By GREG MENGELT
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
There is no more exciting time of the year than the Indiana High School football tournament.
With it comes the chance for teams to put a disappointing season behind them and for teams with high expectations to fulfill them.
Winning a conference championship, having a winning season — or even going unbeaten — none of its really matters when the tournament starts.
This is what it’s all about. Ask any high school coach and he’ll tell you, winning a conference championship pales in comparison to a successful tournament run.
And it all begins on Friday. Blind draws bring some great first-round matchups, like New Albany-Jeffersonville, and some duds, like Charlestown-Mitchell.
The saying goes that you can throw out the records when the tournament begins. While that’s obviously not the case, the playoffs can provide some seriously compelling storylines.
Here’s a look at how I see the first round of the local sectional tournaments playing out.
CLASS 5A SECTIONAL 8
• At Jeffersonville 37, New Albany 24: Any time the Devils and Bulldogs get together, it’s an event. The sport doesn’t even matter. It could be hopscotch.
But when it’s Jeff-New Albany playoff football, it’s more special.
Jeff beat the Bulldogs 49-12 just three weeks ago. However, the scene seems to have shifted a bit since the first meeting.
The Devils were blown out by Columbus East — granted, in a rain storm — then gave up 47 points to one-win Jennings County in the two week’s following their win over New Albany. The Bulldogs dropped a two-point decision to Seymour — a game in which they came back from 19-0 down to take the lead — before beating rival Floyd Central in overtime last week.
I’m not gutsy enough to pick the upset, but I can see it as a possibility. I can’t imagine myself thinking that just three weeks ago.
• Castle 28, at Floyd Central 6: As coach Brian Glesing predicted, his Highlander team is playing its best football at the end of the season.
Unfortunately, so is Castle. The Knights went through a very tough Southern Indiana Conference schedule unscathed and they’re coming off a 56-17 shellacking of defending 3A sectional champion Evansville Memorial.
Castle has a high-powered offense and its defense is strong enough to give Floyd fits.
• At Bedford North Lawrence 54, Jennings County 7: When Bedford started 0-4, few believed that the Stars would stay down for long.
Bret Szabo does a remarkable job at BNL and this year has been no exception. In fact, this is one of his best coaching jobs yet. After starting 0-4, the Stars won four straight, including a 44-0 win over Jennings.
Then they had a chance to knock off Class 4A No. 1 Columbus East last week. A late turnover doomed them to a 35-31 loss. The defending Sectional 8 champions will have no trouble moving on.
CLASS 3A SECTIONAL 23
• At Corydon Central 42, Silver Creek 21: What a year it has been for the Dragons.
Silver Creek won three games in just its second varsity season. That’s quite an accomplishment. A loss to Corydon Central on Friday won’t diminish that.
The Dragons are coming off a 69-30 win over Crawford County and led 48-0 at the half. Corydon was stunned 20-0 at home against Brownstown Central in its regular-season finale.
The momentum seems to have shifted significantly since the Panthers beat Silver Creek 70-27 on Aug. 31. However, it won’t be enough to change the outcome.
The Dragons will cut into the 53-point deficit, but Corydon will move on to a rematch with Charlestown.
• At Charlestown 67, Mitchell 0: The Pirates completed an unbeaten season with a 62-7 win over Eastern last Friday.
Charlestown easily led the state in scoring at 58.6 points per game and had a state-best 51.6 average margin of victory.
Translation: It’s going to be a long night for the 2-7 Bluejackets. Sorry, Shea!
• Salem 14, at North Harrison 7: Salem is an interesting team. The Lions stay in almost every game because their defense is solid. However, they could lose any game because their offense is atrocious. They have been shut out in four of their last five games and five times this season.
A 3-6 record is the right direction for the Mo Moriarty-led Lions and drawing the 2-7 Cougars, who Salem beat 21-0 in Week 3, should help continue that trend.
• At Brownstown Central 21, Heritage Hills 20: One local coach told me this week that Heritage Hills is the one team in Sectional 23 that could keep Charlestown from winning it.
It’s not likely he said, but it’s possible. Of course, he also said Charlestown is the favorite to win the Class 3A state championship.
But there’s a good chance the 5-4 Patriots won’t even get past the sectional’s opening weekend. Brownstown is 8-1 and has won seven straight games since a 41-3 loss to Charlestown. The Braves shut down Corydon’s high-powered offense last week and if they can beat Heritage Hills this weekend, Reed May’s bunch will become the team no one wants to face down the road.
CLASS 2A SECTIONAL 31
• Clarksville 42, at Eastern 8: Clarksville hasn’t won a tournament game since its heartbreaking 31-30 double-overtime loss at Brownstown Central in the championship game in 2006.
After playing such a tough regular-season schedule — and handling it quite well — the Generals deserve this win on Friday. And they should get it fairly easily.
While Lawrenceburg and Paoli are probably the favorites to win this sectional, don’t count out Clarksville. With the way the Generals have been playing, they’re definitely a darkhorse.
• At Paoli 14, Providence 12: These are two really good defensive teams. If Providence can get a break or two, there’s no reason the Pioneers can’t give Paoli a scare — at the very least.
Like Clarksville, if Providence can get some momentum going with a win over the Rams on Friday, there’s no reason to believe the Pioneers can’t make a run at their first sectional crown since 2007. That would make a disappointing 2012 regular season a distant memory.
• Lawrenceburg 72, Crawford County 21: I would hate to be the guy covering this game. It may go well into morning. The Wolfpack seem to have found some offense last week against Silver Creek and they still can’t stop anybody.
There could well by over 100 points scored in this game. If that’s the case, I just hope Lawrenceburg doesn’t score all of them.
• Triton Central 28, at Monrovia 13: I don’t know anything about either team. However, Triton Central beat a really good Scecina team, so I have to assume the Tigers will win handily, even on the road.
If Providence and Triton Central both win, that’s going to be a heck of a long trip for the Pioneers next week. That’s four hours round-trip — to Fairland and back — for those of you wondering.
SEASON RECORD: 60-17 (78 percent)