Ross Rowling

RPI: Does ISU look like a Tourney Team?

January 14th, 2014 at 5:24 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

RPI: Does ISU look like a Tourney Team?

A hot start to the Valley season should have folks buzzing in Terre Haute about Indiana State basketball. A 13-3 start to the year has the Sycamores in position to return to the NCAA tournament. Obviously, the next two months will be telling. The question: Does Indiana State have the look, resume, and resolve to make the NCAA Tournament?

Can they score enough points?

A simple yes could probably sum this one up. Indiana State averages more than 77 points per game in a league notorious for low scoring, “grind-it-out” games. They emphasize pace on the offensive end, but this isn’t a volume-scoring club. At better than 48%, the Sycamores rank in the top 20 in the country in field goal percentage. Even in a loss against a stout defensive SLU club, the Sycamores managed 66 points. That’s the third highest total the Billikens have given up all season.

Indiana State has five players averaging between 10 and 13 points per game. Throw in Demetrious Moore, Devonte Brown, and Lucas Eitel who are all capable of reaching double figures any given night, and you have 8 players capable of breaking the back of an opposing defense.

Can they defend at a high level?

The defensive end of the floor has been an emphasis since early on this season. After some alarming defensive performances early in the year, the team seems to have settled in nicely. No question, this team has the athletes to defend. Devonte Brown can guard with anyone. Khristian Smith and Manny Arop provide a unique athleticism on the wings. Dawon Cummings and Jake Odum both nearly average 2 steals per game. Odum’s instincts, paired with Cummings quickness, and Brown’s toughness, give the Sycamores a guard trio that should be able to hold their own on the defensive end. It all came together in the most recent win over Bradley. No one on that powerful Sycamore offense was really getting going, and the team showed an ability to win with defense. They’ve shown they can be good on that end.  If they can be consistent, lookout.

Can they close the door at the end of games?

With Jake Odum running the show you would sure have to think so. Making free throws goes a long way in closing out a ballgame on the road in the conference, and this team shoots 73% on the season. That’s pretty good; Providence leads the nation at 79%. The Sycamores are coming off of an uncharacteristic performance at the line against Bradley where they only made 60% of the free ones.

Another key factor down the stretch: turnovers. At 11.7 per game the Sycamores once again fall in the top 100; not great like the 8 that Wisconsin averages, but certainly not in the 17.5 range that is the nations worst (Arkansas-Pine Bluff).

Odum has a knack for tightening things up in the last 10 minutes of a ballgame. With him running the point and forwards that are great at the line, (Arop 90%, Gant 80%) it looks like a team that can seal a victory down the stretch.

Have they done enough in the non-conference?

The great debate of Sycamore fans at New Year’s Eve parties this year. Have the Sycamores done enough in the non-conference to go dancing again? Let me put on my “Bracketologist hat” for the remaining two questions. Keep in mind, correctly predicting at least 94% of the field 4 years running as a high school hobby is my only credentials here.

Let’s start with the losses.

A one-point loss at Belmont was tough to swallow the day it happened because of the lead the Sycamores built in the first half. At the end of the day, the loss was avenged when the Bruins came to Terre Haute, and that’s a tournament team. If Belmont doesn’t win the OVC, I’ll be shocked. Don’t let a 12-6 record fool you. Three of those losses came without their equivalent to Odum, Reece Chamberlain. Two of the other loses came against Kentucky and Indiana State. The Bruins will dance.

Losing at St. Louis is no reason to hang your head. The Billikens could win the Atlantic-10 this season and are as tough as anyone on the defensive end. Dwayne Evans is tough as nails, and Jordair Jett might be one of the more under-rated guards in the country. That duo is really good, and Coach Jim Crews puts pieces around them beautifully.

Opening in Alaska with a loss to Tulsa is the one that hurts. Throw away the fact that it was the first win of the year for the Golden Hurricane, the Sycamores missed out on a chance for more quality wins. They could’ve played Harvard in the championship game of the tournament, but instead they won snoozers against Alaska-Anchorage and Pepperdine. Is it a bad loss? Yes; however, one bad loss isn’t going to keep this team out of the tournament. If they take care of business in the league, I think they’re in good shape.

Is the conference strong enough for multiple bids?

Wichita State is in. We know that. The Shockers are off to an incredible start. Let’s say they go .500 in their last 14. That won’t happned, but if it did, that still gives the Shockers a 24 win season heading into the conference tournament. From here on out, Wichita State is playing for seeding. The Sycamores appear to be that second tournament team from the Valley, but will the league allow them to pick up any more quality wins?

I think it will. On paper it appears that this conference is way down, and to an extent it is. A win over Wichita would go a long way on the Sycamore resume. Northern Iowa is also a team that has the look of a postseason team. The Panthers are playing good basketball right now after a tough start. They are only 9-7, but they played a nice non-con schedule and look like the team that would be the “best of the rest” behind Wichita State and Indiana State. Missouri State is another squad quietly putting together a nice season. The Bears are 12-4, set aside a bad loss to Loyola, and the losses come against Virginia, Louisville, and Wichita State. That said, with Marcus Marshall set to miss more time after knee surgery, it’s tough to envision the Bears making a big run. Even a middle of the road Valley school like Illinois State stepped out of the league this season and beat a very good Dayton squad. The key for the Sycamores will be to take care of business against the bottom of the conference. Southern Illinois, Bradley, and Loyola have not been good this year. A loss to one of those teams, even on the road, would be a big strike against an at-large selection.

Bottom line: The Sycamores are good. Sometimes they are very, very good. At 13-3, they have the power to control their own destiny. They are already 4-0 in the conference and have taken care of 2 of the 9 road games. I’m going to say 15-3 in the league gets this team an at large selection, possibly even 14-4. The former would be a great run through the league. That allows you a road loss to Wichita and UNI and one other slipup/home loss to Wichita. It’s a lot to ask in conference play, but controlling your own destiny in the MVC in mid-January is always a great spot to be.

I’ve got a hunch that when Selection Sunday rolls around, there’s going to be some happy campers in Terre Haute. You’ve got a good team to watch folks, now get out there and support them.

Until next time, I’ll see you at the game.

-Ross


RPI: Football Sectional Edition

October 24th, 2013 at 10:52 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

RPI: Playoff Edition, Predicting the sectionals

This is my favorite time of the year for the RPI. Not only are we predicting games, we’re also predicting sectional winners. We’ll take into account matchups along the road and determine the winners of three different sectionals. Lets get after it.

5A Sectional 16

The two favorites in this four team sectional collide in the opener after a bye this week. Terre Haute North and Castle come into this one with winning records. At 7-2, Terre Haute North is having their best season since before any of their players were born. Castle sits at 6-3 on the year, and I’m sure that opening week beat down they received from the Patriots is fresh in their mind.

Ricky Brookins and Kai Stratton have proved to be nearly unstoppable all season long. I don’t know why that would change in the sectional. These two remind me of those New York Giant backfields of the early 2000’s with Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs.

Brookins, like Barber, is shifty and explosive. He sees the play develop and accelerates through the hole for huge gains. Stratton, like Jacobs, provides the boom. He runs hard and powerful in a downhill style that’s a great compliment to Brookins. You never know what these Patriots are going to hit you with, but at 37 points per game, you know they’re coming with something. The run game is a big part of that.

On the other side of the bracket, Terre Haute South knows they can play with Evansville North. The Braves lost in the first week of the season, but things are different now. South showed signs of a significant turnaround until they were riddled with injury and ended up finishing 2-7. One of those wins was a huge upset over Terre Haute North, so these Braves are capable of knocking off great teams. Evansville North isn’t a great team, I look for Logan Deady to have a day on the ground against the smaller opponent.

A North-South rematch in the championship would sure be fun wouldn’t it? I can see it happening here. I also see the Patriots remembering what happened the first time around, and not letting that happen again. Terre Haute North has the pieces to make a deep, deep run. I don’t see the bus stopping in sectionals.

Pick: Terre Haute North

Class A Sectional 47

We move it down to Class A to find more teams that could make a deep run, and we find all kinds of them. The Wabash Valley is loaded with “A” schools capable of winning a sectional. Many of those teams are shipped to the same sectional and that’s sectional 47. This bracket is loaded with good teams.

Poor Rockville. The Rox put together a very solid 6-3 campaign. If the playoffs were seeded, they would likely be at home as the “4” seed in this bracket hosting the “5” seed Attica. Instead we leave the fate up to an old fashion bingo machine and the Rox get to travel to undefeated North Vermillion to get things going. To Rockville’s credit, they did at least slow down the Falcons offensive attack early when they met in the regular season before eventually falling 39-0. Amazingly, that’s closer than the Falcons average victory. At better than 45 points per game, they have the largest margin in the state. Rarely did star quarterback Brayden Woodard and tailback Jacob Earl play in the second half. This is one potent unit.

One game that does match up nicely is a probably semi-final matchup between Fountain Central and North Central. Fountain Central is having a great season, but once again the bracket favors North Central. Both of these teams open with games they should walk through with their eyes closed. North Central travels in week one while the Mustangs stay home. The T-Birds will host in round two and that could make the difference. North Central showed a different element to their offense by going to Chase Van Schoyck in the air against Linton. If that game ended at halftime North Central would’ve edged the top ranked Miners. It was much closer than the final score indicated. The T-Birds showed they could hang at least for a half with the Miners and Fountain Central is no Linton. I think the T-Birds pull the upset and get to the title game.

That’s where we could see a North Central-North Vermillion rematch. That’s a game both teams would be geared up for. Coach Crabtree coached this star studded North Central senior class as freshman when he was at the helm of the T-Birds. It was a good game the last time these two teams played before the Falcons pulled away in the 4th quarter. Coach Nolting and company would love another shot at knocking off the mighty Falcons. It’s going to be tough, because the game plan to get through Fountain Central the week before will be grueling. That’s a semi-final game that should be incredibly physical, so the T-Birds might come away with a few more bumps and bruises going into the championship. The Falcons haven’t scored less than 37 all season. That was against North Central. The North Vermillion defense doesn’t get enough credit. They held a North Central team that scored 93 in a game this season to just 7 when they met the first time. The Falcons will win what is arguably the toughest Class A sectional in the state.

Pick: North Vermillion

Class A Sectional 48

This sectional is Linton’s to lose. The Miners looked mortal in the last game of the season for a half, then without their starting quarterback they came out and blitzed North Central to come away with a big win.

Where it gets interesting is the bottom half of the bracket. North Knox and North Daviess could square off again in round 2. The Cougars and Warriors had an instant double overtime classic a couple weeks ago. That rivalry souped up by a playoff atmosphere would be fun. North Knox has to go through a talented Perry Central team to make that happen. Perry is probably the favorite to play Linton in the finals, but I don’t like their chances. I think North Knox gives them all they want in the first game of the sectional. With that game being so close, both teams might be too worn down to contain the freight train that is Colton Lengacher. The Cougar offensive centerpiece will run wild to get North Daviess into the finals.

Like most years, Linton should run through sectionals again. They should get Dane Rupska healthy by week 2. He’s a major factor on both sides of the ball, but especially at quarterback from the middle linebacker spot.

North Daviess and Linton in the finals will be fun, but the Miners have their eyes on a state championship.

Pick: Linton

Sectional football is a great time of year. With lots of teams competitive enough to make a deep run, it should be another fun month of football. Until next time, I’ll see you at the game.

-Ross


RPI: Football Friday October, 11th

October 10th, 2013 at 11:30 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

RPI: Football Friday October, 11

Finally the achievement the RPI has been seeking all season, a 5-0 record. A big thank you goes out to North Vermillion, Linton, Terre Haute North, Owen Valley, and Effingham for making my predictions come true last week.

No way we can make it 10 in a row, right? Well you never know until you try. Here’s five to keep your eyes on this week.

Game 1: Linton at Sheridan

This is one that the Miners have had circled on the calendar all season. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best; and year in and year out Sheridan is in the upper echelon of the state.

Linton has dominated everyone they’ve played this season, but this week should be different. Sheridan is 4-3 on the year, but they play one heck of a schedule. It seems to me like the Miners get up for the big ones. Folks were interested to see them host North Daviess and they put on a clinic. Last year Linton hosted North Central at Lucas Oil Stadium and we saw more of the same.

I didn’t imagine Linton being this good after losing so much until I saw them in person against North Daviess. The Miners really are this good. They are extremely deserving of their number one ranking, and I don’t see them losing it against Sheridan.

Pick: Linton

Game 2: North Vermillion at Fountain Central

It’s not often Linton or North Vermillion gets a test this season. For both to be possible in the same week is extremely exciting. The Falcons take their number two ranking and put it on the line against 5th ranked Fountain Central.

Last week against Rockville I actually saw the Falcons punt. That was weird. The Rox made them look human for awhile in that one and North Vermillion still won 39-0.

It’s impossible for me to imagine anyone beating these guys, because I just haven’t seen anyone remain close. Brayden Woodard has a different gear when he gets in the open field and Jacob Earl is as elusive as it gets. Ethan Lee has been coming along as another weapon.

Fountain Central will have a size advantage up front, but it’s not going to be enough to counter the out of this world athleticism that the Falcons bring to the table.

Pick: North Vermillion

Game 3: North Knox at North Daviess

A southern rivalry renews yet again. In the last 7 years, North Knox leads a tight series 4-3. Both teams come into this one above .500, but a win over their rival would do wonders for the success meter of their respective seasons.

This one should be a fun one to watch. The Warriors can score points, but can they stop one of the top rushers in the state, Colton Lengacher? If this is a shootout, the advantage goes to North Knox. If the game pace slows and Lengacher runs wild, the Cougars might just roll through this one.

Rivalry games are always close, and in a tight contest like this I tend to side with the best player on the field and one of the best in the area. Lengacher’s Cougars win.

Pick: North Daviess

Game 4: Terre Haute North at Perry Meridian

The over/under in this one should be set at 100 or more. Perry Meridian leads Conference Indiana in points scored and points given up. Terre Haute North has the second highest point tally in the conference this season.

Chris Barrett, Ricky Brookins, Kai Stratton, Jordan Moothery and company should have a hay day in the stat column. If the Patriots can hold down a powerful Perry Meridian offense they’ll be just fine. That’s easier said than done. Perry has scored at least 28 in every game they’ve played this season.

I look for the Patriot offense to flex their muscles and the defense to provide enough big hits to keep the Falcon offense in check.

Pick: Terre Haute North

Game 5: West Vigo at Northview

The Vikings come into this one with just one win on the season, but you better believe they’ll be leaving it all out there against the Knights.

Conference rivals that go way back, the Vikings have a chance to spoil the Knights chances at a conference title.

Tucker Stewart will be primed to have a big day in this one. It’s not a good time to sneak up on the Knights. They were upset by South Vermillion last week, so they’ll be focused on the task at hand this week.

The Vikings will leave it all on the field, but there’s just not enough to get past Northview in their quest for the WIC.

Pick: Northview

As always we’d love to know who you’re picking. Tweet at us, and we’ll put the best ones on “In the Zone.” Until next week, I’ll see you at the game.

-Ross


RPI: Football Friday, October 4

October 3rd, 2013 at 11:43 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

RPI: Football Friday, October 4th

After a fun filled week of vacationing the Midwest, the RPI makes a late appearance this week. Since last week’s “In the Zone”, I’ve toured back home to Jerseyville, Illinois for a wedding, then down to Country Music USA for a little rest and relaxation in Nashville. Back in Indiana, it’s time for high school football. Here are five to keep an eye on this week.

Rockville at North Vermillion

This game features 11-1 combined records on the season. Rockville travels to North Vermillion with hopes to do something no one has been able to do all season: stop the Falcon offense. That’s no easy task. These guys just keep rolling at North Vermillion and look very deserving of their #2 ranking in the state.

Since losing to a very good South Putnam squad, Rockville has also played well. The Rox got a quality win over Attica and followed it up with dominating wins over Turkey Run and South Vermillion. Ben Cunningham has played really well in the backfield, especially of late. For Rockville to hang in this one, they’ll have to run the ball well and keep the North Vermillion offense off the field.

At the end of the day, I can’t see that happening. This Falcon offense is a well-oiled machine. Rockville is dangerous, but not quite to the Falcons level just yet.

Pick: North Vermillion

Linton at North Knox

Here we have another game that resembles the Rockville vs. North Vermillion game; one team that’s great and another good team trying to get to that next level.

I got to see Linton in person for the first time last week, and I need a word better than impressed to describe them. The Miners took a good North Daviess team and did whatever they wanted in the first half of that football game. Grant Stamm has game changing speed, and Zane Hayden is so elusive in space that he’s impossible to contain. The big, physical line paves the way for a stable of running backs that are all fast and powerful.

North Knox has proven they can put up their fair share of points. In two separate games this season, they’ve scored 79 and 84 points respectively. They also played a very good North Central team to within 6 on a wet track two weeks ago. Those high scores won’t happen against Linton. This team prides themselves on neutralizing powerful offenses. They were the first team all season to hold down Colton Lengacher.

The Miners will be ready to go and continue that regular season unbeaten streak.

Pick: Linton

Terre Haute North at Bloomington South

After a couple slipups early in the season, Terre Haute North seems to be back on track. They find themselves all the way up to #2 in the 5A polls this week.

The Patriots dominated their opponents in the last two weeks and going on the road to Bloomington South this week, I expect more of the same.

The offense has been putting up big points lately. We all know about Ricky Brookins, and he’s phenomenal. It’s the Patriot defense that sometimes gets overlooked. They absolutely fly to the football and make reservations in advance for the Sports 10 Smashes segment.

I look for the Patriots to keep cruising along this week. They are oozing with talent and they are really showing that now. They’ll get a test next week against high scoring Perry Meridian, but other than that, North should fly high the rest of the regular season.

Pick: Terre Haute North

Owen Valley at West Vigo

At 1-5 this season, things haven’t gone completely according to plan for a young Vikings bunch. This football team isn’t as bad as their record indicates. They’ve been in some games against good teams.

I saw West Vigo personally play right with Greencastle in the first half before falling behind in the second half to lose 35-6.

With three games left in the regular season, the Vikings will try and get on a little roll going into the playoffs. The freshmen are more than halfway to being sophomores, sophomores to juniors and so on. The lack of experience should be behind the Vikings as they prepare for Owen Valley this week.

A couple weeks ago the Patriots were on top of the world. They were 3-1 and had just knocked off their rival at Lucas Oil Stadium. Since then, a rugged two game WIC stretch against Northview and Sullivan has the Patriots back to 3-3. Evan Wood is a good player for Owen Valley. He’ll lead the offensive attack against a Viking defense that you know will always be playing hard.

The young Vikings are getting better, but Owen Valley should take care of business this week to get back above .500.

Pick: Owen Valley

Effingham at Paris

Over to Illinois we go for an Apollo conference matchup between Paris and Effingham. Five games into the season, only one team in the league sits above .500, that’s Mattoon at 3-2.

Effingham stays in football games with a tough defense. At just 99 through 5 games, they’ve allowed the fewest points in the league.

The only common opponent so far this year has been Salem. The Flaming Hearts were able to win that ballgame, while Paris dropped it for Salem’s only win of the season.

It’s getting into the time of the year when 2-3 teams have to start winning games to have a shot at the playoffs in Illinois. Both of these teams still have to play conference-leading Mattoon, and Effingham has a really good Mahomet-Seymour team lingering at the end of their schedule.

The Tigers represent the only victory for both Salem and Mt. Zion. Those losses have both come in the last two weeks. I don’t see them breaking any hearts this week against Effingham.

Pick: Effingham

As always, your opinion is appreciated. Let me know what you think. Tweet us and we’ll show the best ones on “In the Zone.” Until next time, I’ll see you at the game.

-Ross


RPI: Football Friday, September 27

September 26th, 2013 at 10:56 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

RPI: Football Friday September 27

Last week the RPI came just about as close to 5-0 as you can get, without getting there. The only blemish was a Terre Haute South loss to Columbus North. The Braves fell in a close one, 21-20. Back at it again this week and as the season continues to roar on, here’s five to watch.

Game 1: Robinson at Olney

We’re going to start the RPI in Illinois this week. That’s how good I think this one is going to be. It’s such a big match up, it’ll be played on Saturday.

These two teams are a combined 7-1, with the Maroons coming in unblemished. The running game continues to thrive in Robinson. With teams keying in on standout Jason Richart, Joe Smith has been dynamic of late. Smith ran wild against Marshall last week, going for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 7 carries.

On the other side of the field, Matt Music has the Tiger offense in sweet harmony. Olney hasn’t scored less than 33 points in a game all season. They even put up 36 in a losing effort against an undefeated Casey squad to open the season. Since that opener, the Tigers are outscoring opponents by an average of 39-7.

With Lawrenceville already having a conference loss to Robinson, the winner of this one will have a great chance at taking the Egyptian Division of the Little Illini Conference. I think it will be down to the wire, but the Robinson running game is just too much to handle.

Pick: Robinson

Game 2: North Daviess at Linton

The story line in this one is a beauty. The states top rusher against Class A’s top ranked squad. Colton Lengacher leads the North Daviess offense into this one with 1,392 rushing yards on the season to go along with 17 touchdowns.

The Cougars know this will be the toughest defense they’ve faced this season. Coach Helms probably says it best stating, “We don’t expect to have the long TD runs we have had in previous weeks. We will need long, sustained, and successful drives to score in this game.” Coach Helms is correct; the best way to beat Linton is to keep that potent Miner offense off the field.

The one player the Cougars are particularly concerned with is wide receiver Grant Stamm. North Daviess doesn’t want to give up the deep ball, and Stamm leads an offense that has incredible team speed. The Cougars have only turned the ball over twice all season long. If they keep up that impressive ratio, they’ll be right in the game.

But this week, it’s different. Even after graduating an incredible senior class, Linton is still Linton. Dane Rupska is a dual threat at quarterback, and the Miners have so many weapons in the backfield you can’t name them all.

You better believe the Miners will be keying on Lengacher. Beau Eaton told Sports 10 earlier this week that, “If he’s that good, he’ll prove it on Friday night.” He’s a great player, but can one player beat an entire stout defense?

The North Daviess offensive line has been great, and they have other weapons. Guys like Logan Turpin, Brady Helms, and Dakota Adams have to step up and make big plays to get North Daviess on the scoreboard.

I get to go to this one personally, and I’m pumped. If Lengacher does what he’s been doing North Daviess will win this game. But I can’t see the Miners letting him run wild.

North Daviess was the last team to beat the Miners in the regular season, but that was back in 2010.

Pick: Linton

Game 3: North Vermillion at Attica

The Falcons are really starting to look like state championship contenders. They have the backing of their community, and the product on the field right now is just ridiculous. Coach Brian Crabtree’s marquee players have only played 12 of 20 quarters to far this season. They are absolutely rolling people. Through five games this season the Falcons have beat teams 286-7. That’s an average score of 57-1.4. That’s ridiculous. Attica is a good team. They are 3-2 on the season, but they’ve lost their last two. Coach Crabtree said, “I think Attica matches up with us really well. They aren’t very big, but fast, strong, physical, and aggressive. We kind of mirror each other. It could be a really interesting game.”

With all due respect to Coach Crabtree, he can’t say they are going to blow them out. I can. Attica is just good enough to justify playing the North Vermillion starters for 4 quarters. I’m excited to see what kind of numbers they put up with that kind of time.

The Falcons will continue to impress.

Pick: North Vermillion

Game 4: Vincennes Lincoln at Northview

All of the sudden midway through the season we look up and Mark Raetz is 4-1 in his first year at the helm at Northview. The Knights are in the drivers seat for the WIC, but this week they step out of conference to take on Vincennes Lincoln. It’s a Lincoln team that’s going to be out for redemption. The Alices took one on the chin Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, losing to Jasper 64-2. They’ll have to figure something out soon, because this Northview team is getting good at winning football games. No one has crazy numbers on this team but Tucker Stewart, Ben Girton, Kelly Hawkins, and Tyler Rector have come together to provide great balance that just keeps winning ballgames. The Knights will look to protect the football and control the line of scrimmage against a physical Lincoln bunch. Raetz said, “Vincennes is a tough opponent. They are a physical team who beat us 22-3 last season. We will have to play well in all phases of the game to win.”

Well coach, I’m going to say you do just that.

Pick: Northview

Game 5: Sullivan at Owen Valley

Both teams come into this one at 3-2, looking to stay in the upper echelon of the WIC. Sullivan was the team that looked like they had a high flying offense coming into the season, but Owen Valley is outscoring everyone in the conference in league games. The Patriots are also giving up the second most, so this one should be a shootout.

The Arrows are really looking to get off to a good start this week. They’ve been a little slow out of the gate and are looking to change that against Owen Valley. Jake Kinnaman has been a big play machine for Sullivan, but they need other stars Brooks Weszely and Michael Hutchcraft to break out to win this one.

The two losses the Patriots have are to very good teams. Northview and South Putnam knocked off Owen Valley this season. I look for this one to be a shootout, with the ball going up and down the field in a hurry.

This is the game the Arrows get healthy, and they show the firepower we’ve been waiting for.

Pick: Sullivan

As always, your opinion is welcomed. Catch these games and more on “In the Zone” on Friday (except for Robinson-Olney because it’s on Saturday). Until next time, I’ll see you at the game.

-Ross


RPI: Football Friday, September 20

September 19th, 2013 at 5:52 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

RPI: Football Friday, September 20

Well for the first time in the young football season, the RPI had a losing record last week. That’s embarrassing. I correctly picked the game of the week, picking North Vermillion over North Central, but things went down hill quick after that. Northview, Robinson, and Southport proved me wrong last week. Although Southport’s win came with all kinds of scrutiny here locally, it’s still a win in the record books.

A little failure isn’t enough to stop the RPI from marching on. Here’s five to watch this week.

Game 1: Terre Haute South at Columbus North

Terre Haute South fell last week in a shootout with Perry Meridian. Of course Perry is doing their best impression of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos these days. The Falcons are 3-1 and scoring points in bunches.

The South offense seems to be improving by the week, as they continue to grow as a unit. Timmy Herrin is coming off of a great statistical performance in last weeks losing effort. Herrin threw for 252 yards and ran for 87 more, along with accounting for 4 touchdowns.

Logan Deady has pleasantly provided the Braves offense with balance out of the backfield. In just 10 attempts last week, Deady ran for 154 yards, more than 15 yards per carry.

Columbus North is 1-3 on the season. The glory days of the mid 2000’s are long gone. The Bulldogs are coming off of a 30-8 win over Franklin Central and the Flashes played Roncalli to a close game earlier in the year.

Columbus North will try to run the ball to slow tempo and keep that up and coming Braves offense off the field.

I think the South “D” rises to the occasion in this one and they get back above the .500 mark.

Pick: Terre Haute South

Game 2: North Central at North Knox

I’m really excited about this game this week. Both teams come in at 3-1, and each loss has come to a really good opponent. These teams can both light up the scoreboard in a hurry, so this should be a fun one down in Knox County on Friday night.

You can bet North Central is ready to make up for last week’s performance against North Vermillion. The Thunderbirds were looking to make that next step into the elite programs of 1A football. It looked for two quarters like that might happen, before the Falcon offense prevailed to pull away in the second half.

Chase Van Schoyck and Dillon Bailey will lead the offense into a game this week that you don’t want to overlook. The Warriors aren’t North Vermillion, but they are pretty darn good. Jordan Meurer can get away from a defense and if you aren’t careful, he’ll beat you all by himself. Christopher Draman stands tall in the pocket at quarterback. He’s 6’4” and provides an air element to the Warriors offense.

At the end of the day, I think North Central is too good of a football team to lose two weeks in a row. Coach Nolting has the program in a good position, and they’ll be focused on the task at hand this week.

Pick: North Central

Game 3: North Putnam at North Daviess

It’s a long trip from Putnam County to Daviess County, and Greg Barrett’s Cougars are hoping that long bus ride back is an enjoyable one. That would certainly be the case if the 0-4 North Putnam squad could knock off 3-1 North Daviess.

Both of these teams possess run first offenses and the team that can establish the run first will have the upper hand. Colton Lengacher comes into this contest with monster numbers on the season. He has more than 1100 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in just 4 games. Coach Helms calls Lengacher a “marked man” so he knows he’s got to find creative ways to get him the football. Look for the North Daviess offense to try and throw it more than usual to spread things out. Brady Helms can by tough at wide receiver, in order to use him there Sam Chapin will have to play well in Helms usual quarterback slot. Expect Chapin to get a chance to show his stuff on Friday. Doug Bays and Logan Turpin may see some more action in the backfield this week to take some of the workload off of Lengacher.

Defensively Maverick Vanhentenryck has a wonderful name, and he’s even better at getting to the quarterback. VanHentenryck has five sacks on the season and seemed to get into the backfield at will during the quarter I watched against Washington last week.

A Greg Barrett coached ball club will be prepared, and they will play hard. I just don’t see enough offensively to keep up with the Black and Orange in this battle of the Cougars.

Pick: North Daviess

Game 4: Robinson at Marshall

This one is a natural rivalry in all sports over in the Land of Lincoln. On paper, it looks like it should be Robinson in a landslide, and it very well could be; however, you can’t ever count out a young Marshall team that seems to be getting better each week.

The Lions have been killed by the big play this season. If their defense can bend and not break against a potent Robinson rushing attack, the Lions will be able to stay in the game. Of course that’s easier said than done. Jason Richart turns heads every time he takes the field and Joe Smith offers a change of pace that proved to be lethal last week in a huge conference win over Lawrenceville.

I picked Lawrenceville to pull off the upset last week, and it didn’t happen. I won’t make the mistake of picking against the Maroons two weeks in a row. Marshall is getting better, but Robinson is bigger, stronger, and faster. That will be enough to prevail.

Pick: Robinson

Game 5: Greencastle at South Putnam

This Putnam County battle should live up to all of the billing this season. These two schools are separated by less than 10 miles, so needless to say they are familiar with each other.

Greencastle comes in at 4-0, while South Putnam enters play Friday at 3-1. Lucas Lorian is a horse running the football for the Eagles. If they are going to hang tight in this one, it will be largely because Lorian can keep the chains moving and control the time of possession battle against a powerful Greencastle offense.

South Putnam made a statement to me when they beat Rockville like a drum a couple weeks ago. That Rockville football team is solid and South Putnam beat them 66-7. The popular pick in this one will be Greencastle to stay undefeated, but on their home field, I like the Eagles to fly high and come away with a win.

Pick: South Putnam

As always comments are always welcome. Here’s to having a better record than 2-3 this week. Until next week, I’ll see you at the game.

-Ross


RPI: Football Friday, September 13

September 12th, 2013 at 4:37 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

RPI: Football Friday, September 13

The RPI was back to 4-1 last week; unfortunately the single miss was a bad one. I went with Rockville over South Putnam last week. My apologies go out to the Eagles who won in impressive fashion to move to 2-1 on the season. Still in search of that 5-0 week, here are five to watch as we head into another exciting weekend of football.

Game 1: North Vermillion at North Central

This is no doubt the game of the week in my mind this week. This is a clash of the 1A titans. Both teams have looked pretty much invincible, as the season has worn. Both teams hit you hard with an explosive quarterback, running back rushing attack. North Central has scored a few more points, but North Vermillion hasn’t given up any. North Central is bigger, but North Vermillion is faster. This game has everything you want in a big time showdown who’s victor will get an invite to the Coach’s Corner on Sunday.

North Central has the edge on strength of schedule so far this season. They knocked off a good North Daviess team and pulled away from them in the second half in week 2. The Falcons have the edge on the defensive side of the ball. Ethan Kunkle leads a defense full of lightning quick, deceptively powerful football players who fly to the ball on every play.

The defense that gives up the fewest amount of big plays will come out on top in this one, and both offenses have plenty of weapons to take one to the house at any time. Dillon Bailey and Brayden Woodard are both run first quarterbacks that throw it well enough to beat you with their arms if they have too. Chase Van Schoyck is the incumbent star running back in the area, but Falcons sophomore Jacob Earl is rising fast and looks like the next big thing in years to come.

When the dust settles in this one, I think it comes down to which defense plays better. The Falcons will try to strike quickly with their spread offense while North Central will plug away at the run game and grind out the time of possession battle.

I think the Falcons defense is just too good. They may be smaller, but the T-Birds won’t be able to run over them like they do with just about anyone else.

A 55-yard touchdown by Earl proves to be just enough to be the different in this barnburner.

Pick: North Vermillion

Game 2: Northview vs. Sullivan

The venue for this one will be special, but the magnitude of the game is even greater. In a day that features a full slate of WIC football at Lucas Oil Stadium, the opening kickoff features the two conference favorites.

Two contrasting styles collide in this one. The bigger, more physical Knights will try to control the line of scrimmage and use their running game to plug away at the scoreboard and keep a powerful Sullivan offense off the field. Ben Girton and Tucker Stewart lead a powerful ground game in an offense that also features big tight end Daniel Kimball.

On the other side of the field the Arrows are happy to be just about 100 percent healthy again. Brooks Weszely looks better in his cuts after missing the first 2 weeks of the season with a foot injury. Sullivan isn’t as deep as Northview, but they are very skilled in key spots on the offensive side of the ball. Playing a morning game inside the dome should be an advantage for the Arrows. The turf should speed up an already athletic offense, and the controlled climate will aid their lack of depth.

This one could go either way. If it’s a low scoring, low possession game it favors the Knights. If this one turns into a shootout, I don’t know if the Northview offense can keep up with the Golden Arrows.

I think the dome becomes the difference in a coin flip game in the WIC. The winner will have a clear-cut path to the championship and I think Sullivan takes it home.

Pick: Sullivan

Game 3: Linton vs. West Vigo

Sullivan and Northview start a fun filled day of football at Lucas Oil Stadium, while Linton and West Vigo close it out.

The football dynamic in Linton is unbelievable. I stopped by the Miners practice facility to chat with Brian Oliver on Monday and kids from the youth leagues lined the parking lots ready to go play a road game. It’s a town that breeds football excellence, and nothing is different this year. Once again, the Miners are 3-0 and dominating everyone in their path. With Lafayette Central Catholic and Indianapolis Scecina bumped up to 2A this year, the Miners have a chance at a state championship.

For West Vigo to hang tight in this one, they need to make big plays on special teams. Hunter Voils has made a living this season on big kickoff returns, and that needs to continue for the Vikings to work on a short field.

Austin Hale leads the Linton run game averaging more than 8 yards per carry. He’s just the latest in a plethora of playmakers led by Zane Hayden, Grant Stamm, and quarterback Dane Rupska.

Linton Head Coach Brian Oliver told Sports 10, “playing them in Lucas Oil is going to be a great experience for both teams.” I agree with him, the atmosphere will be incredible, but it’ll end up being a better experience for the Miners when they remain undefeated.

Pick: Linton

Game 4: Southport at Terre Haute North

The Patriots look to get back to 1-1 in Conference Indiana when they host Southport. It won’t be easy for the 8th ranked Patriots. Southport is a 6A school. More importantly, they are 3-0 on the season and have wins over traditional power Roncalli, and the scoring machine known as Perry Meridian. In his 9th season it looks like Bill Peebles has a squad to be reckoned with on the south side of Indy this year.

Many feel the same way about Terre Haute North. The Patriots had the hiccup in week 2 against their ultimate rival. That’s a game that typically needs to be thrown out because you just never know what’s going to happen. In their other two games this year the powerful Patriots have shown a wonderful display of offense and a mighty defense that has only allowed points in mop up time.

These two teams are both pretty tough. A complaint about joining Conference Indiana was the travel time. Luckily for North in this one, it’s the Cardinals making the road trip. That’ll be just enough for a lag in the first quarter and the Patriots won’t look back.

Pick: Terre Haute North

Game 5: Lawrenceville at Robinson

This game over in Illinois features two teams coming in undefeated. The Maroons and Indians clash Friday night and somebody has to go home with their first loss of the year.

The obvious player to watch in this one is Robinson tailback Jason Richart. In just two games this season Richart has already amassed nearly 600 yards on the ground. He’s a beast that will be unlike anything the Lawrenceville defense has seen so far this season. That Indian defense is no slouch. Led by middle linebacker Trent Jones, Lawrenceville has only allowed 16 points this season.

On the offensive side of the ball for the Indians, they’ve had a different running back explode in each of the first two weeks. Zach Shoulders erupted for more than 200 yards in week 1, but was slowed by a leg injury in week two. He’s still battling to get back to 100%. In the second game of the year it was Austin Wanke leading the Indians rushing attack. He missed the first game of the year for basic training in the National Guard and didn’t miss a beat. In his return, Wanke went for more than 160 yards and three touchdowns, while teammate Wyatt Rinsch picked up more than 100 yards and punched it in 4 times.

With Shoulders, Wanke, and Rinsch, Lawrenceville should be able to match a powerful Robinson ground game.

Being the smaller school and playing on the road, this would be an upset for Lawrenceville, but I think they are up to the task.

With a three-headed monster running the football, I think the Indians eat away at the clock enough to keep the Robinson offense off the field.

Lawrenceville leaves Robinson with a very narrow win.

Pick: Lawrenceville

Agree or Disagree? I’d love to hear from you. Tweet @rossrowling1 or shoot me an email. You can catch the action Friday night on “In the Zone” and this week on Saturday’s special miniature edition of “In the Zone”. Until next time, I’ll see you at the game.

-Ross


RPI: Football Friday September 6

September 5th, 2013 at 12:09 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog
RPI: Football Friday, September 6
Terre Haute South’s upset over Terre Haute North last week rang loud and clear through the area. It knocked the Patriots out of the Associated Press’s top 10 poll, it brought the Braves closer to top 10 status, and, most importantly, it made the RPI fall to 3-2 last week.  That runs the overall record to 7-3 on the young season. This week doesn’t have the rivalry feel that we had last week across the Valley, but as teams start to carve out their place, we look forward to some really competitive games in Week 3 in Indiana. We also have a week under our belts in Illinois, therefore, more of a feel for the teams in the Land of Lincoln.
Game 1: Terre Haute North at Northview
This may have been a bad time for the Knights to catch the Patriots. Terre Haute North opened the season on an unbelievable high by blowing out Castle, but then fell to their rival in Week 2 and relinquished the Victory Bell back to the South Side of Terre Haute. Needless to say, the Patriots got a wake up call last week and if they were going to overlook the smaller school, that won’t happen anymore.
We saw in the North-South game last week that if you keep it close, anything can happen. The Knights ground game gives them the ability to do that. With athletic quarterback Tucker Stewart leading a very tough rushing attack, the Knights can play “keep away” from the Patriots. If Northview can sustain long drives, limit turnovers, and keep the clock ticking while they have the football, they can stay in this one.
The Patriots will be looking to make a statement this week. Chris Barrett wants his team to return to fundamental football and get back to making plays. Last week the Patriots missed tackles, dropped passes, and missed opportunities for turnovers. They’ll be looking to return to the form that made them look like a legitimate state finals contender in week one. If the Patriots can keep big defensive end Derek Mills off the quarterback, it could be a long night for Northview. With protection, I look for Chris Barrett to go to Jordan Moothery early and often outside the hashes for big play strikes. If they were still riding high at 2-0, I could see the Patriots cruising into this one. At 1-1 they’ll be focused and looking to get back on track. If Northview doesn’t play turnover free football, the Patriots could put some major points on the board.
Raetz will have the troops rallied to move to 3-0, but it won’t quite be enough.
Pick: Terre Haute North
Game 2: Rockville at South Putnam
What a 1A matchup we have here in Week 3 of the season. This is the only game on South Putnam’s schedule against another 1A opponent, but it’s a very formidable opponent at that. Both of these teams reside just outside of the top 10 in the state, and you better believe a win this week by either team will catapult them into the rankings.
Rockville is off to a great start at 2-0. The Rox looked dominant in the first two weeks, winning by a combined score of 89-13. But their opponents are both 0-2. This week the Rox will get a test. Keiontre Wilkey is the straw that stirs the drink for the Rox offense. Already this season, he’s proved to be a big play threat on the ground, while being very efficient through the air when opportunity arises. In two games this season Wilkey is 12 for 17 for 210 yards and 3 scores through the air. On the ground, he’s run for 362 yards and 5 touchdowns. The other facet of a potent rushing attack for the Rox is Ben Cunningham. He’s scored 4 times this season while rumbling at a clip of more than 10 yards per carry. Rockville won’t be able to run wild all over South Putnam like they have in the first two weeks, but it’s an offense that can be effective against anyone.
South Putnam will look to convert more frequently on scoring chances this week. The Eagles had a nice win in week one over Owen Valley, but fell last week to Tri-West because they didn’t score in the red zone. The Eagles were on the doorstep 5 times last week and could only punch it in once. That has to change against Rockville.  South Putnam shut out the Rox offense last year, but this team looks much improved. The Eagles have a good ground game of their own with Lucas Lorian leading the charge. I think both offenses are good enough to move the ball between the 20’s and put together nice drives, it’ll be the team that can punch it in that will come out with the victory.
I think Wilkey is the difference maker in this one. This game will be very ground oriented as these two teams pound away at each other. Wilkey’s ability to make one more big play could be the difference. He’ll bust a big one for the Rox to have an easy score and that will be the play that puts Rockville on top in a very tight contest.
Pick: Rockville
Game 3: North Knox at Sullivan
North Knox is another team scoring points in bunches early in the season. After putting up 79 in week one, the Warriors followed it up with 41 more against Eastern Greene in week two. They have a potent offense. One coach said,  “North Knox has one of the best teams they have had in the past few years.” Early on this season, the Warriors are proving that to be true.
Sullivan is still trying to get healthy after a 1-1 start to the season. The Arrows have 3 two-way starters banged up and still played state powerhouse Linton to a 10-point game last week. Brooks Weszely continues to battle a sore foot. He’s the team MVP from last season; so needless to say, he’s a difference maker when he’s in the lineup. I think this Sullivan team has the pieces to be incredibly dangerous once they get healthy.
This one should be another tight contest. It’s at Sullivan, so you have to give the Arrows a slight advantage there. North Knox hasn’t played a close game yet this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react in a tough matchup this week.
I think the season Sullivan already had from an early tough schedule will help them come out on top in this one.
Pick: Sullivan
Game 4: Vincennes Lincoln at Terre Haute South
What a week on the South side of Terre Haute. The Braves are on cloud nine after an upset win in thrilling fashion over Terre Haute North. It wasn’t just the fact that they won, but the Braves put together back- to- back scoring drives in the final 3 minutes to come from behind.
In the debut of Coaches Corner, our new Sunday night interview segment, Coach Herrin talked about drawing off of this momentum. It will be interesting to see if he can keep the kids locked in when they aren’t playing their rival. More than anything, the win over North showed the Braves that they could beat good teams. Now that they are out of the MIC, the Patriots will be one of the better teams the Braves see this season.
Vincennes Lincoln will come out looking to control the tempo and run the football in this one. Alice’s running back Brandt Nowaskie will be one of the best players on the field. He has the ability to score every time he touches the ball and single handedly win a football game. If the Braves stop the run in this one, they shouldn’t have any problems.
Timmy Herrin looked like a different quarterback in the last three minutes of the north game. He was incredibly poised and efficient in the 2-minute offense and that led to first down after first down. With Jacob Johnson making big plays on the outside and Logan Deady providing just enough balance in the run game South’s offense looks to be coming together.
Following a tough loss to Sullivan and a grind-it-out win over Booneville, the Alices fall back below .500 here.
Pick: Terre Haute South
Game 5: Newton at Casey-Westfield
The RPI takes a trip over to Illinois for the first time this season to check in on the Land of Lincoln powerhouse of late: Casey Westfield.
Last weeks game between the Warriors and Olney probably should have been an RPI game. It was a shootout between two teams that have a chance to make some noise this season.
Newton is coming off of a tough opening week loss to my high school rival (Civic Memorial). The score doesn’t look good, but CM is a bigger school that has a football tradition. Unfortunately for this Newton squad, it won’t get any easier this week. They have ten seniors with a lot of pride as they try to turn things around, but Casey is just a machine.
Nicco Stepina is a young man that will be talked about often in this space this season. Casey’s quarterback put himself on the map by running ridiculous 40 yard dash times at some football camps this summer. He’s drawing interest from a few MVFC schools as an athlete. Stepina and Zach Murphy have a chance to be the two best athletes on the field each and every week that Casey plays this season. The Warriors lost a huge senior class, but the philosophy there is that “tradition doesn’t graduate.”
With an opening week win over a good Olney team, the Warriors look to be proving that correct. They are ranked highly in 1A poll over in Illinois for a reason.
Pick: Casey-Westfield
Enjoy another slate of fun and exciting football. Catch all the highlights on “In the Zone.” Until next time, I’ll see you at the game.
-Ross

RPI: Football Friday, August 30th

August 29th, 2013 at 11:47 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

RPI: Football Friday, August 30th

Week one of IndianaHigh School football is in the books and gridiron action gets going in Illinois this week.

I’m going to call a 4-1 finish for the debut week of football a success. With no games to go off of, I’ll take 4-1 all day and twice on Sunday. That being said, now we’ve got some tape and a little track record so 5-0 is in the sights. Week two is crowded with rivalry, here’s five to watch closely.

Game 1: Terre Haute South vs. Terre Haute North

The rivalry of rivalries, the Braves and Patriots do battle away from Memorial Stadium for the first time since I’ve been in the WabashValley. The game takes place at NorthHigh School this year, like they needed any more advantages.

North is coming off of a massive victory over Castle (picked right here in the RPI last week). The Patriots not only beat the third ranked team in the state, they punished them en route to a 44-14 laugher at Lucas Oil Stadium. Ricky Brookins proved that he’s an elite back and Kai Stratton showed the ability to be a second option out of the North backfield that most teams would showcase as the number one guy. For South to compete in this one, they have to limit the run. It won’t be easy to stop Brookins and Stratton who one coach said, “maybe one of the best running back combinations in the state.”

For the Braves, the key seems to be offensive balance. After falling behind early last week to Evansville North, the Braves rallied back to tighten in up in the second half before falling 37-20. South will have to compete at the line of scrimmage and that starts with standout lineman Junior Berry and Dickie Rollins. Also look for Jacob Johnson to make big plays on the outside in order for this one to stay close.

On paper Terre Haute North is trending way up, they are ranked fifth in the state and seem to have reloaded after a successful season last year. However, this is the Victory Bell game. It’s going to be close; everybody will be up for this one. I think South focuses their energy on stopping the run, and rightfully so. That will open the field for Chris Barrett to go to work through the air. Look for the North passing attack to put up bigger numbers than they usually might because of the crowded box.

I think it will be closer than some might think, but you have to go with North in this one. The Patriots look like they could be real contenders throughout the 5A level.

Pick: Terre Haute North

Game 2: Linton at Sullivan

What a showdown this could be in Arrow country Friday night. Sullivan is coming off of a tight win over Vincennes Lincoln. They pulled off the victory without superb running back Brooks Weszely while Linton did what we expect Linton to do, beating Eastern Greene handily.

Sullivan head man Trent Olson told Sports 10, “Linton is always the benchmark for small school football in the WabashValley. We look forward to playing them every year.” This could be the year that Sullivan has a chance to come out on top, but they are going to need Weszely. The Arrows not only need Weszely to play, they need him to play full strength. He’s still questionable for this one with a tweak in his foot. He’s a game changer out of the backfield, especially with matchup problems for Linton in the secondary created by Michael Hutchcraft and Jake Kinnaman. The Arrow offense is explosive, but they need to be on another level to knock off the top ranked team in Class A.

For Linton, quarterback Dane Rupska can tear you apart with his legs running up the gut. He’s big and incredibly powerful for a quarterback, and can sling it out to game changers Grant Stamm and Zane Hayden. Those two both have the wheels to find the end zone each and every time they touch the football. Linton puts a major emphasis on controlling the line of scrimmage, and they’re very good at it. For Sullivan to have a chance, they can’t let Linton dominate that facet of the game.

I like both of these teams to have a chance to do major damage this season, but Linton keeps bragging right in the series.

Pick: Linton

Game 3: North Vermillion vs. South Vermillion

 It was a great week for Vermillion County to open the season, with both North and South starting with wins.

Coming into this season, we knew North Vermillion would be a handful. They lived up to that billing in week one against Turkey Run. South Vermillion also may have turned some heads. Covington is a far cry from North Vermillion, but the Wildcats pounded them 35-2 in the opener.

South Vermillion looks much improved, and they need more of the same thing this week against the Falcons. They turned Covington over seven times in the opening week, and a defensive performance like that would go a long way toward knocking off the mighty Falcons.

This is no ordinary offense, however. Brayden Woodard and Jacob Earl lead a rushing attack that is absolutely phenomenal. Earl capitalized on his first start as a varsity tailback last week by scoring 5 times on only five carries in a blowout win over Turkey Run.

The Wildcats will look to make Woodard go to the air. South Vermillion has some size and hopes to use that to control the rushing game in this one.

I think South Vermillion is starting to come together as a football team. I really think they are starting to put pieces in place to become a factor again in the WIC. There country rivals are poised to make a run at a state championship. This one will be closer than last year’s 62-27 loss, but the Falcons are just too good to be stopped in week 2.

Pick: North Vermillion

Game 4: North Daviess at North Central

Both the Cougars and Thunderbirds are coming off of wins in week one where running backs exploded to lead the team to victory.

Colton Lengacher and Chase VanSchoyck are both so dangerous in the running game that North Daviess coach Scotty Helms told Sports 10, “With both teams being so ground oriented, this could be the shortest game of the night in the Valley.”

The clock will be moving with so much running, but both teams can score too. I look for the Cougars to try and get other guys involved in the running game this week. Look for players like Logan Turpin, DougBays, and Brady Helms to be more involved. The Cougars will also try to set up the play action pass. They could use a big play or two through the air to get an edge on the T-Birds.

VanSchoyck is a beast in the backfield for North Central and they aren’t afraid to use him. He went off for 320 yards in the opener, and he’s got the mentality to get there again. He’s big, tough, and physical, but Chase is also dangerous in space. The T-Birds also like to through some unorthodox special teams into the equation. That could lead to more possessions, or great field position for North Daviess.

North Central traveled to North Daviess last season and beat the Cougars 42-18. I think this North Daviess team is much more balanced than they were last season, and it should be a much closer game.

You have to pick upsets sometimes and this could be the one to choose. The Cougars make someone besides VanSchoyck beat them, and use their balance to knock off the ninth ranked team in Class A.

Pick: North Daviess

Game 5: North Knox at Eastern Greene

Eastern Greene kicked the year off against Linton, that’s not easy for anyone. Credit the Thunderbirds for getting some points on the board, more than they could do against the Miners last season. That’s a credit to quarterback Briar Martindale. I really like his abilities and think he could thrive against a less Miner-esque defense.

North Knox scored more points during week one than any other team in the state. Granted Pike Central isn’t exactly a juggernaut, but they are a 3A school and North Knox absolutely took them behind the woodshed with a 79-8 victory.

Jordan Meurer is a phenomenal athlete on the offensive side of the ball for the Warriors. He’s a big play waiting to happen and the T-Birds will have to contain him to have a chance.

I think Eastern Greene takes another stride in this one and plays a good ball game, but you just can’t deny a team that just put up 79. North Knox moves to 2-0 with a nice win over the Thunderbirds.

Pick: North Knox

Here’s to another exciting week of football. The RPI aims for the first 5-0 of the young season. Of course, I’d love to hear your comments. We’ll have highlights from all of these games and many more on “In the Zone.” Until next time, I’ll see you at the game.

-Ross


RPI: Football Friday, August 23rd

August 22nd, 2013 at 3:55 pm by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

RPI: Football Week 1, August 23rd

School is back in session and high school sports are cranking up. It’s time for the first edition of the RPI (Rowling Prediction Index) for the high school football season. The RPI made its debut during basketball season last year, and now it’s back by popular demand. Each and every week, I’ll break down five area games and predict the outcome. As always feel free to share your opinions, agree or disagree. That’s what makes sports fun, right?

Game 1: Terre Haute North vs. Castle

Everything about this game is big. From the venue to both teams rank and even the Patriots offensive line, this game has “big” written all over it. Terre Haute North has a lot working in their favor this season. They’re no longer playing in the collegiate combine that is the MIC conference week in and week out, now they match up better in Conference Indiana. Plus, enrollment numbers have the Patriots in 5A this season. Speaking of 5A, North is ranked 7th in the preseason poll, but this week’s opponent Castle is ranked 3rd. The mission to become a state and conference power starts now.

Gone are Calvin Blank, Austin Lewis, Vasco Billberry, Brother Scank, Lee Davis and other Patriots that helped Terre Haute North to a successful year last season, but this cupboard is far from bare. Look for tailback Ricky Brookins to burst onto the scene this season. Brookins is the kind of back to build an offense around. He’s explosive and fantastic in space. Brookins can hit the home run at any point. He should team with Kai Stratten to form a tremendous 1-2 punch in the Patriot backfield. Chris Barrett returns for his senior season with another year of experience under his belt. He’ll certainly miss big targets like Blank, Lewis, and Charles Dillahunt, but the speed outside the hash marks is even better this season. Barrett could be poised for a big year.

It’s hard to gauge much from a scrimmage, but the Patriots looked like world-beaters last week against Bloomington North. Castle is ranked third in the state, they are always extremely disciplined, but I like the Patriots offensive talent this season. Opening the season at the biggest venue in the state, the Patriots will set the tone to start a long journey to get back there on the back of Brookins and Co.

Pick: Terre Haute North

Game 2: Eastern Greene at Linton

The Miners have a whole new look this season from top to bottom. A new head coach, a new offense, and many new faces, but they are still a marked team. This is one Eastern Greene has circled on the schedule as the Thunderbirds continue to take major strides toward improving.

Steve Weber, his 26-2 record, and back-to-back semi-state appearances are all now at Bedford North Lawrence; in his stead, first year head coach Brian Oliver with no wins yet on his resume. The high-flying air attack led by Austin Karazsia is gone, but this is Linton football. We all know they are going to be just fine. Dane Rupska inherits the quarterback position and will anchor a rushing attack behind a line that looks like they all just came from a strong man competition. Zane Hayden is another skill player with the ability to play at the next level. Linton will look different, but the goal is still the same. Win 15 games, which would equal that coveted state championship.

Eastern Greene is coming off of a 5-5 season, and many around the game expect coach Luke Dean’s team to get over the hump this year. Briar Martindale is an exceptional player under center. His top target on the outside is receiver Cody Hopkins. He’s a big play threat. With Cole Postell running the rock this year, we could have a three-headed monster running the Eastern Greene offensive attack.

The Thunderbirds are better, and they look like they could easily get over that .500 mark in the regular season this year. However, again, this is Linton football. These kids wear pigskin-scented cologne. Linton reloads and another undefeated regular season could be on the docket.

Pick: Linton 

Game 3: South Vermillion at Covington

This one should be interesting. Both teams are coming off of 2-8 seasons but could be much improved this time around.

I really like the direction things are heading at South Vermillion. They are winning youth championships like they are going out of style, so talent should be on the way in waves for Coach Chuch Sorrell in his third season. Sorrell coached squads at South Vermillion have gone from 0-10, to 2-8. Another two-win improvement would probably be considered a success, but 4-6 won’t be ok with this squad. To get back to .500 or better, the Wildcats need to start the season with a win.

Many of Sorrell’s starters are three-year guys that he’s been grooming to grow into upperclassmen. For them, the time is now. Jordan Branz will take the snaps, and he’s dangerous with both his arm and his legs. Branz can bust off a big play in a hurry. Adam Crouch is another phenomenal athlete that will have to do a little bit of everything for this team to have success. I’ll be watching running back Del Dunegan closely. He’s a good running back in the system and could be poised to have a breakout season if the offense is as explosive as they hope to be.

The Wildcats have the size and the skill guys to put it all together and jump into the upper echelon of the WIC. The motto since Sorrell came to campus has been “Believe.” If these young men believe it, they can be a good football team. It starts in week one versus Covington, and I “believe.”

Pick: South Vermillion

Game 4: Vincennes Lincoln vs. Sullivan

This game might be the game of the night here locally. We have two teams coming off of winning seasons looking to build upon that success. Sullivan and Lincoln opened the season last year with a tight one down in Alice country. On their home field, Lincoln won 19-14 and went on to an 8-3 season, while Sullivan took the loss and finished the year at 6-4.

A year later, the Arrows seem even better. The offense for Sullivan could be extremely high flying this season. Last year’s leading receiver, Michael Willis, moves to quarterback. The athletic Willis can chuck it a mile and is always a threat to take off out of the backfield. His two top targets, Michael Hutchcraft and Jake Kinnamon, are both huge. Both stand well over 6 feet tall and finish plays with tough yards after the catch. As good as the passing game should be, Brooks Weszely is back for his senior season and dynamic as ever. Weszely is so evasive in the running game that he will almost have to be the top focus of the opposing defense each and every week. That should allow tremendous offensive balance that we’ve never seen before at Sullivan High School.

This game should be so close; I think home field could make the difference. Last year a tight one went to the home team, and I’m going with the home team again this year.

Pick: Sullivan

Game 5: West Vigo at Evansville Harrison

The Vikings open up this season with a long road trip down Highway 41 to Evansville. The Warriors went 1-9 last season, but they’ve got a new coach and new aspirations.

West Vigo won four of their last six to finish 6-4 for the year, and they bring back lots of integral parts from last year’s team. Jimmy Maples returns at quarterback. He and fellow seniors Skyler Warnock and Tyler Gustafson look to lead an offense once again hoping to compete for a conference crown. If the Vikings are going to be able to finish the season improved from last year, a couple underclassmen could be key. Sophomore Dakota Short is a monster at linebacker, while freshman Lane Burke has breakaway speed. If Short takes another step forward as one of the best defensive players, and Burke can translate his athletic ability to the more physical play of high school football, the Vikings could really surprise some people this season.

Coach Cobb has the energy high at practice. With such a young team, West Vigo should be much improved in Week 9 than they are in Week 1 but I think they are good enough to grab an early win against Harrison.

Bold prediction for the week: Burke bursts onto the scene with a touchdown of at least 30 yards to help seal the victory.

Pick: West Vigo

As always share your thoughts. You can always reach me via email at rrowling@wthitv.com or on twitter @rossrowling1. I hope everyone out there is as excited for high school football as we are at Sports 10. Until next time, I’ll see you at the game.