JEFFERSONVILLE — Floyd Central coach James Bragg has asked his team a simple question several times this week: Where do the Highlanders want to be Saturday morning?
"Are we one of the eight teams [in Class 5A] watching film and moving on? Or [are] we one of the eight teams hanging our helmets up? Which team do you want to be?" went Bragg's query.
We'll find out tonight when Floyd (8-2) hosts Jeffersonville (4-6) in the Sectional 16 final. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Ron Weigleb Stadium. Both teams are looking to end sectional droughts. The Highlanders' last title came in 2009. The Red Devils' was in 2007.
The two squads faced off six weeks ago with Floyd winning a slobber-knocker in the Knobs 23-6. Defense ruled much of that game.
The Highlanders scored a touchdown on their first possession, but didn't reach paydirt again until Calvin Brown caught a 12-yard TD pass from Tristan Polk with 39 seconds left in the first half. And, it was still only 13-0 at the end of the third quarter.
That night the Red Devils held Floyd Central standout junior running back Wenkers Wright — the state's third-leading rusher with 1,924 yards — to 80 yards (his second-lowest, single-game total of the season) and a touchdown on 19 carries.
That was the good news for Jeff. The bad news was that the Devils mustered just 134 yards of offense — much of which came on an 80-yard scoring drive on their penultimate possession of the game.
"We got beat up front," first-year Jeffersonville coach Isaac Parker said after that game.
The battle in the trenches figures to be just as important tonight.
"Offensively, we must execute and finish drives," Bragg said. "Defensively, we must limit their big plays."
TRITON CENTRAL AT PROVIDENCE
The Tigers and Pioneers are old postseason adversaries. The two teams have met seven times in the playoffs since 2003. Providence won the first three of those meetings, but Triton has won the last four. That streak started with a 29-25 triumph in 2010 in what was Gene Sartini's final game as the Pioneers' head coach. The most recent matchup was a 51-0 victory by the Tigers on Halloween 2014 in the sectional semifinals.
"It seemed we played them every year for awhile there," Providence coach Larry Denison said. "Several of the games we played up there I've got some really bad memories of. It seemed like every time we went up there our best player got hurt."
Tonight the two teams will renew their rivalry at 7 p.m. in the Class 2A Sectional 39 final at Murphy Stadium.
The Tigers (8-3) are seeking their first sectional title since 2014 while the Pioneers are looking for their second in three years.
Triton Central is led by the 1-2 rushing combo of Josh Thacker and Keaton Kermode. Thacker ran for 213 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 41-8 win at Paoli while Kermode rushed for 156 yards and three TDs of his own.
"Defensively we’re going to have to gang-tackle, we’re going to have to get a lot of hats to the football," Denison said. "We’re going to need to create some turnovers too. We’re going to try to hopefully turn them over and steal some possessions from them."
The Tigers also have a very formidable defense. They have allowed only 11.6 points per game and have given up 20, or more, points to just three foes.
"Offensively we’re going to have to execute," Denison said. "If we execute our offense the way I think we’re capable of, I like what we can do. Hopefully we can move the ball on them, but it’s going to take a complete game.
"If we can do that, keep control of the game and the clock and shorten the game a little bit with our running game and keep the possession, we’ve got a shot at it. We’re playing for a sectional championship and we’re glad that we get to do that and we’re excited. We’re going to give it our best effort."
Below is a closer look at tonight's matchups.
JEFFERSONVILLE AT FLOYD CENTRAL
• TIME: 7 p.m.
• LOCATION: Weigleb Stadium.
• RADIO: WXVW-1450 AM & 96.1 FM.
• RECORDS: Jeffersonville 4-6, Floyd Central 8-2.
• COACHES: Jeffersonville — Isaac Parker (4-6 in 1st year); Floyd Central — James Bragg (13-7 in 2nd year).
• SERIES LAST 35 YEARS: Jeffersonville 23-17.
• LAST MEETING: Sept. 20, 2019 — Floyd Central 23, Jeff 6: Junior quarterback Tristan Polk completed 7 of 12 passes for 84 and a touchdown, and also ran for a TD, in a defensive battle.
• NEWS, NOTES, STATS & STORYLINES: The Red Devils look to carry over the momentum from their 23-7 win over archrival New Albany in last week's sectional semifinals. Senior RB Isaac Findley had been on a late-season tear before going down with an ankle injury on the first play against the Bulldogs. His status for tonight's game is uncertain. If he is unable to go the Devils will look to junior Jordan Ferguson, who ran for 170 yards and two TDs in the win over New Albany, and senior Ethan Rogers. Jeff will also need something out of its passing game after completing just one pass for 17 yards last week. ... The Highlanders look for their fifth consecutive win, as well as their fifth win a row over the Red Devils. ... Floyd junior RB Wenkers Wright has run for 1,924 yards — which ranks third in the state and second in 5A according to maxpreps.com — and 23 TDs. Polk has thrown for 1,325 yards and 11 TDs. Senior WR Landon Deweese tops the team with 33 receptions and four receiving TDs, while junior WR Kaleb Quenichet has 30 catches for a team-best 533 yards and three TDs. Senior DB Colin Cummins tops the team with 92 tackles while junior OLB Trace Richards is second with 71 stops, including eight sacks. Senior J.D. McKay has 68 stops. Senior P/K Cole Hussung is averaging 37.5 yards per punt and 59.1 yards per kickoff. He is 34-for-39 on PATs and has booted seven FGs.
TRITON CENTRAL AT PROVIDENCE
• TIME: 7 p.m.
• LOCATION: Murphy Stadium.
• RADIO: WXVW-1450 AM & 96.1 FM.
• RECORDS: Triton Central 8-3, Providence 5-6.
• COACHES: Triton Central — Tim Able (60-24 in 7th year at Triton, 185-122 in 27th overall); Providence — Larry Denison (52-47 in 9th year).
• SERIES LAST 35 YEARS: Triton Central 4-3.
• LAST MEETING: Oct. 31, 2014 — Triton Central 51, Providence 0: Running back Jonah Thacker ran for 220 yards and five touchdowns as the Tigers rolled to victory in the sectional semifinals.
• NEWS, NOTES, STATS & STORYLINES: Triton Central is seeking its fifth straight win and its fifth sectional title. ... The Tigers are led by the 1-2 rushing attack of Josh Thacker and Keaton Kermode. Thacker ran for 213 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 41-8 win at Paoli while Kermode rushed for 156 yards and three TDs of his own. ... Triton's D allows only 11.6 points per game. The Tigers have held six of their opponents to eight points or less. The most they've allowed all season was 28 to unbeaten Class A No. 1 Trinity Lutheran. ... Providence is looking for its third straight win and its second sectional title in three years. ... Senior RB Colin Flake paces the Pioneers in rushing and receiving. He has run for 1,175 yards and 13 TDs, while making five catches for 175 yards and another score. Senior QB Bishop Edwards has run for 366 yards and six TDs. Senior LB Alec Fougerousse leads the way with 66 total tackles while Edwards, also a LB, has 61 stops. Junior DB Jaxon Murphy tops the team with four interceptions, while senior Chase Aldridge has three.
• DENISON SAYS: "They’re a very, very good team — one of the best teams we’ve played all year. It’s going to take a complete game on our part to beat them. We’re going to have to play a really sound game. We can’t turn the ball over, we can’t make silly mistakes, we can’t put ourselves in third-and-long, second-and-long situations because of a penalty, a bad snap or just a mental breakdown — we can’t do those things."