Friday night will be a very special evening for the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference and its members Lawrenceburg and East Central.
The two teams have made it to the Final Four round of the Indiana football playoffs. It's rare for two EIAC teams to make it this deep into the postseason and it proves that the conference is strong and a force to be reckoned with.
BROWNSTOWN CENTRAL (12-1) at LAWRENCEBURG TIGERS (12-1)
Class 3A Semi-State Final
Friday, 7 p.m., Dick Meador Stadium, Neary Field
It’s a real intrastate “Route 50 Rumble” as Brownstown Central heads east up the famous road about 75 miles to take on Lawrenceburg for the right to represent their school and community in the Class 3A state title game. Both teams are pleasant surprises and deserving of being in this spot.
Both can also light up the scoreboard. Brownstown Central has scored 50 points or more on seven occasions, including five during the Rebels' current seven-game winning streak. Lawrenceburg has put up 42 points or more eight times. The Tigers have posted 61 points-plus three times during their current eight-game winning streak.
As good as Brownstown Central has been under head coach Reed May (240-47 in his 24th year), they have never won a Semi-State game. Their victory against Evansville Memorial was just the third regional title in the program's history and first since 2008
The Braves run the misdirection of the Wing-T offense about as well as anyone in Indiana. Last week they ran the ball on 57 of their 61 plays. They will control the clock with long drives. Brownstown Central’s ability to come out on top of the time of possession war has worn down many a foe this season. Lawrenceburg can negate that by getting out to a two-score lead. But that would be easier said than done.
Senior running back Gavin Bane flourishes in the Wing-T. He is also the team’s leading receiver and has well over 2,000 all-purpose yards. Bane is a threat to score every time he touches the ball with 27 touchdowns on the year. He became the school’s all-time points leader (430) last week. Quarterback Kyle Kramer is still a passing threat with more than 1,000 yards through the air.
Lawrenceburg is regional champion for the first time in 31 years. The Tigers won their only Semi-State title in 1985.
Running back Austin Bowling has scored four touchdowns or more in seven straight games. He has 49 touchdowns and 2,812 yards on the ground for the season.
Tigers quarterback Reid Strobl and receivers Ben Murphy and Jordan Houze have to establish that they are a legitimate threat through the air early in the contest. That will keep the Brownstown Central defense from keying on Bowling.
Prediction: Lawrenceburg 38, Brownstown Central 34
RONCALLI REBELS (13-0) at EAST CENTRAL TROJANS (11-2)
Class 4A Semi-State Final
Friday, 7:30 p.m., Trojan Field
A script for 2016 playoff football could not have been written any better than this. Roncalli and East Central faced off in last season’s Class 4A Semi-State game. This rematch pits two squads with different motivations guiding them.
The two teams are very familiar with each other. Roncalli beat the Trojans at home, 31-10 in last year’s regular season finale. Five weeks later a healthy East Central clan returned the favor on their turf, beating the Rebels, 21-0 in the Semi-State contest to advance to the state championship game.
An unblemished record and the opportunity to avenge last year’s loss to the Trojans is keeping Roncalli focused. East Central would love nothing more than to ruin the Rebels' quest for perfection and make the statement that they are still the too 4A team in the southern half of the Hoosier state.
Roncalli is looking for its 12th Semi-State title and first since 2005. The Rebels have won eight state titles but none since 2004, which was the last of three in a row for the school.
This is a senior-laden Roncalli group. Running back Kenny Gillum and quarterback Derek O’Connor pace the offense. The Rebels find strength in their play up front on both sides of the line. The defense has held six foes to seven points or less and another three to just 14 points. Attacking East Central in the trenches is a battle that Roncalli must win. The Rebels could exploit a Trojans weaknesses by using their size and that would allow Gillum to assert his will on offense.
East Central is shooting for back-to-back Semi-State titles. The Trojans have won three Semi-State crowns in program history. The only state title for East Central was in 1994.
The Trojans won on a last second “Hail Mary” pass of 38 yards from Austin Maxwell to tight end Justin Drees on Saturday night at Evansville Reitz. East Central must avoid the hangover of the euphoria of that win.
Maxwell’s performance against Reitz was a coming-out party for the sophomore as he ran for four touchdowns and tossed the game winner. He has amassed 1,970 yards of total offense (1,136 rushing, 834 passing) and accounted for 25 touchdowns (15 rushing, 10 passing). Junior running back Logan Storie has run for 1,783 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also has two scores on seven receptions for 153 yards. Senior Garren Messmore has played just eight games but has 468 yards rushing, 243 yards receiving, and nine touchdowns (five rushing, four receiving).
Pressure and push by the East Central defensive front seven has played a large role in helping the team force 35 turnovers. That group includes seniors Clint Mirus and Kaleb Krummen and five juniors. Krummen leads the teams with 11 tackles for loss and solo tackles with 50.
Prediction: East Central 24, Roncalli 21