament match ups. If you don't know, the IHSAA conducts a blind draw for the state tournament, meaning they basically throw all the names in a hat and pick them out one by one. In the first round, the host team is the second team drawn for the match up. For the second round, the team who was on the road the in the first round will host. In the event both road teams won in week one, the team listed on the bottom of the bracket will host. For the championship round, the team with the most road games in the first two weeks will host, if both teams have the same number of road games, the bottom team on the bracket hosts. Confused yet?
In the case of Mater Dei and Southridge, both teams have had one home game and one road game, meaning the bottom bracket team hosts, which in this case, and somehow the last three cases, has been Southridge.
Regardless of how it keeps happening this way, the games between the two have usually been close contests with the Wildcats prevailing by a difference of no more than seven points outside of the 2011 contest which Mater Dei won 39-21.
This year's contest should be no different as Southridge always plays Mater Dei tough with their "Wing-T" style offense, a rush-heavy attack that incorporates a ton of misdirection with some plays involving two or even three hand offs between players in one play to throw the defense off track. I can tell you it's a hard offense to follow watching it from the press box, so I can't even imagine how difficult it is to read when you're lined up against it.
With that said, first year head coach Scott Buening has incorporated more passing into the Southridge attack this year with junior quarterback Luke Stetter completing 51 passes on 101 attempts for 1,056 yards and 12 touchdowns to complement the over 3,100 yards the team has put on the ground this season.
While the Wildcats defense has been strong this season, especially along the defensive line, the one weakness has been their inability to stop the deep pass. Early in the game against Sullivan last week, the Mater Dei defensive backs allowed the Golden Arrows receivers to get behind them for big gains. If they can prevent that from happening Friday night against the Raiders, they have a good chance of leaving Huntingburg with their fifth straight sectional title.
Another key to Mater Dei's success will be to establish their own ground game early. After sitting out the second half of the regular season finale against Reitz, and the entire game against Forrest Park, senior running back Nolan Goebel returned to form against Sullivan last week, torching the Golden Arrows defense with 239 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. The Wildcats have also found success on a sweep play in which junior receiver Julian Weidner comes in motion from the slot position and takes the hand off from senior quarterback Chase Hoehn before turning the corner and zipping up the sideline. A play that worked repeatedly against Sullivan last week as Julian was able to rack up 86 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts.
Finally, if Mater Dei wants to keep their season rolling and move on to regionals, they must eliminate penalties, an issue they seemed to have corrected midway through the season after the first few games, only to have it rear its ugly head once again against Sullivan as they were flagged nine times for a total of 75 yards, many of which were five yard false start penalties. If they can remain disciplined on both sides of the ball, the Wildcats have a good chance at leaving Southridge with a win.
Due to the time difference (Huntingburg is one hour ahead), the game will kick off at 6:30pm Evansville time. Catch every play on Newstalk 1280AM and online at Newstalk1280.com with pregame at 6pm.