Gibson Southern may finally break through Indy private school barrier

CASTLE (8-4) at NO. 1 NEW PALESTINE (12-0), 5 p.m. CST Saturday
After knocking off No. 3-ranked and previously undefeated Bloomington South 45-26 in the regional, all the Knights have to do in order to advance to the 5A state championship game is beat No. 1 and unbeaten New Pal on its home field. The Dragons have state-bests in scoring average (61.4), victory margin (49.6) and consecutive wins (27). QB Alex Neligh has thrown for 2,258 yards and 31 TDs and run for 1,718 yards and 30 more scores – just amazing. For their part, the Knights boast Noah McLean, the state’s leader in receiving yards (1,412) and fourth-leading passer Dayne Keller (2,961). If Castle’s offensive line holds and RB Jadrien Higginson can keep New Pal’s defensive line honest by picking up decent yardage on the ground, the Knights can score. But stopping the Dragons’ offense is such a daunting task, it just might not be possible.

Prediction: New Palestine 48, Castle 34

NO. 1 GIBSON SOUTHERN (13-0) vs. NO. 5 INDIANAPOLIS CHATARD (9-3), 5 p.m. CST Saturday at Lawrence North
After losing to Chatard and Brebeuf in the 3A semistate in 2012 and ’13, Gibson Southern’s current group of seniors have been waiting for this game for a long time. This is the Titans’ best team in school history and if they’re ever going to break through the Indy private school barrier, this is it. Since losing 59-7 to Chatard in 2012, Gibson Southern is 36-3. No team has come closer than 29 points to the Titans this season. Hopefully finally playing in a close game will not be their undoing.

Prediction: Gibson Southern 38, Chatard 31

Last week: 0-3.
Overall: 45-11.

Thanks for reading.

–Gordon Engelhardt

Harrison, Mater Dei picked to advance to semistate


NO. 3 BLOOMINGTON SOUTH (11-0) at CASTLE (7-4), 6:30 p.m. CST Friday
Castle is playing its best football, which is what it will need and maybe more to knock off mighty Bloomington South, which has a little bit of everything: size, speed and versatility. On the other hand, Knights QB Dayne Keller has been on a roll and has a host of talented receivers. If he gets adequate time, if Jadrien Higginson makes an impact rushing the ball…If Castle can reasonably contain the Panthers’ attack. If…

Prediction: Bloomington South 35, Castle 21

HARRISON (10-2) at NO. 9 EAST CENTRAL (10-2), 7 p.m. CST Friday
Harrison’s performance in a 48-13 romp over No. 5 Jasper last week, which enabled the Warriors to win their first sectional since 1997, was absolutely mesmerizing. If East Central is anything like the East Central teams I’ve seen in the past, Harrison’s speed should be much too much for the Trojans. On the other hand, one wonders why the Warriors are making the 4-plus-hour bus trip for a Friday game, when they could’ve made a much more leisurely trip and played on Saturday. Harrison coach Cory Brunson said he wanted to keep the same routine. Hope the Warriors don’t leave those speedy legs on the bus.

Prediction: Harrison 31, East Central 24

NO. 1 MATER DEI (12-0) at NO. 3 MONROVIA (11-1), 6 p.m. CST Saturday
Last year, the Wildcats went up to Monrovia and posted a 42-18 victory over the Bulldogs in the 2A semistate. But one key ingredient might be missing as they meet again, this time in a regional. MD running back-defensive back Drayke Richardt, who gained 98 yards rushing on 18 carries and had five receptions for 70 yards in last year’s meeting, could be sidelined. He is reportedly suspended. The Wildcats still should have enough to win over run-crazy Monrovia, but it could be closer than originally anticipated.

Prediction: Mater Dei 28, Monrovia 21

Last week: 2-1.
Overall: 45-8.

Thanks for reading.

–Gordon Engelhardt

Sectional championship roundup: Harrison’s dream season continues

EMILY BROUWER / COURIER & PRESS Harrison High School students cheer for their team during the game against Jasper High School at Romain Stadium on Friday, Nov. 6.

Well, the closest game of the night in Southwestern Indiana was 28 points. Castle, Harrison, Gibson Southern and Mater Dei each advance to the regional round.

For the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference, this is the first time more than two schools have represented since 2012 (Castle, Mater Dei, Reitz). It also means all eight teams in the SIAC have won a sectional in the 21st century. With Harrison winning its first since 1997, North now has the longest drought (’00). Pressure is on, Huskies!

EMILY BROUWER / COURIER & PRESS Harrison’s Ryan Hales prepares to throw the ball Friday against at Romain Stadium. Hales threw four first-half touchdowns.

Harrison was the real story of the night. I predicted on the TV they’d upset 4A fifth-ranked Jasper, but never would I have imagined a 48-13 final. They’re good, and they are red-hot right now. The Warriors will travel to a galaxy far, far away at East Central HS in Guilford, Indiana — 3 1/2 hour trek, about 30 minutes outside of Cincinnati — at 7 p.m. CST Friday. I’m honestly surprised Coach Brunson didn’t want the Saturday game, but a lot of times it’s best not to mess with your routine (plus, they’ll get out of school early). The Trojans (10-2) are ranked ninth in the AP and 11th in the coaches’ polls. Harrison (10-2) will continue to play with a chip on its shoulders as slight underdogs, being on the road.

Castle continued to make a statement, going on the road and beating Bedford North Lawrence 49-13. The Knights were near-flawless on both ends of the field in claiming their first sectional in three years — a long time in Paradise. Hypothetical’s are stupid, but this is a team playing like they could very well be 9-2 or 10-1 and ranked in 5A. Castle (7-4) will host No. 3 Bloomington South (11-0) in a matchup between the two for the first time since ’83 at 6:30 p.m. CST Friday.

JASON CLARK / COURIER & PRESS Gibson Southern’s Cory Clem (50) breaks up a pass attempt by Princeton quarterback Lane Rumple during the second quarter of the Class 3A sectional at Gibson Southern Friday.

I’d have bet $10 that Gibson Southern would not be the closest game of the night, which isn’t saying much since they were all blowouts. The 3A top-ranked Titans continued to go untested and without noticeable flaws, cruising to a 49-21 win over county rival Princeton … Like Mater Dei, they were up 42-0 at halftime and really just outclassed the Tigers again. Gibson (12-0) will host Brownstown Central (10-2), who shutout Southridge 37-0, at 7 p.m. CST Friday.

After pummeling North Posey 49-7, Mater Dei (12-0) opted for the Saturday game next week, and No. 3 Monrovia (11-1) quickly decided 6 p.m. CST would be a good time, so no afternoon football. Mater Dei will now play three straight playoff games on the road out of four possible, which is puzzling considering, well, they’re the No. 1 team in 2A … Looking ahead (since I can), MD would meet the winner between Indianapolis east-side schools, No. 8 Howe (9-3) at unranked Scecina (7-5), in a semistate.

Not much high school football left until basketball starts heating up. What do you want to know about the four area teams left? Let me know at

Jasper rates slight edge over Harrison in 4A showdown


CASTLE (6-4) at BEDFORD NORTH LAWRENCE (5-5), 6:30 p.m. CST Friday
Even though he was in seventh grade at the time, Castle quarterback Dayne Keller heard the horror stories about 2011. The Knights were 11-0 entering their sectional championship game at BNL and lost, 26-21. Castle coach Doug Hurt said assistant Geoff Bennett still has nightmares about that game. However, the Knights have what it takes to make amends on Friday. Keller tied his career high with six TD passes in a 44-0 romp over North and Jadrien Higginson had 115 yards rushing – all in the first half.

Prediction: Castle 28, BNL 14

NO. 5 JASPER (10-1) at HARRISON (9-2), 6:30 p.m. CST Friday
Harrison has even more speed and athleticism than Reitz, and unlike the Panthers, enters the 4A Sectional 24 title game on a roll. On other hand, Jasper is Jasper, tough, disciplined and seeking its second sectional championship game in three years. The Warriors are competing for a sectional title for the first time since 2004. Jasper absolutely shut down Reitz’s rushing game while Harrison’s rushing attack isn’t overly strong anyway. Jasper’s strong line play, plus Cal Krueger’s leg, may give Jasper a slight edge. If you believe in the Sagarin ratings, it labels the Wildcats a 3-point favorite.

Prediction: Jasper 24, Harrison 21

NO. 1 MATER DEI (11-0) at NORTH POSEY (4-7), 7 p.m. CST Friday
It’s been a nice story line for youthful North Posey, which has won three of its last four to advance to the sectional title game for the first time since. But the story will end with a resounding thud on Friday as Mater Dei continues its postseason roll. The Vikings are 0-13 against MD, dating to 1983.

Prediction: Mater Dei 42, North Posey 14

Last week: 3-1.
Overall: 43-8.

Thanks for reading.

–Gordon Engelhardt