ST. LEON, Ind. – Don Stonefield couldn’t think of a better way to start the school year.
The East Central Athletic Director and Interim Head Football Coach will lead the defending Class 4A state champion Trojans onto their new field turf Friday night against visiting Lawrenceburg in the 21st annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.
“It energizes you for the first game,” Stonefield said of playing in the Showdown.
Lawrenceburg (11-2 in 2017) plays at East Central (12-3) in a renewal of that Southeastern Indiana rivalry at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Prior to this summer, East Central had grass surface for many years.
Meanwhile, Covington Catholic (15-0), the reigning Class 5A state champion in Kentucky, plays at Ryle (8-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. CovCath has not lost in the regular season since Oct. 28, 2016.
CovCath returns several talented players including junior tight end/linebacker Michael Mayer (6-foot-5, 240 pounds), who is verbally committed to Notre Dame. Senior wide receiver/linebacker Jack Coldiron (6-5, 215) is a Miami University commit.
Senior running back/defensive back Casey McGinness and senior offensive linemen Carter Black (6-3, 300) and Grant Hemmer (6-2, 205) along with senior linebacker Jacob Shriver and senior strong safety Andrew Shelton are others to watch.
McGinness is on pace to become CovCath’s all-time rusher. He rushed for 1,418 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior.
Ryle has a 20-4 record the past two seasons. Ryle returns several talented players including senior kicker Mason Molique and junior running back Kyle England for coach Mike Engler.
Other players to watch include quarterback Jake Smith, linebacker Jackson Saladin, strong safety/running back Elijah Cusick, offensive lineman Jake Gideon, wide receiver Brandon Soden, tight end Stefan Clarkson, wide receiver Max Inabnit, free safety Dylan Green and cornerback Caden Mogge.
A new and expanded format of the Showdown includes 44 schools playing in marquee games every Friday night all season from Aug. 17 through Oct. 26. Previously, there were 20-plus games in the first two to three weeks of the season.
The Ohio season starts Aug. 22 when Withrow plays Woodward at 7 p.m. at Stargel Stadium in the Showdown. Purcell Marian also plays Summit Country Day at 7 p.m. at Walnut Hills in a game that is not part of the Showdown.
The focus this week is on Friday night. This is the second straight season the two Southeastern Indiana rivals will play in the Showdown.
East Central defeated host Lawrenceburg 15-14 in the 2017 season opener. The schools have a four-year deal in place through 2020 with the game returning to Lawrenceburg in 2019.
“We are excited about the opportunity to play East Central in the Skyline Showdown for the second year in a row,” Lawrenceburg coach Ryan Knigga said. “It is a known secret, EC will be very good. It is a good opener for us. We let one get away last year here in the Pit. This game will be a great challenge for this team.”
East Central has several talented players including senior quarterback Alex Maxwell, a three-year starter, who missed several games in the middle of last season with an injury. His talent and experience is an asset to the Trojans.
The Trojans will be led in the backfield by senior running back Eric Rosemeyer and sophomore running back Jake Fike.
The receiving corps was a pleasant surprise this summer with the likes of junior Andrew Ober, junior Mac Studer, a high jumper, junior Trevor Booker and senior slot receiver Liam Jones. East Central also has sophomore Luke Collinsworth, a 6-6, 280-pound lineman who can play tight end with his ability to catch and good footwork.
The defense is led by several players including junior defensive lineman Gage Ertel and his brother, senior Gaar Ertel, along with senior linebacker Brett Fox.
Lawrenceburg returns several talented players including sophomore running back/defensive Adam Burd, junior wide receivers/defensive backs Gavin Yoon and Seth Lampert, senior wide receiver/defensive back Jalen Parks and senior wide receiver/linebacker Brody Denison.
“We are restructuring a few things here this year and EC is coming off a state run and returning some special players,” Knigga said. “We accept the challenge and our kids will be prepared. It's Game 1 of 10, so win or lose, you learn more about your team and work to improve each week. We will put all our chips on the table and see what happens.”