By GREG MENGELT
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Jeffersonville has faced some good teams this season, including a No. 1 in Columbus East.
Yet, Jeff coach Lonnie Oldham called this week’s Sectional 8 championship opponent Castle, “by far” the best team the Red Devils will have faced to date.
The Knights are 11-0 and were ranked third in the last Class 5A AP poll of the season. They’re coming off of an impressive 49-14 win over defending Sectional 8 champion Bedford North Lawrence in Friday’s semifinal. Castle led that one 42-0 at the half.
“They’re pretty dynamic,” Oldham said. “They can run or pass and they have three or four weapons on offense, similar to us. I haven’t seen too many defenses challenge them.”
Although the Knights surrender just 13.8 points per game and have given up just 26 in their first two sectional games, it’s the offense that makes Castle go.
Mitch Gilles leads a Castle offense that is 11th in the state at 43.5 points per game. Gilles has completed 138 of 214 passes for 2,395 yards and 38 touchdowns. Like Jeff, there are several Knights capable of beating opposing defenses.
Oldham admitted that if the Red Devils are going to win their first sectional since 2008, they will have to outscore the Knights.
“The test is going to be our defense against their offense,” Oldham said. “I think it will be a shootout if we’re going to win. I don’t think we can hold them to under 30-35 points on Friday night. I don’t see any way in the world we can do that. So if we’re going to win the game, we’re going to have to air it out.”
Andrew Finch leads a Castle rushing attack that can also burn defenses. Finch has 1,125 yards and 12 touchdowns and the Red Devils know that Castle likes to feed him in the red zone.
“I know that they pass the ball and when they get inside the 20-yard line, they like to ‘pound the rock,’ as coach says,” Jeff junior Dalton Adkins said. “I know if we can stop them from passing the ball — and maybe get a couple of interceptions — and stop them from pounding the rock, we should be fine.”
Jeff can play a little offense, too. Quarterback Tyler Fridley has thrown for 2,706 yards and 37 touchdowns and the Devils have five different receivers with at least 17 catches and 181 yards, led by Ricky Embry’s 45 receptions for 804 yards.
“They’ve played a whole lot of running teams,” Oldham said of the Knights. “I don’t think they’ve seen a mirror image — like we are — yet. Hopefully we’ll be able to move the ball like I suspect we can. They haven’t seen the speed or quality receivers that we have.”
“He’s doing a good job at what he’s doing, breaking records,” Adkins said of Fridley. “It helps to have weapons all over the field. We have a lot of weapons on this team.”
CLASS 3A SECTIONAL 23
CHARLESTOWN AT BROWNSTOWN CENTRAL
In six seasons at Charlestown, Jason Hawkins has won 51 of 66 games, including four Mid-Southern Conference championships.
Earlier this year, he said he’d give all of the regular-season success back for a sectional championship.
On Friday, Charlestown will get that chance. The Pirates will play MSC-rival Brownstown Central in their second Sectional 23 championship game in three years. In 2010, Indian Creek beat Charlestown 48-28 for the title.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Hawkins said. “We’re going to be fired up and ready. This is what you play for. Win this game and you get a trophy. This is what the season is about, making a run in the playoffs. This is an exciting time.”
The Pirates have put up some astounding numbers. They have the highest-scoring offense in the state at 59.8 points per game and they’re fourth in scoring defense at 6.3 for an average margin of 53.5 points per game, also the highest in the state.
Brownstown has been impressive, as well, since a 41-3 Week 2 loss to the Pirates. Since the Aug. 24 defeat, the Braves have outscored their opponents 310-75.
“They’re going to be better than we when played them in Week 2,” Hawkins said of the Braves. “We’re just going to have to come up with a game plan. They’re going to try to do what they do. It’s just a matter of can they do it.”
Hawkins said if any coach is capable of pulling off a 38-point turnaround, it’s Brownstown’s Reed May. And he’s not surprised May’s Braves rebounded after the beating they took in the second week of the season.
“They’ve gotten better by moving some kids around. That’s a sign of a good coach,” Hawkins said. “They do scare me because of the guy standing on the other sideline. He’s not going to let them get down on themselves. They’re going to keep fighting and playing, even if we take the lead. We know that.”
Nothing has stopped the unbeaten and second-ranked Pirates yet. Hawkins hopes that the big stage doesn’t find a way of making his squad stumble.
“I don’t think our kids will get nervous or be scared,” Hawkins said. “I think they’ll just continue to play, but you never know how they’ll react. We haven’t been in this situation in a while, but this team believes in themselves and in each other.”