High School Football Game of the Week Preview – Mater Dei Versus Southridge
The 2012 regular season is in the books, and it's time to move into the post-season tournament where it's win or go home.
Sectionals begin this week with an opening week rematch between the two teams that faced off for last year's sectional title, the Wildcats of Mater Dei and the Raiders of Southridge High School in Huntingburg. A game Mater Dei won 28-21 on their way to the state title game. Just as it was last year, this game will be a home game for the Raiders with a special 6:30pm Central Time kickoff.
The Wildcats enter the game with 7-2 regular season record after back to back losses to Castle and Reitz in weeks eight and nine, respectively. It's the first time Mater Dei enters the post-season on a two-game losing streak since the 2009 season.
After an uncharacteristic start that included five turnovers and a few penalties, the Wildcats found themselves down 28-0 at half time against Reitz last Friday night. They came back strong in the second half, scoring 28 unanswered points to tie the game in the third quarter. A 90-yard kickoff return by senior Ke'Andre Vaughn put the Panthers up 35-28 with just over eight minutes to go in the game with Mater Dei returning the favor shortly thereafter to tie it up 35-35. Vaughn again displayed his amazing talents by putting the final nail in the coffin, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run with 13-seconds left on clock.
Obviously the Wildcats can't afford another half football like that if they hope to make a return to Lucas Oil Stadium Thanksgiving weekend as they will face tougher and tougher teams if they are to advance.
They first have to get past a talented Southridge team this week. The two teams are very familiar with each other, meeting 13 times since 1983, with 10 of those contests taking place at some point during Sectionals. Mater Dei leads the overall series 10-3.
Southridge enters the game with a 6-3 record after beating a much-improved and talented Gibson Southern squad 35-21 on the road, and will no doubt look to jump on the Wildcats early with their Wing-T offense. An attack that relies almost predominantly on the run and features a ton of misdirection and trickery with two running backs lined up behind the quarterback. Any given play could be a simple hand-off to one of the backs, a fake to one and give to the other, a double hand-off between the backs, or a quarterback keeper. Having witnessed it last year covering the Sectional title game, I can tell you it's difficult to follow from the press box, so I can't imagine how hard it is to follow as player lining up against it.
For Mater Dei to leave Huntingburg with a win Friday night, they must eliminate the costly mistakes that plagued the first half against Reitz. Quarterback Jace Hartz will have to make smart decisions in the passing game, knowing when to throw it away in the event Southridge brings pressure. There seemed to be a couple of instances against Reitz where he tried to make something out of nothing that resulted in at least one interception. Fortunately for this group of young men, they do a great job of learning from past mistakes and righting the ship quickly which was evident in the second half against the Panthers. That ability can be attributed to Coach Mike Goebel and his coaching staff.
If the Wildcats can stick their normal game plan of bringing intense pressure on defense and build a two or three score lead early, forcing the Raiders out of their comfort zone by putting the ball in the air (something they don't do often), they should have no problem finding themselves playing a game in round two of Sectionals.
As previously mentioned, due partly to the Huntingburg area being one hour ahead, this week's game will kick off at 6:30 Evansville time instead of the normal 7pm start time; meaning that coverage of the game on Newstalk 1280 and online at Newstalk1280.com will begin with pre-game at 6pm.