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2012 SIAC Previews & Predictions!

Indiana High School Football Fever!!! CATCH IT! The Indiana high school football season starts in about 3-weeks when the first Friday’s games start on August 17th. In case you are a new reading I’ll go over what I do with high school sports. I am an alum of the SIAC which is an acronym for Southern Indiana Athletic Conference, which is the conference encompassing the high schools in Evansville, IN and Newburgh, IN. The conference is comprised of 8 schools with 7 of them being in Evansville, and the lone school (Castle High School) being located in Paradise, Indiana which for all intents and purposes is Newburgh. From a geographic standpoint and rivalry standpoint I’ll go over a few things about the conference to give you an idea of how it works. There are two north side schools in North & Central. There are 3 east side schools in Memorial, Bosse & Harrison. There are two west side schools in Mater Dei & Reitz, and finally Castle is in Newburgh. There is no south side of Evansville as the city’s downtown is on the Ohio River and thus anything south would actually be in Kentucky. The geographic locations set up natural rivalries, but Memorial & Mater Dei also form a natural rivalry as they are both parochial schools.

Like most other states in the US, Indiana football is divided into a class system. There are 5 classes designated 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A & A with 5A being the schools with the highest enrollment while Class A represents those schools with the lowest enrollment in the state. The breakdown of the schools by Class in the SIAC is:

5A: Castle, Evansville North
4A: Evansville Reitz, Evansville Central, Evansville Harrison
3A: Evansville Bosse, Evansville Memorial
2A: Evansville Mater Dei
A: none

Now that you have an idea of how the SIAC and Indiana state football works, let’s review the 2011 season. Last year was a great year for two programs. Castle was a veteran team that came into the season behind both Reitz & Mater Dei but promptly put those teams behind them, running the table during the regular season to a perfect 9-0 finish. The Knights were able to win their first two games of the sectional to get to 11-0 and a top-5 ranking in the highly competitive Class 5A rankings, but dropped the sectional championship game to Bedford North Lawrence 26-21 ending their season with an SIAC Championship on the mantle! Castle had incredible performances from guys like QB Mitch Gilles, RB Andrew Finch, WR Cameron Parus & WR Jon-Marc Anderson. Although Castle did put up a perfect 9-0 regular season on their way to winning the SIAC, the most successful team in the SIAC in 2011 might have been the Class 2A Mater Dei Wildcats. Mater Dei’s double OT 51-48 loss to Castle prevented the Wildcats from going 9-0 during the regular season & prevented them from winning the SIAC, Mater Dei’s regular season was filled with playing teams from Class 4A & 5A and that served them well in the state playoffs. Mater Dei won their sectional, regional & semi-state by an average score of 40-16! They weren’t as lucky in the state championship game against Ft. Wayne Luers, losing 41-17, but a final season record of 13-2 with state-runner up on the shelf is still an incredible season. There were other mini-successes around the SIAC as well. Evansville Central won their Class 4A sectional championship after having a fairly average year. Evansville Memorial once again seemingly sandbagged the regular season before coming away with yet another Class 3A sectional championship. Even a very young and inexperienced Evansville North team managed to post a 5-4 winning record before falling to Castle in the first round of the Class 5A sectional. It was North’s first winning season since 2007.

Of course some bad must come with the good. After dominating for a solid decade which included two Class 4A state championships, the shine finally faded on Evansville Reitz as the Panthers posted a 7-4 season and was bounced in the second round of sectionals by an Evansville Central team the Panthers had beaten earlier in the season. It was the worst season Reitz has had since 2004 when they finished 6-4 and were bounced out of the sectionals in the first round. Slowly but surely HC Brian Lewis is trying to lead Evansville Harrison out of the wilderness, but even a new stadium on the Lloyd Expressway couldn’t help the Warriors as they dropped a 2-9 record for the 2011 season. That’s progress considering Harrison was 1-9 in 2010 and 0-10 in 2009, but 2-9 is still 2-9. Evansville Bosse shocked southern Indiana football when they finished the regular season 2-7 in 2010, but then won 3 straight to capture the Class 3A sectional title! Last year the Bulldogs took a step back finishing 3-7 with a first round sectional exit. To a degree, the 2011 SIAC season was one of transition. The 2012 season should see some of that transition solidify and ensure the ’12 edition could be one of the more competitive seasons in recent memory for all the teams involved. Let’s take a look at each program individually.

BOSSE BULLDOGS (Last Year = 3-7, 7th Place SIAC)

Offense: For the most part, Bosse has been a one-man gang the last couple of seasons with QB Jalen Pendleton. When you look at the stats from 2010 to 2011 you essentially see the same team within the SIAC. Bosse averaged 23.4ppg in 2010 and that increased marginally to 25.9ppg in 2011. Pendleton was obviously once again a beast. Tracking down high school football stats can be problematic at best when there isn’t a dedicated fan/alumni base that has taken it upon themselves to keep the statistics. Unfortunately, Bosse does not have this sort of following so we can only guess. From the numbers I pulled together it looks like Pendleton passed for a little over 1700 yards while he ran for about 1500 yards. That means Pendleton accounted for about 3200 yards of offense for a Bosse team that didn’t generate offense anywhere else on the field! Pendleton was helped out by RB Jordan Diggs in 2010, but he didn’t have that sort of help in 2011. Remember that Pendleton ran for only 620 yards while passing for 2600 yards as a junior. That’s the same 3200 total yards, but in 2011 the Bulldogs had to rely on Pendleton to pass and throw the ball. Sophomore RB Carrington Crutcher ran for about 350 yards last season, but was a first time starter and still an underclassmen. Receivers  Julian Washington, Arius Carter & Jay Kelly had pretty good seasons too. The problem this season will be the loss of Pendelton. The Bosse QB was the most dynamic playmaker in the SIAC last season so the loss is significant. The Bulldogs ranked 6th in the SIAC in conference points per game so the loss of Pendleton will at least drop them to 7th most likely assuming Harrison stays in the basement. Julian Washington & Jay Kelly are also gone. From what I can gather, Bosse loses 4 of their 5 starting O-Linemen from 2011 which basically means the Bulldogs will have 3-4 starters back on offense from a 3-7 team that had problems scoring. That doesn’t bode well for the Bulldogs and 2nd year HC Andre Thomas. Crutcher should be the star on this Bosse team in 2012, but will Crutcher have the advantage that Pendleton never really had? Namely, will there be enough supporting players around Crutcher for Bosse to make a significant move in the SIAC. That remains to be seen, but don’t sleep on Crutcher potentially being the most dominant offensive player in the SIAC. Pendleton may have overshadowed him a bit, but I have a feeling that even if Pendleton were returning for yet another season, Crutcher would be the focal point of the Bulldogs offense.

Defense: Defensively the Bulldogs were a mess allowing 43.7ppg in conference play which was 2nd worst among the 8 SIAC teams with only Harrison being worse. It’s always tough to gauge high school players because there are no set measurements that you can really go by. In college football you know that a LB is going to be 6’0-6’1 and 220lbs at a minimum for the most part. In the NFL you know ILBs are typically 6’1-6’3 and around 240-260lbs. Last year Bosse didn’t have a single player on defense that stood 6’0 tall except for safety Julian Washington who was an even 6’0. The Bulldogs lose their entire defensive line and their starting safeties. They do return 3LBs and both corners but will be relatively youthful again in 2012. From what I can gather, the star defensive players were DT Rion Irvin, LB Aaron Boone and DB Bo Burkhart. Boone & Burkhart return, but Irvin is gone. The size issue isn’t going away and if you believe North, Mater Dei, Central & Castle were the best 4 SIAC teams from a season ago, then Bosse is worse off than we think as they allowed 50ppg against those 4 teams! You simply can’t win football games allowing 50 points per game! Thomas is only in his 2nd year and while losing Pendleton to guide the offense is certainly a tough issue, fixing the defense should be the number one priority.

2012 Outlook: It looks extremely bleak for the Bulldogs in 2012. Remember last season Bosse beat Washington 21-14 at home. They also got a lucky win against Reitz when the Panthers were falling apart at the end of the season. The win over Harrison was solid as the Warriors have been the worst team in the SIAC for going on a decade now, but outside of those 3 wins, Bosse didn’t really come close to threatening anyone. I don’t expect Reitz to lay down for much longer and this year Bosse plays on the road at both Harrison & Washington. Throw in a young and small defense combined with losing arguably the most dynamic playmaker in the conference and you really have to wonder where the offense & defense is going to come from. Every year there are rumors about how Bosse is rebuilding the football program and that their feeder teams are looking really good. That might be true, but at some point those youngsters have to translate to a higher level of football. Maybe Bosse has to take a step back this season in order to move forward.

CASTLE KNIGHTS (Last Year = 11-1, SIAC Champions)

Offense: It’s difficult not to be impressed with Castle’s offense last season. The Knights led the SIAC in points score per conference game at 43.7ppgs, just one-tenth of a point higher than Mater Dei’s 43.6ppg! I didn’t think Castle would be as efficient on offense as they were. QB Mitch Gilles hadn’t performed that well as a sophomore, but he came out last year as a junior and was likely the best passer in the SIAC. In his 12 games last season, Gilles completed 64% of his passes for 3,099 yards & 33TD to just 11INT. The 6’2/210lbs junior actually looked the part as well, being one of the bigger players in the entire conference. Those numbers also earned Gilles an Honorable Mention for the All-State team! Another reason I thought Castle could be down offensively last season is the loss of RB Logan Hayford, but while Castle didn’t replicate Hayford’s rushing prowess, runners Andrew Finch & Tyler Powless combined to rush for 1,199 yards (5.9ypc) & 17TD. The Knights also had a couple of thousand yard receivers in Cameron Parus (1,117 yards & 16TD) & Jon-Marc Anderson (1,104 & 11TD). Castle certainly brought a dynamic and explosive offense to the table every night. The scary part is that everyone returns on offense! The Knights will lose a couple of starters on the line, but everyone else returns. What’s exciting about Castle too is that they are one of the few SIAC schools to actually bring size to the equation. Gilles & Parus are both 6’2. The O-Line guys are at least 6’0 with some being as big as 6’4/250lbs. That type of size on the O-line won’t get you to division one college football, but it plays in high school. If Castle can score 43.7ppg last year en route to a perfect 9-0 regular season, then Castle has to be thinking about 50ppg this year with an offense returning virtually intact! Something to keep in mind is that Mater Dei had the best defense in the SIAC last season, yet that didn’t prevent Castle from hanging 51 on the Wildcats in a double-OT game that decided the SIAC championship. Gilles is the star here and I expect a big year out of the senior. He’s not generating any recruiting buzz, but if he passes for close to 4,000 yards with 40TD then he’ll have to generate some interest given what he’s been able to accomplish the last couple of seasons.

Defense: Castle’s defense was fairly stingy last season ranking #2 in the SIAC in points allower per conference game at 20.4. While the Knights were able to edge out the Wildcats in offensive PPG, they came up 4 points short of Mater Dei’s lead in PAG! The defensive numbers are somewhat skewed for Castle & Mater Dei. Those two teams were easily the best two teams in the SIAC in 2011 and they played to a double-OT barn burner with Castle edging Mater Dei 51-48. If you take that game out of the equation, then Castle’s defense allowed only 15.8ppg. It still wouldn’t be as good as Mater Dei’s defense because the Wildcats get to erase the 51 they gave up to Castle, but it gives you an idea about how far ahead both Castle & Mater Dei were compared to the other SIAC squads. The defensive stalwarts for Castle last season were DE Andrew Parker, LB Rayce Thornbury, DE Grant Carter, DE Mitch Carter and S Braden Sims. All 5 guys return in 2012! In fact, of Castle’s top-11 tacklers from 2011, not a single one was lost to graduation! The defense is going to get massively better with a year of experience and this really underscores how much transition the SIAC experienced. Castle ran off an 11-0 record last season before losing to Bedford North Lawrence in the sectional championship, but did so mainly with first time starters. The only knock on the defense could be size. Castle doesn’t really have any player on defense that actually look the part from a size perspective. It might not matter in the SIAC, but if Castle makes it to Indianapolis, it’s going to matter.

2012 Outlook: Castle has to be thinking about unfinished business in 2012. The SIAC isn’t going to be a problem and neither will non-conference games against New Albany & Terre Haute North. Going through the regular season should be a formality for the Knights as they roll up another 9-0 season. I also don’t expect them to be challenged in the sectional. They should have beaten Bedford last season, and if Castle can get out of sectionals they can win regionals as it doesn’t project to be overly difficult. The problem for Castle will be getting to semi-state where they can run into the ELITE schools from Indianapolis such as Pike, Carmel, Warren Central and Ben Davis. At that point it gets difficult to say how Castle will play. With that said, there is no reason to believe Castle shouldn’t easily be considered a top-10 team to begin the season and should creep their way up to the top-5 or top-3 with a 13-0 run to semi-state. Even if they do lose in the state-semifinals, the 13-1 record would combine with last year’s 11-1 record to give Castle a 24-2 record when Mitch Gilles was the starting QB. Not a bad career huh?

CENTRAL BEARS (Last Year = 7-6, 6th Place SIAC, Sectional Champions)

Offense: Central ranked 5th in the SIAC last year in conference points per game at 26.7ppg. The Bears were one of the more difficult teams to get a handle on last season. The 7-6 record probably doesn’t do the team justice as they won their sectional and ran into an extremely good football team in Columbus East in the regionals. Even if Central would have beaten Columbus East, they weren’t going to get by Indianapolis Cathedral in the semi-state, but if you want to argue that Cathedral was the best team in Class 4A (they were) and Columbus East was the 2nd best because they lost to Cathedral then it’s possible that Central was the 3rd best team in the class. The 7-6 record is odd, but really they could have easily been 10-3 as losses to Reitz, Memorial & North don’t make much sense. Offensively Central was going to have to figure a way out to score points. QB Jacob Hester returned for his senior season but the Bears lost significant pieces in RB Tyreece Strong and WRs Dyris Haywood, Alex Barker & Justin Williams. Central started the year 1-3 but righted the ship to end it on a 6-3 run. Hester wasn’t as good as a senior as he was as a junior. He passed for 2,740 yards & 24TD to only 9INT, but he completed just 57% of his passes! Bryant Hooper & David Garrett took over for Strong and combined to rush for 1,204 yards (4.4ypc) & 13TD. Garrett was also a threat in the passing game with 349 receiving yards. Hester’s go-to receivers were Trevor Ferguson & Chris Tomlinson. Both receivers combined for 1,498 yards & 15TD. Austin Fuchs & Jalen Bender were also strong combining for 765 yards & 6TD. I can’t get a specific feel for the offensive line, but it looks like Central will lose 3 starters up front. The Bears have a ton coming back, but unfortunately they don’t have their QB who basically threw for 6,000 yards & 60TD over the past two seasons! They also lose Tomlinson who was the leading receiver. The Bears did a great job replacing some significant offensive skill players last year, but this year they’ll have the task of replacing Hester, which won’t be easy as I don’t think another Central QB has taken a snap the past two seasons. There is no obvious star in this group so it’ll be interesting to see who steps up for Central in 2012.

Defense: This is where the difficult in finding high school defensive stats comes into play! I can’t find any game stats for Central’s defense, but based on last season it looks like the Bears will lose only a couple of starters from their defensive unit with one being on the D-Line and one coming from the LB corps. That can be a good or bad thing depending on how you want to look at Central’s 2011 season. The Bears gave up 35.7ppg in conference play which was worse than every team in the SIAC except Bosse & Harrison. The fact that Central doesn’t lose much on defense could be a good thing because it means the Bears were young & inexperienced in 2011 and they’ll get better. The converse is that the Bears aren’t very good at defense and bringing back the same bad defensive players from a year ago is a disaster in the making. At the high school level there is probably more to be said for the former than the latter. The one good thing about Central is that they have some players that fit the bill. DE Chris Sweeney is 6’4/240lbs. DE Jesse Hohl is 6’3/230lbs. All of their LBs are at least 6’0 and both returning CBs are 5’11. If HC Andy Owen can turn that size into performance, then Central shouldn’t allow 35.7ppg in 2012.

2012 Outlook: Central loses their starting QB, but outside of losing Hester, they bring quite a bit of talent back to a team that won the Class 4A sectional a season ago. What will really decide Central’s fate is figuring out how teams like North, Mater Dei, Memorial & Reitz play given what they did in 2011 and the losses they’ve incurred. I don’t think Central can beat Castle, but the rest of the SIAC should be within their grasp. They typically have played well in Kentucky to start the season and they do well against Hammond Clark. After those 2 out of conference games, all that is left is the SIAC and Central should have a leg up. If the Bears can get a QB who can manage games and allows the Bears to stay in games, Central has a good shot at 8-1 before heading into sectional play. A run through sectionals and the Bears could easily be 11-1 heading into regionals. The key is going to be how well they can replace their QB.

HARRISON WARRIORS (Last Year = 2-9, Last Place SIAC)

Offense: The 19ppg Harrison scored on offense during conference play last season was the worst mark in the SIAC by 7 points! Harvey Robbins last two seasons at Harrison weren’t great as the Warriors posted an 0-20 record in that span! HC Brian Lewis didn’t walk into a great situation and in his first year (2009), Lewis posted Harrison’s 3rd straight season with an 0-10 record. Lewis improved in Year 2 with Harrison going 1-9. Last year in his 3rd season Lewis improved to 2-9 with a win in sectionals! That’s progress, but I think I’ve seen turtles move faster than Harrison in their quest to rise from the ashes of the SIAC. One thing to keep in mind with Harrison’s offense in 2011 is that HC Lewis had the Warriors run 73% of the time! On the one hand you can argue that Lewis knew Harrison didn’t have much of a chance to win games so slowing the game down and trying to limit your opponents opportunities might make some sense. It also shows that Lewis was a bit desperate as QB Jamey Malvern was banged up all season long. That’s a tough spot to be in because it makes Harrison a one dimensional football team, and the Warriors simply weren’t good enough to be a one dimensional team. They don’t have Paul Johnson has a HC and they aren’t running Georgia Tech’s triple option spread attack. With Malvern on the shelf, Lewis turned to WR Aaron Killebrew to take over as QB. Killebrew is a fine player but at 5’5/150lbs, there were probably plenty of girls at Harrison bigger than he was! That’s not to say Killebrew wasn’t the star of the team. He led the team in rushing with 906 yards & 12TD. RB Ke’Vontae Sullivan chipped in 607 yards & 7TD of his own giving the Warriors a nice little 1-2 punch in the backfield. There weren’t a ton of receiving opportunities but WR Eric Blackman & LaWan Rollins had pretty good seasons. From what I can tell, Harrison might lose 2-3 starters on the offensive line and Malvern. That’s it, but Malvern didn’t play all that much last season so really Harrison has every one of their skill position players back from a season ago. Killebrew isn’t a QB that much is true and Harrison has to get somebody under center, but the Warriors should be better in in 2012 than they were in 2011.

Defense: As bad as Harrison was on offense last season, they were even worse on defense allowing 46.3ppg in conference play! As I said with Bosse, you can’t give up 50 points a game and expect to win many football contests! It’s not happening! A couple of things stand out about Harrison’s defense in 2011. The first is that Rob Ralph was the best defensive player the Warriors had, and it was by a significant margin. Ralph had 89 tackles a sack and 6 tackles for loss. Why is that significant? It’s significant because Ralph was just as sophomore and not projected as a starter to being the season. It’s also significant because Ralph is listed at 5’6/170lbs! As with Killebrew, there has to be a decent population of girls at Harrison bigger than Ralph. The other thing that sticks out is Killebrew was the 5th leading tackler on the squad with 48 tackles. Not only did Killebrew start out as the team’s best WR the transitioned to being the QB and also is one of the starting corners. Did I mention he’s also the team’s punter? Did I mention we are talking about a guy who is 5’5/150lbs!? Look, I’m not not knocking the size here of either Killebrew or Ralph. Those guys HAVE TO BE BEASTS, but Killebrew is being misused. The guy looks like he would be murderous in the slot and as a change of pace RB, but like with Crutcher at Bosse, he has to have some players supporting him. Defensively Harrison is poor but they return 6 of their top-10 tacklers from a season ago. The problem though is Harrison is extremely small and their players seem to be stretched too thin.

2012 Outlook: This team is stretched too thin at key positions. If Harrison has to rely on Aaron Killebrew to be their QB then they are screwed. Like Central, Harrison needs to figure out what they are doing under center. Once that’s under control then they can start looking at other options. Last year they torched West Vigo in the opener and this time they actually travel to West Vigo, but Harrison needs to win its opener because it could be another rough slog through the SIAC. I don’t see how Harrison matches up well with any SIAC team to be perfectly honest and because of that they are likely in for an 0-7 conference record. I’ve wondered given the geography of Evansville, if Harrison hasn’t lost quite a few players to Castle over the past few years. I know more and more affluent people in the area keep moving further east into Newburgh. If that is the case then former east-siders are now Newburghians meaning potential high schools kids who would have went to Harrison are now going to Castle. It’s not all the problem I know, but it’s interesting to think about. As for Harrison, they aren’t deep and extremely small. That’s not a recipe for success.

MATER DEI WILDCATS (Last Year = 13-2, 2nd Place SIAC, State Runner-Up)

Offense: Mater Dei is always an interesting case study in the SIAC because they are the smallest school yet year in and year out produce top quality football teams. Last year was no exception. While Mater Dei had the 2nd best offense in the SIAC, their 43.6ppg seems a lot more impressive than Castle’s 43.7ppg considering the Knights are a Class 5A school while Mater Dei toils in Class 2A. There was a lot to like about Mater Dei’s offense in 2011. Let’s start with QB Dane Mauer. A 3-year starter for the Wildcats, Mauer passed for 3,077 yards in 2011, completing 65% of his passes along with 34TD to only 9 interceptions. Mauer was also no slouch in the running game chipping in 679 rushing yards with 12TD! That sort of production simply can’t be replaced. Mater Dei lost to Ft. Wayne Luers in the Class 2A State Championship game and that might have cost Mauer a 1st-Team All State selection as Luers QB James Knapke took down the honors. If losing Mauer will be difficult to overcome then replacing RB Cody Hess is a mission Ethan Hunt probably thinks impossible! Another 3-year starter, Hess rushed for 1400 yards & 28TD in Mater Dei’s 15 games this season. He leaves as the Wildcats all time leading rusher with over 5200 yards on the ground! It doesn’t get any easier for Mater Dei replacing other key players on offense. Receivers Hunter Owen & Dalton Bradenstein each caught football for 600+ yards and both are gone. Mater Dei also has a bulldozing tackle in Bernie Boots who was a BEAST at 6’5/300lbs! He’s gone too. WR Isaac Tekoppel is also gone. Linemen Reed Rexing and Van Masterson also leave and both were huge O-Linemen. Essentially Mater Dei is losing every ounce of offense they have after going on a tremendous 3-year run that culminated in a 32-10 record with 3 sectional championships, 2 regional championships and a semi-state championship. Replacing that is going to be next to impossible for HC Mike Goebel and it really looks like a rebuilding year offensively for the Wildcats.

Defense: As amazing as the offense was last year, the Mater Dei defense might have been even better. In conference play Mater Dei allowed just 16.3ppg, but if you take the 51 points they allowed to Castle out of the equation, that number goes down to 10.5ppg. It was virtually impossible to score on Mater Dei last season. I don’t have the defensive numbers for the Wildcats in 2011, but I do know that DL Ben Polk, DL Bernie Boots, DL Nathan Wright, and DB Hunter Owen garnered All-State honorable mentions! Boots was even a 1st Team All-State player on the offensive line! Like the offense, the defense loses a ton. Luckily for the Wildcats they return quite along the D-Line. Guys like Polk & Wright return although Boots departs. What really hurts Mater Dei is that they lose their entire back seven to graduation. Having a lot of size & experience along the D-Line can cover up a lot mistakes especially if you are going up against smaller & weaker offensive lines, but I wonder how much attention Boots drew given his size and how that will affect the overall line play. I also think that you can’t replace leadership and that is something Mater Dei will have to really struggle with. Who will step up and fill the void left by some legendary Mater Dei players?

2012 Outlook: Mater Dei is so tricky to forecast but how can you not call for a down season? The losses are magnificent and it’s not like the Wildcats are losing guys who have started for 1 or 2 seasons. They are losing quite a few guys who have been starting since their sophomore year! That is incredible talent & consistency over a 3-year span. Given what we know about the SIAC, I think Mater Dei is looking at a season that is more in line with their 2008 year than their 2011 season. In 2008 the Wildcats went 4-8 before last year’s graduating players took the reigns as sophomores in 2009. They didn’t draw a great non-conference schedule, drawing Heritage Hills and then a road game against Mt. Vernon (Posey Co.). Let’s assume for a second that Mater Dei figures out a way to beat Bosse & Harrison, the only other potential win on the schedule is Mt. Vernon and that’s not a guarantee. I think the best Mater Dei can do is 3-6 or maybe even 2-7, but they are always a dangerous team come tournament time because they’ll play teams their own size rather than a bunch of 4A & 5A teams that comprise the SIAC.

MEMORIAL TIGERS (Last Year = 7-6, 5th Place SIAC, Sectional Champions)

Offense: Memorial had somewhat a tale of two seasons. To start the year off junior QB Dane Hurley was looking to improve upon his sophomore campaign, but injuries plagued him from almost the beginning. Hurley never got comfortable and the Tigers got off to a 1-2 start. HC John Hurley then turned the reigns over to WR Charlie Grief who struggled early but eventually led Memorial to a 6-3 finish including a Class 3A sectional championship! Grief would finish the year passing for 1,665 yards & 14TD to 11 interceptions while completing 62% of his passes. Although Memorial struggled a bit with their QB situation, what they didn’t struggle with was their rushing attack led by Sam Curtis and McKinley Warren. Curtis was a beast rushing for 1,406 yards (5.9ypc) & 15TD while Warren chipped in 764 (4.9ypc) of his own including 10TD runs. As a team Memorial rushed for almost 200 yards per game with an average of 4.8ypc! Like Harrison, Memorial was rushing oriented, but unlike Harrison, the Tigers made it work. Curtis was even a threat in the passing game chipping in 417 yards passing and another 3TD to earn an Honorable Mention on the All-State team. Another Honorable Mention member was WR Alphonso Baity who caught 62 balls for 764 yards & 10TD. Max Gamble was the other receiving threat for the Tigers who caught for over 400 yards & 5TD. Things are going to get interesting for Memorial this season. HC John Hurley has to put Dane Hurley back as QB to get Grief back at WR due to Curtis, Baity & Gamble all graduating. The loss of Curtis could be tough, but McKinley Warren was just a freshman last year and did a phenomenal job! Warren hammered the Central defense in Memorial’s thrashing of the Bears which is saying something considering how good Central may have been in 2011. The offensive line is a big part of any rushing team and it does look like Memorial is losing 4 starters along the front, but Warren might be so dynamic it might not matter too much. While Memorial loses a tremendous amount of production, there is room to grow here. The Tigers scored 30.7ppg in conference play which ranked 3rd in the SIAC behind only Castle & Mater Dei. They get their starting QB back and an extremely dynamic playmaker in the backfield. Things could get interesting on the east side.

Defense: Memorial might have been even better had their defense been as good as the offense. The Tigers allowed 32.4ppg which ranked 5th in the SIAC! This is another half glass full/glass half empty propositions. Memorial was relatively young last season so a year of experience is likely to do the defense some good. Junior Zach McCall was a man child last season racking up over 100 tackles form the DB position. DB Brian Hayhurst & LB Alex Wimber had over 90 tackles each. Of those 3 players only Hayhurst is lost to graduation. In fact, Memorial has quite a bit returning on the defense. Of Memorial’s top-12 tacklers in 2012, they return 8 which should make for a better defense in 2012. Memorial isn’t quite as big as Central when it comes to overall size on the defense, but they aren’t small either. Memorial looks to have one of the more physical defenses in the SIAC in 2012 and it should be interesting to see how much they’ll improve this upcoming season. It is fairly odd to see how many teams in the SIAC are brutal when it comes to defense. Mater Dei was the only defensive stalwart of the group with Castle being just a tick behind them. The other 6 teams in the SIAC struggled mightily stopping opponents from moving the football.

2012 Outlook: Memorial has some real sleeper potential heading into 2012. The key here will be for Dane Hurley to stay healthy for an entire season. I love how young McKinley Warren is and getting Hurley back forces Grief back to WR where he can better be utilized by the Memorial offense. Defensively Memorial also returns quite a few players and should be a lot better this season. The one problem Memorial faces coming into the season is their O-line and the losses they are suffering due to graduation. If the Tigers can fix that problem and gain some productivity from a year of experience, then the Tigers are once again going to be a fairly dominant team in Class 3A. I think every team is chasing Castle at the moment, but Memorial has as good a chance as Central, North & Reitz to finish 2nd in the SIAC. Their non-conference slate isn’t easy with Jasper and Belleview West (Illinois), but Memorial gets them out of the way early and then faces the 7 other members of the SIAC.

NORTH HUSKIES (Last Year = 5-5, 4th Place SIAC)

Offense: At 25.7ppg in conference play, North had the worst offense in the SIAC except for Harrison. North was an extremely young team last season with a lot of new pieces to the puzzle. While the Huskies didn’t get off to a great start to the 2011 season, North rebounded and won 3 of their last 4 games in the regular season before dropping their first sectional game to Castle 35-14. The most important player to North’s offense was junior RB Blake Howell. The 5’9/185lbs rusher totaled 863 yards & 9TD, but what is most impressive is that Howell averaged 6.6ypc! With that kind of average, I’m surprised that Howell only carried the rock 13 times per game on average. It’s tough to give a RB the ball 30 times a game, but North has serious issues with their passing attack. Helping Howell was junior RB Duvante’ Lane who was pretty amazing in his own right. Lane ran for 425 yards & 7TD while averaging 7.7ypc! Combined, both Lane & Howell rushed for 1,288 yards & 16TD averaging 7.0ypc!  QB Max Mooney may have been a new starter, but the kid completed a woeful 49.7% of his passes for 941 yards including 4TD to 7INT! Mooney (5’11/170lbs) has to clearly get better under center for North’s offense to really take off in 2012 and Mooney needs to understand that North is probably better when he doesn’t run the football. Howell ran the ball 130 times last season. Lane ran the ball 55 times. Mooney ran the ball 110 times but averaged 4.5ypc. That’s not a bad average, but when your two running backs average 7.0ypc, your job is to hand the ball off and keep the defense honest by completing some passes and not beating the team with interceptions. There wasn’t much of a passing game but Ty Pauley & Drew Watters combined for 664 receiving yards & 1TD. North will return all their skill position players outside of Pauley at WR. From what I can tell, the Huskies will lose 2-3 offensive linemen, but for the most part North was a junior laden team that will turn into a veteran senior team with lofty aspirations. HC Mike Wilson had the right idea running the ball 71% of the time last season, but Mooney was responsible for too much of that 71% and he needs to get better. North has the chance to really gameplan some victories this season because if they don’t it’ll be back to rebuilding.

Defense: Unlike most teams in the SIAC who performed well offensively but dropped the ball defensively, North actually ranked 3rd in the conference in points allowed per conference game at 23.9, trailing only Mater Dei & Castle. Consider that Mater Dei & Castle combined to go 24-3 last season and you wonder how close North is to being an extremely competitive football team after finishing 5-5 in 2011. The defensive studs for North last year were LBs Drew Watters and Brandon Dickens along with DE Mike Johnson. Johnson was a beast on the edge at 6’2/230lbs, recording 10 sacks on the year! Opposite him is DE Jeff Greenwell who stands 6’3/220lbs. Colton Lord & Ty Pauley were also significant contributors to North’s defensive cause last season.What is a bit unfortunate for the Huskies is that unlike the offense, the defense does take some hits. Dickens, Lord & Pauley are all lost to graduation. North also loses DT Damon Byers who at 6’2/300lbs was a legitimate DT physically on the inside. North loses 5 of their top-7 tacklers from a season ago so there will be some rebuilding going on defensively. What really helps North though is having significant contributors at key positions. Greenwell needs to step up his game to match Johnson on the edge and Watters needs to step into a greater leadership role, but I think North could be surprisingly good on defense simply because they’ll get edge pressure on opposing QBs. The Huskies also return both of their CBs. If North can find a way to replace their interior defensive line and their safeties, they have a chance to be in the top-3 defensively in the SIAC.

2012 Outlook: It’s going to be interesting to see how North utilizes Howell & Lane in the running game this season. I wonder too if Max Mooney might not have a little bit of Mitch Gilles in him. I was really down on Gilles before the 2011 season because of how he performed in 2010. I feel the same way about Mooney heading into 2012. He can run the football and is a dual threat option, but from the statistics, it would seem better if he stayed in the pocket and haded the ball off. Mooney has to realize that managing the game, not beating himself and allowing North to shorten games through their dominant rushing game will be enough to win games. Another key will be how much pressure North’s defense can get off the edge. There is some work to be done for North in order for it to realize it’s potential. It’s a tough break being in Castle’s sectional so the Huskies aren’t going anywhere when it comes to postseason play, but if Mooney takes a step forward, North has enough on both sides of the ball to scare a lot of teams.

REITZ PANTHERS (Last Year = 7-4, 3rd Place SIAC)

Offense: You knew losing QB Matt McIntosh was going to hurt, but you didn’t know how much. Reitz scored 40.1ppg in 2010 during McIntosh’s senior season. Last year that number fell to 29.1ppg which ranked 4th in the SIAC. Heading into last season there was question surrounding who would take over for McIntosh. Would it be the 5’8/157lbs Drew Johnston who didn’t bring much size to the table, but was definitely a threat to run as well as pass the football? Or would it be the 6’3/190lbs Nathan Tidwell who looked the part of a legitimate QB, but who didn’t have the same athletic ability as Johnston? HC Tony Lewis went with Tidwell and the senior QB did a pretty good job completing 72% of his passes for 1,461 yards & 9TD to only 3INT. If you really wanted to complain about the Reitz offense then you could argue that Reitz didn’t cut Tidwell loose enough in the passing game. Some of that could be forgiven with the presence of RB KeAndre Vaughn, the best RB in the SIAC. Yes I said the best even with Mater Dei having Cody Hess. The 5’8/180lbs Vaughn was a man-child last season rushing for 1,607 yards & 14TD while averaging 7.0ypc which was good enough for an Honorable Mention All-State selection. Austin Schapker was the leading receiver with 704 yards & 6TD. It’s really interesting that Reitz was almost 70% run last season despite Tidwell completing 70+% of his passes! This year will be pretty interesting as Reitz doesn’t lose much. Johnston should now be the incumbent QB and while the Panthers do lose Tidwell & Schapker, they return Vaughn which is pretty much all that matters! From what I can see the Panthers won’t lose a soul along the offensive line except for Austin Carlton. Vaughn is the star here, but I think if Reitz could find a passing game they’ll be pretty dynamic and can get back to the days of Matt McIntosh. I don’t know if Johnston can be that guy, but he can at least give the running threat that McIntosh was able to give Reitz. Should be very interesting for the Panthers this year as they try and rebound from a disastrous 7-4 season, which is only disastrous by Reitz standards.

Defense: Reitz allowed 25.7ppg last season in conference play which ranked 4th in the SIAC. That was up 10+ points from the 15.1ppg they allowed in 2010. The good news is that Reitz will have LB Mason Schnarr returning. 6’0/200lbs senior to be led the team in tackles last season with 96 tackles and also tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 6. The bad news is that the Panthers take some GIGANTIC hits with players graduating! DE Maurice McCrae is a huge loss as he led the team in sacks with 13 and tackles for loss with 19! McCrae was undersized at 5’8/220lbs, but his productivity earned in a 1st Team All State honor! Other huge losses for Reitz include LB Kameron Harris, DB Adam Ricketts, LB Aaron King, DB Zentravian Stewart, LB Travis Boyle, and DE Tyler Newhouse. Reitz loses 7 of their top-8 tacklers from 2011! That’s a huge deficit to overcome even if you play in the Reitz Bowl! The Panthers lose their top-3 sack guys! Guys like Brishaun Horne & Ashton Carter are really going to have to step up their games in order to fill the void that is left by all the departing seniors. Yes Schnarr comes back to provide some leadership, but you can’t replace all that Reitz lost overnight. The Panthers have a massive hill to climb in 2012!

2012 Outlook: KeAndre Vaughn is the best player in the SIAC and he’ll once again run wild on league foes, but Reitz has serious issues defensively which is where I think the key will be for Reitz. SIAC teams didn’t really have problems scoring points in 2011 and losing almost your entire defense isn’t the best solution to stopping prolific offenses. Tht is precisely what Reitz is going to try and do. The other problem for me is the QB position. It looks like Johnston is going to finally get his shot, but he’s listed at 5’8 which means he’s probably more like 5’7 and I don’t think you can make the Matt McIntosh comparisons as McIntosh was a splendid runner who was also 6’2/200lbs and is now playing D1 football for Northern Illinois. Johnston isn’t going to be playing football at the next level. Period! The only way Reitz is going to win a lot of football games is if they dominate from start to finish with KeAndre Vaughn running the clock down and controlling time of possession. If Reitz has trouble with this, then it’ll be another bad season for the Panthers coming up

2012 SIAC PREDICTED STANDINGS!

1. Castle
2. Evansville Memorial
3. Evansville Reitz
4. Evansville Central
5. Evansville North
6. Evansville Mater Dei
7. Evansville Bosse
8. Evansville Harrison

I think teams are chasing Castle at this point. The Knights basically have the same team back that went 11-1 and 7-0 within the SIAC. I don’t see any reason to think they won’t dominate the conference yet again in 2012………….I’m getting on the McKinley Warren bandwagon at Memorial. Memorial is in a fairly unique position. With Dane Hurley being injured for most of the season, they get pretty lucky in getting their starting QB back for his senior season. Memorial also returns a ton of starters on defense and given that a lot of teams are down in the SIAC, this would be a perfect opportunity for Memorial to turn in a 7-1/6-2 conference record and be Castle’s stiffest competition for a 2nd consecutive SIAC title…………………………….I’m putting Reitz in 3rd because of KeAndre Vaughn. Reitz takes on some gigantic losses on defense which is going to hurt them just a bit, but it’s possible that Reitz replaces the pieces and allows Vaughn to dictate how the game will be offensively. I”m not sold on Drew Johnston, but unlike some other SIAC teams, Reitz is bringing back a player with some experience at QB………………….Even though Central loses their QB in Jacob Hester, they return practically the entire team. I might be high on Central a bit more than I should be, but they were this close to being a 10-3 team a year ago and I love the fact that this team is so big & physical. I’d probably bump Central head of Reitz if Central wasn’t looking at a brand new QB but I’ll slot them in 4th…………………………I think North, Central & Reitz could land anywhere between 3rd & 5th but I’m going to put North 5th because I think they’ll utilize Max Mooney more than they should and they’ll have problems replacing some of their key defensive players from 2011……………………………Mater Dei at #6 is almost heresy but the losses on both sides of the ball are enormous! Mater Dei will struggle in conference play and then put on a good show when it’s playoff time. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Wildcats outperformed this projection, but I’ll be conservative due to their losses…………………………………….Carrington Crutcher is a star, but losing Jalen Pendleton is going to be too difficult to overcome. Add Pendleton’s loss to the losses on defense and Bosse will once again have a hard time climbing out of 7th place in the SIAC. Bosse would be extremely interesting had Pendleton been a senior in 2012 than in 2011……………………….Harrison should once again be flat out terrible. Losing Jamey Malvern doesn’t help even if he didn’t play a ton in 2011. Harrison has significant size & depth issues heading into 2012. They have a few good players, but not nearly enough to compete with the other SIAC teams. If Harrison can grab 3 wins, it’ll be another improvement.

The season begins August 17th!!!! Let the football season begin!

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July 29, 2012 - Posted by | SIAC

3 Comments »

  1. Reitz = Next Man Up! The West Side will rise again!

    Comment by Vanilla | August 2, 2012 | Reply

  2. Killebrew is 5’10 165lbs. your information in inaccurate! He was forced to play qb when the starting one quit!

    Comment by Bro | August 3, 2012 | Reply

  3. Sorry Bro. Killebrew isn’t 5’10. I’ll give you the 165lbs and I’ll give you that he’s grown 2-3 inches this past year but not 5 inches. I was aware of Malvern quitting the team. It still doesn’t change the fact that Harrison is terrible and last year had a 5’5 kid playing QB. There was a reason they went 2-9. Remember, I also said Killebrew was a great player. Harrison is simply going through a rough patch. What they have 35 kids in the entire program and they are a 4A school? That’s nuts. The Warriors have an incredible history and it’s too bad they’ve fallen on hard times.

    Also keep in mind that I’m working off a lot of second hand information and reports from the Courier Press. We don’t get a lot of info on the SIAC here in Indianapolis (if any!) and the Courier-Press is a sad excuse for a newspaper! Very difficult to get accurate information.Thanks for commenting! I hope you come back as I look at the SIAC all season long.

    Comment by nosleeptillfootball2011 | August 4, 2012 | Reply


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