By GREG MENGELT
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Moments after Indian Creek defeated Charlestown 48-28 in the Sectional 23 championship game in 2010, Pirates coach Jason Hawkins and long-time Braves coach Mike Gillin met at midfield for handshakes.
Gillin and Hawkins exchanged pleasantries. Then Gillin said something to the affect that he was glad he would never have to face Charlestown’s quarterback Aaron Daniel, who he assumed was a senior and graduating.
“He’s only a sophomore,” Hawkins said to the best of my recollection.
The stunned look on his face said: “That kid’s going to be playing for two more years? We’re all in trouble.”
As it turned out, Indian Creek moved to Sectional 22 — out of the Pirates’ sectional and regional — but Gillin was right. Everyone was in trouble.
In Friday’s 49-6 sectional semifinal win over Corydon Central, Daniel — now a senior and the holder of nearly ever Pirate record there is to own — ran for five touchdowns and threw for another in the first 14 minutes.
For the season, Daniel has 1,420 yards on the ground and 1,613 through the air. Considering he’s played into two second halves this season, those numbers are stunning. He’s averaging 12.1 yards per carry with touchdowns on 27 of his 117 runs. He’s completed 97 of 140 passes for 29 touchdowns and five interceptions and he’s been sacked just five times.
For the year, the state’s highest-scoring offense has outscored its opponents 451-16.
Still, there’s one thing Daniel hasn’t done — lead his team to a sectional championship. He’s been close twice, but he hasn’t gotten the job done yet.
Friday is his chance.
• Sectional 23 — Charlestown 28, at Brownstown Central 7: Since losing to Charlestown 41-3 in Week 2, Brownstown Central has been impressive — very impressive. They’ve won nine straight and the Braves were only challenged by Heritge Hills in their 27-24 sectional opener. In the 10 wins, they’ve given up 81 points. In the one loss, 41.
That’s just how good Charlestown has been. It’s hard to imagine a way the Braves can make up 38 points, but if any coach can come up with a way, it’s Reed May.
The problem is that as good as the Pirate offense has been, the defense has been just as good. The last time Charlestown trailed — or gave up meaningful points — was after Brownstown’s early field goal gave it a 3-0 lead.
This is a dominant Charlestown team — as dominant as I’ve seen in a long time, if ever — and it will take a special team to beat the Pirates. The Braves are good. They’re not “special.”
• Sectional 24 — At Evansville Memorial 26, Gibson Southern 21: This is a game that could go either way. Gibson Southern may have an advantage with nine wins to four for Memorial. However, the Tigers are the defending sectional champions, play that killer Evansville schedule and are at home, giving them a slight edge.
• Sectional 8 — Castle 41, Jeffersonville 34: After what Jeff’s done to New Albany and Evansville North in the first two rounds of the sectional, I was all ready to pick Jeffersonville in an upset. Then I saw what the unbeaten Knights were doing to defending champion Bedford North Lawrence in last week’s 49-14 semifinal win and there was no way I could justify it.
It’s not that Jeff can’t win. It can. However, Castle has to be the heavy favorites after jumping on the Stars 42-0 at the half in last week’s win.
Not only was Bedford the defending sectional champion, but the Stars were a late turnover away from beating Class 4A No. 1 Columbus East just two weeks earlier.
Bedford is a good team and the Knights just thrashed them. Jeff is a better team, but it’s going to take a huge effort to pull off the upset on the road against the state’s third-ranked team.
It will be a high-scoring game and a turnover or a break could swing the pendulum the Red Devils’ way, but not enough for me to go out on a limb.
• Sectional 7 — At Center Grove 31, Columbus North 14: After a 1-5 start, Columbus North has won five straight, including a pair of sectional wins over Whiteland and Franklin Central. The 17-14 win over Central was particularly noteworthy since the Flashes beat the Bull Dogs 42-35 just before North went on its streak.
Scott Bless has gotten the Bull Dogs playing well and recent results give them hope. However, Center Grove is among the handful of teams that can win the 5A championship and should continue to steamroll through the tournament.
• Sectional 15 — At Columbus East 47, Franklin County 17: East will continue its domination of Sectional 15 with its fifth straight sectional title (and seventh in 10 years) as a 4A team.
• Sectional 16 — Evansville Reitz 31, at Jasper 21: This is another one that could go either way. And once again, I give the edge to the team that has playing against Evansville schools all season.
• Sectional 31 — At Paoli 21, Lawrenceburg 14: I am a true believer in the Rams defense.
• Sectional 32 — At Evansville Mater Dei 35, South Spencer 14: The Wildcats survived a scare last week and should continue toward a showdown with No. 1 Ritter in two weeks.