Eastern’s football team hosts Sheridan tonight in the Hoosier Heartland Conference’s biggest game of the season. The winner will clinch at least a share of the league title.
The Class 2A No. 10-ranked Comets (7-0 overall) and the Blackhawks (5-2) are both 5-0 in HHC play with tonight and next week remaining.
Sheridan is the two-time defending HHC champion. Eastern is shooting for its first conference championship since winning a share of the 1984 Three Rivers Conference title. The Comets played for a share of the 2011 Mid-Indiana Conference title, falling to Northwestern 34-28 in the final week.
“The kids are excited, but not overly excited. We’ve taken the approach that Week 8 is no different than Week 1,” Eastern coach Josh Edwards said. “But obviously this is a big game in the conference and there’s a lot of excitement in the school and community. There should be a great atmosphere [tonight] with tailgating and the game.”
Eastern and Sheridan met it a nearly identical situation last year. In that one, the Blackhawks beat the Comets 16-7 at Sheridan to take the title.
Edwards thinks that experience benefited his players.
“I think we came out and played tight. We didn’t make mistakes such as turnovers, but we didn’t execute,” Edwards said, noting the big-game situation was new to his players. “We have most of those kids back and I think they’ll handle it better [tonight].”
The Comets score 36 points per game and hold opponents to 8.4 ppg. They rank No. 14 in the state regardless of class in defensive scoring average. The Blackhawks score 34.6 ppg, but uncharacteristically allow 30.1 ppg. Five different opponents have scored 29 or more points on the Blackhawks.
Sheridan’s offense, like always, relies on the ground game. Cameron Hovey is the primary running back. He has run for 1,225 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Edwards pointed to keeping Sheridan’s offense off the field as a key. He said the Blackhawks are capable of dominating time of possession with long drives.
Offensively, Edwards said the Comets need to finish their own drives with points, whether it’s touchdowns or field goals. He likes how the Comets have produced to this point with a sturdy running game and timely passing game.
The final week of the season has Eastern at Clinton Prairie (3-2 HHC) and Sheridan vs. Carroll (3-2).
If the Comets win tonight, they’ll go to 8-0 for the first time since the 1974 Comets had a 10-0 season.
KOKOMO AT HARRISON
The Wildkats hit the road for a North Central Conference matchup against the Class 5A No. 10-ranked Raiders.
Kokomo (2-5 overall, 2-3 NCC) has a little momentum after beating Muncie Central and Logansport the last two weeks. The Kats scored 64 points over those two games after scoring just 62 points over their first five games.
Kohl Beard and Plez Lawrence have provided offensive sparks — Beard working as the quarterback in wildcat formations and Lawrence rushing for 236 yards over the two wins.
Harrison (5-2, 4-1) features a balanced offensive attack. Quarterback Tyler Knoy has 15 touchdown passes (against just two interceptions) and running backs Omarion Dixon and Marcel Atisso have combined for 15 rushing TDs. The Raiders average 34.4 ppg and hold opponents to 17 ppg.
The Raiders are the latest top-10 team on the Kats’ schedule. During the Kats’ 0-5 start, they played four teams that are currently ranked — Class 5A No. 1 New Palestine, Class 4A No. 5 Plymouth, Class 4A No. 4 Marion and Class 6A No. 2 Lafayette Jeff.
The Raiders’ losses have come against a pair of Class 6A schools, Westfield and Jeff.
TIPTON AT WESTERN
The final week of Hoosier Conference East Division games includes Tipton (5-2, 2-1) at Western (5-2, 2-1). The winner will take second place in the division and earn a spot against Lafayette Central in the conference’s third-place game next week. The loser will settle for third place in the division and will play in the fifth-place game.
Tipton is 4-0 against Western since the latter joined the HC in 2015. Last year, the Blue Devils edged the Panthers 24-21 in a clash for the division title.
Overall, the Blue Devils own a 10-4 edge in the teams’ all-time series thanks to nine straight wins. That streak started with sectional victories over undefeated Western teams in 1985 and ‘88.
TAYLOR AT TRI-CENTRAL
Indiana Football Hall of Fame coach George Gilbert returns to Tri-Central tonight as Gilbert’s Titans visit the Trojans for an HHC game.
Gilbert was TC’s coach in 2009-17 during which time he led the Trojans to a 61-40 record and the 2013 Class A state championship. He also led the Trojans to two HHC titles.
Gilbert is in his first season at Taylor. Like TC when Gilbert arrived, Taylor is not a quick fix. The Titans enter tonight’s game 1-6 overall and 0-5 in the HHC.
Tri-Central (2-5, 0-5) is looking to snap a five-game losing streak.
AROUND THE AREA
In the HC East Division, Class 2A No. 3 Cass (6-1, 3-0) visits Hamilton Heights (2-5, 1-2). Cass already has clinched the top spot in the division and a spot in the conference’s championship game next week. The Kings will face Class 3A No. 1 West Lafayette for the title. The Red Devils beat the Kings 58-21 in a non-division game last week.
In a non-conference game between HC teams, Northwestern (0-7) hosts Rensselaer (5-2). The Bombers opened the season 4-0 before back-to-back losses to West Lafayette and Lafayette Central Catholic.
In the Three Rivers Conference, Maconaquah (5-2, 5-1) visits Wabash (3-4, 2-4). The Braves have won five in a row. They are tied for second in the conference. Also in the TRC, Peru (3-4, 2-4) visits North Miami (3-4, 2-4). Peru and North Miami are part of a four-way tie for sixth place in the 10-team league.
In the HHC, Carroll (5-2, 3-2) visits Clinton Prairie (4-3, 3-2). Carroll, Prairie and Delphi are tied for third in the eight-team league behind co-leaders Eastern and Sheridan.