In 2005 and again in ’06, Mid-Indiana Conference rivals Cass and Western came into their annual Week 9 showdown with undefeated league records. Each time, the Kings won the game — and the league championship.

Cass and Western will renew acquaintances tonight at Russiaville and while Hamilton Heights has likely put the MIC championship out of their reach, the game still carries a lot of weight in terms of pride and momentum for the state tournament.

“It’s still a huge game,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said. “I think it’s going to be a tremendous game between two pretty decent football teams. We have a lot of respect for Western. We’re looking forward to a great game. It should be, for us at least, the type of opponent we really need to face right now.”

Cass and Western own identical 6-2 overall and 5-1 MIC records. The Kings have won the last four meetings between the teams including 20-14 last season. The Panthers are hungry to break through against their rivals.

“I’ve been talking all week about the pride factor,” third-year Western coach Alix Engle said. “Right now, this game doesn’t mean anything for our conference [championship] or for our tournament play. But there is still the pride factor. We’ve lost our conference the last two seasons to great Lewis Cass teams. Now, we feel like it’s as much our time as theirs to pull out a win in Week 9.”

The Kings came into the season with just four returning starters. They split their first four games, but have won their last four games. They are scoring 30 points per game and allowing just 10.

“Those kids know nothing else but [winning football],” Engle said. “Their two losses this season were to darn good teams in West Lafayette and Hamilton Heights. I don’t think you can take anything away from this group at Lewis Cass. The record might not be the same, but I’d say as far the effort and the heart, it’s the same as in seasons past. We’re going to have to step up to the plate.”

The Panthers had a six-game winning streak snapped last week. They are scoring 36 ppg and allowing 11.

“Defensively, I think this is probably the best team they’ve had in the past couple years, especially on the line of scrimmage,” Mannering said. “I think their down linemen are a lot better than what they’ve had. Speed-wise, they have always been really solid in the secondary.

“Offensively, they made the big change [in Week 4] by moving [Bart] Shepherd in at quarterback. That probably made them a better team because he does a really nice job running the option. [Mikel] Hartman is able to play other positions, which also helped their offense. He is a big, strong kid.”

Western holds a 23-18 lead in the all-time series, but Cass has won seven of the last nine meetings.

Kokomo (7-1, 6-0 NCC) at Marion (2-6, 2-4 NCC)

Now’s the time for Kokomo to get a little greedy.

Last Friday night, the Wildkats clinched a share of the North Central Conference championship with a stirring 36-29 victory over Logansport.

Tonight the Class 5A, No. 10-ranked Kats can seal the deal. With a win over longtime rival Marion, the Kats will have run the table — a spotless 7-0 record in league play.

Since NCC football began in the fall of 1932, Kokomo had captured 12 league championships (six shared and six outright) coming into this season. This team has the opportunity to become just the school’s fifth squad to win the outright title with a perfect record.

“We don’t want to share,” Wildkat coach Brett Colby said. “We’ve beaten the second- and third-place finishers and while we don’t want to take anything away from Marion, we do want to win this game and have the championship all to ourselves.”

Colby expects a struggle with a team that year-in, year-out is Kokomo’s top football rival. In a very competitive series that dates back 82 years, the Kats hold a 40-36-6 edge.

“I remember before the season asking the players who they most wanted to beat — who their big rivalry was with — and the answer was Marion,” Colby said. “I think we’ll be ready. The kids know what they have at stake.”

Marion’s wins have come over Muncie Central (21-0) and Richmond (20-14), but the Giants, under first year coach Zach Shay, have lost three straight to Logansport (37-14), Huntington North (46-14) and Anderson (22-0).

“[Marion] has some good athletes,” Colby said. “I think with a new coach it has just taken them a while to get it going. They have some [offensive] formations we’ll need to be aware of. I’m sure they’ll want to try to run the football first, but they have begun to throw the ball more in recent games.”

The Giants’ Sam Trahan is the NCC’s No. 2 rusher at 107 yards per game. He averages 5.1 yards per carry and has scored eight touchdowns, all on the ground.

“He’s a slashing kind of runner with a lot of quickness, but he’s not afraid to put his nose in there and get five or six yards,” Colby said.

Colby said his team had responded well in practice this week after winning the program’s biggest game in a decade. Last week he was especially pleased with his offensive line — Devin Schacht, Kirby Pavey, Craig Ryan, Shane Reed, Jerell Johnson, Doran Slater and Julian Bellamy. That line helped produce 220 rushing yards against a Logansport defense that ranked No. 1 in the NCC, yielding just 97 yards per game.

Defensively last week, Alston Andrews had 18 tackles, which missed by one of tying the school’s single game record. Blair Patchett holds the mark of 19 set in 1998, also against Logansport.

Eastern (0-8, 0-6 MIC) at Northwestern (4-4, 3-3 MIC)

Northwestern picked apart Peru 45-6 last week to even its overall and league records. Quarterback Camron Cossell threw six touchdown passes to highlight the Purple Tigers’ dominant showing.

“That was the best we’ve played,” Northwestern coach John Hendryx said. “I thought we played really well on the offensive and defensive sides and our special teams play was really good too. I think we figured some things out as far as playing with a lot of passion and heart. If we continue that, and if we execute well and don’t turn the ball over, then we can get some things done.”

Eastern, meanwhile, is mired in a 19-game losing streak. The Greentown gang showed some progress early in the season, but a three-game stretch against league heavyweights Hamilton Heights, Cass and Western took its toll physically.

“We tried to get things put back together for last week [against Taylor], but we were out of sync and we had lost our focus. We ended up taking a couple steps backward,” Eastern coach Josh Edwards said. “We really had to do a self-check this week to see where we’re at as a team, and we’ve had a good week. The JV played well on Monday and the kids have practiced well.

“We feel we’re at a point where we can get our heads back on straight and do some good things [tonight] — not necessarily win the game, but come out and prove that we are improving.”

Eastern holds a 25-20 lead in the all-time series.

Hendryx and Edwards are in their first seasons at their respective schools, but they know each other well from their days in the Hoosier Heartland Conference. Hendryx-led Carroll teams went 6-0 against Edwards-coached Tri-Central teams from 1999-2004.

“John is an awesome guy. He handles things the right way and I know his teams are well-coached fundamentally and strategically,” Edwards said. “[The Tigers] are a good team. They are loaded with seniors and they have talent all the way around. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us. I think it’s a game where we’re not overmatched physically up front as we are in other games. Still, it’s a huge challenge.”

Hendryx is looking forward to coaching against Edwards again too.

“When Josh was a Tri-Central, I was always impressed with the way his kids played hard and followed his plan,” Hendryx said, noting Edwards’ new team is showing the same traits. “I know [the Comets] have struggled this season, but they have a lot of weapons and they do some things differently defensively.”

Taylor (4-4, 2-4 MIC) at Maconaquah (1-7, 1-5 MIC)

Taylor beat Eastern 41-6 last week to snap a three-game losing streak. The Titans will look to build on their momentum tonight when they visit the Braves.

“We need to continue to play well, like we did last Friday night,” Taylor coach Josh Ousley said. “We need to come out and have the same kind of effort offensively and defensively. It had been a while since we played that well on both sides of the ball and it was nice to see our effort turned up a few notches. I’m not saying the effort wasn’t there the previous weeks, but there was a lot of focus last week and the kids were really into what we were doing. It paid off.”

Maconaquah has beaten Taylor five straight times, including 33-27 last season, but the Titans appear in good position to turn the tables tonight. The Braves are mired in a four-game losing streak during which they have been outscored 202-27.

“We’ve had conversations with our kids about taking care of this one first and not looking past Maconaquah because they play hard and they’re going to get after us,” Ousley said. “We’re going to have play well to win. We’re going to have to do a lot of the same things we did [last Friday] — be physical up front, control the line of scrimmage and really get after them.”

Maconaquah owns a 23-8 advantage in the all-time series.

Around the area

In the MIC, Hamilton Heights (6-2, 6-0) will look to wrap up the outright league championship when it visits Peru (2-6, 2-4). Heights is 7-0 against Peru since joining the MIC in 2000.

In the Hoosier Conference, Class 2A No. 9-ranked Tipton (6-2, 3-2) will hit the road for a game against Delphi (2-6, 0-5). The Blue Devils have won the last six meetings between the teams.

And in non-conference games, Tri-Central (0-8) hosts Knightstown (4-4), Clinton Central (5-3) travels to Eastern Hancock (1-7) and Carroll (3-5) plays at North White (1-7).



Week 9 schedule:

7 p.m. kickoffs


Kokomo at Marion

Cass at Western

Eastern at Northwestern

Taylor at Maconaquah

Hamilton Heights at Peru

Knightstown at Tri-Central

Clinton Central at E. Hancock

7:30 p.m. kickoff

Tipton at Delphi

Carroll at North White

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