By BRYAN GASKINS Kokomo Tribune
---- — Kokomo’s football team will visit New Castle tonight for the last meeting between the teams, at least in the foreseeable future. New Castle has left the North Central Conference and will begin play in the Hoosier Heritage Conference in 2014.
Kokomo coach Brett Colby is not downplaying the story line.
”That’s the first comment on my scouting report. ‘This is the last time we’re going to play with these guys so make it one to remember for yourself and for your school,’” he said. “I know we’ve won a lot of games in a row [against New Castle]. That doesn’t mean anything to these two teams playing [tonight], but you don’t want to go down there and stub your toe and come back with a loss.”
Kokomo owns a remarkable 33-game winning streak in the squads’ all-time series. Colby is 6-0 against the Trojans, with the Kats winning those games by an average score of 52-9.
The Wildkats opened the season 0-3 before beating Huntington North 14-7 last week.
”We needed something to go right for us here because it’s been about a month and a half without a lot of positives to draw from,” Colby said, referring to a rash of injuries and other bumps in the road. “It was a good thing to happen to us last Friday. Finally we got a game where we just went out and played football and took care of things.”
Bo Baker sparked the Kats’ offense last week, gaining 197 yards and a TD on 35 carries. The strong ground showing helped Kokomo finish with a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession (32:01 to 15:59).
”We got better, but we need to continue to get better,” Colby said. “We need to finish drives, especially when we get the ball down to the red zone. We need to not turn the ball over. We were better last week with only one. We have to win the turnover battle in games.”
Colby praised his defense for its play last week. Linebacker Fletcher Miller leads the defense with 26 tackles on the season. Defensive back Keyon Washington follows with 21. End Jordan Holloman has 3 tackles for loss.
Muncie Central rocked New Castle 34-6 last week, sending the Trojans to 0-4. They are scoring just 10 points per game.
”They’ve had a tough season,” Colby said. “But we have one win — we’re not taking anything for granted around here, trust me.”
PERU (4-0, 2-0 MIC) AT CASS (1-3, 0-2 MIC)
At 4-0, Peru is putting 12 straight losing seasons in the rear-view mirror. Peru already has topped its win totals from those seasons.
“It’s something our kids haven’t experienced before,” third-year coach Bob Prescott said of the early success. “I think they’ve handled it really well. They’ve done everything that we’ve asked of them.”
The Bengal Tigers went 0-10 and 3-7 in Prescott’s first two seasons, paving the way for the 4-0 breakout. Prescott noted a deep roster is paying dividends.
“We’re starting 22 kids this year,” he said. “As our numbers have grown the last couple years, we felt it was important to find a way to get as many guys on the field as possible. The kids have bought into it. We feel good about things. Obviously, this is a huge test for us [tonight]. We have all the respect in the world for [Cass’] program.”
Peru’s 4-0 start has come against opponents with a combined 1-15 record. The road is considerably tougher the rest of the way, starting with the perennially tough Kings.
“We’re getting ready to go through the top five teams in the standings in our conference from last year so there’s no question it gets tougher,” Prescott said, noting the Kings’ aggressive defense and wing-T offense are big challenges this week.
Cass is just 1-3, but its opponents have a combined 12-4 record.
The Kings showed good fight in a 28-20 loss to defending MIC champion Hamilton Heights last week.
“I like to think we’re making progress. This will be a good test for us [tonight], though,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said.
The Tigers are averaging an area-best 48.8 points per game. Running backs Michael Richardson and Steven McBride rank 1-2 in the area in scoring and 2-3 in rushing.
“They’re 4-0 and they’re averaging close to 50 points per game. We’re not doing either of those things,” Mannering said. “Their two halfbacks have some just unbelievable stats for the first month of the season. I think their quarterback, [Nolan] Brimbury, runs the option very well and he throws the ball well, which makes it hard to defend. They’re getting good play out of their fullback and their offensive line as well. That’s one side. Defensively, they attack the ball. They’re just playing very good football right now.
“We have to play better defense. We have to play smarter and tougher, make some stops and get off the field more,” Mannering added. “Offensively, we have to drive the ball better. Hopefully it will be a good matchup. We’re hoping we’ve improved over the last seven days.”
Cass rolled to a 63-0 win when the teams met last year, improving to 15-0 on the field against Peru since the Tigers joined the MIC in 1998. The Kings had to forfeit their 1999 win for using an ineligible player for a few plays late in a 34-6 win.
MAC (2-2, 1-1 MIC) AT WESTERN (4-0, 2-0 MIC)
At 4-0, Western is off to its best start since the 2008 Panther squad opened 8-0.
At 2-2, Maconaquah is off to its best start since the 2006 Brave squad opened 3-1. Maconaquah, which is coming off a 47-0 victory over Eastern last week, is looking to post back-to-back wins for the first time since that 2006 season.
Western beat Maconaquah twice last year, 49-27 in league play and 28-7 in sectional action. Overall, the Panthers have won the last 10 meetings between the teams.
The Panthers have outscored their opponents 146-25 through four games. They rank No. 1 in the area in points allowed.
NW (3-1, 1-1 MIC) AT TAYLOR (0-4, 0-2 MIC)
Northwestern will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season when it visits Taylor tonight. The Tigers dropped a 30-14 decision to Western last week.
Taylor is looking for a spark after being outscored 99-0 over the first two weeks of conference play.
The squads met twice last year with the Tigers winning 54-13 in league play and 20-0 in sectional play. Overall, the Tigers have beaten the Titans seven straight times.
Taylor is mired in a 20-game losing streak.
EASTERN (1-3, 0-2 MIC) AT H. HEIGHTS (3-1, 2-0 MIC)
Eastern hits the road tonight for a matchup with defending conference champion Hamilton Heights. The Class 3A No. 6-ranked Huskies are off to a 2-0 start in league play, pushing their league winning streak to 10 games.
Heights is a perfect 13-0 against Eastern since joining the conference in 2000. The Huskies took a 46-3 win in last year’s meeting.
AROUND THE AREA
In the Hoosier Conference, Class 2A No. 7-ranked Tipton (3-1, 1-1) hosts Class 3A No. 4 West Lafayette (4-0, 2-0). WHMB-TV (ch. 40) will show the game on tape delay at 10:30 p.m.
In the Hoosier Heartland Conference, Clinton Central (0-4, 0-0) hosts Class A No. 10 Sheridan (2-2, 2-0).
And in non-conference games, Tri-Central (3-1) visits Monroe Central (3-1), and Carroll (1-3) hosts Caston (1-3).
TONIGHT'S GAMES Kickoffs at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted • Kokomo at New Castle • Maconaquah at Western • Northwestern at Taylor • Eastern at Hamilton Heights • Peru at Cass • Caston at Carroll • 7:30 -- W. Lafayette at Tipton • 7:30 -- Tri-Central at Monroe Central • 7:30 -- Sheridan at Clinton Central