Sectional pairings for the 44th IHSAA state football tournament were announced a week earlier this season, giving local programs a look at first-round postseason matchups three weeks in advance.
Sectional play for Class 1A-4A schools will begin Oct. 21 and continue Oct. 28 before concluding Nov. 4. Class 5A and 6A sectionals commence Oct. 28 and conclude Nov. 4. Here’s a breakdown of sectional paths for area teams:
Class 6A: Sectional 8
The first round of sectional play will be no walk in the park for both New Albany and Jeffersonville. The Bulldogs (5-4) will host Columbus North (8-1), while the Red Devils (4-5) travel to Center Grove (8-1), the 2015 6A state champion, on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.
Jeffersonville topped New Albany in last year’s postseason opener and went on to drop a 56-6 decision at Center Grove in the final. The Trojans beat Columbus North 34-7 in the first round.
North handled Columbus East earlier this season 30-13. East routed New Albany 56-15 at Buerk Field in Week 5.
READ MORE: Full Class 6A sectional pairings
Coach Sean Coultis said the Bulldogs scrimmaged North on the road in the preseason, so they know just what to expect.
“We’ve seen, firsthand, how good they are. … It is what it is. They’re not going to feel sorry for us, and we’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves,” Coultis said. “We’re going to give them our best shot. They’re a great program. You look forward to playing those teams and seeing what you can do.”
Class 5A: Sectional 16
Sectional 16 features a first-round matchup on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. between Floyd Central and Bedford North Lawrence — a rematch of the Highlanders’ Week 7 win at BNL. Floyd Central hosted last year’s sectional opener, as the Stars tallied a 17-0 shutout to move on to the final, a 49-13 loss to Castle.
The winner between the Highlanders (6-3) and Stars (4-5) moves on to a sectional championship matchup against either Castle (6-3), the defending winner, or Evansville North (3-6).
Floyd Central’s Brian Glesing said the Highlanders are well aware of what they’re in for come time for postseason play.
READ MORE: Full Class 5A pairings
“Bedford is a very familiar opponent,” Glesing said. “It’s not like it’s a new opponent where we’ve got to do a lot of different schemes. We’ve very familiar with them, plus we’ve got an extra bye week in there to prepare as well.”
Columbus East (8-1) travels to New Palestine (9-0), the state runner-up from last season, in its opener on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in one of two 5A matchups on that date.
Class 4A: Sectional 23
Silver Creek at Seymour highlights the 4A Sectional 23 first-round schedule from a local perspective. The Dragons (5-4) and Owls met in Week 1, as John Dablow’s Silver Creek team beat Seymour 29-13.
Both teams squared off in last year’s sectional semifinals, too, in a 40-21 win for Seymour over Silver Creek. The clubs have matched up four times in the past two seasons.
READ MORE: Complete Class 4A sectional pairings
“I don’t necessarily like playing a team twice in the same season,” Dablow said. “I think we’re two evenly matched teams. … We think, draw-wise, it’s about as good as we could get. We’re excited to go play them.”
Madison (2-7) travels to Jennings County (0-9) in the other area Class 4A matchup. The winners of both games will meet to determine a winner from the bottom half of the Sectional 23 bracket.
Class 3A: Sectional 31
North Harrison (7-2) also gets a shot at revenge in its sectional opener at 8-1 Charlestown Friday at 7 p.m. The Pirates routed the visiting Cougars 48-14 in Week 4 this season and have been on a tear ever since, winning seven straight games in all.
There’s a chance the Pirates could meet defending sectional champion and rival Brownstown (8-1) in the final, but it’s not a safe bet. The Braves edged the Pirates 52-48 this season in a thriller.
The winner of Charlestown and North Harrison, though, moves on to a meeting with Southridge (8-1) or Heritage Hills (7-2). The Braves welcome Brown County (1-7) in their opener and meet the winner of Salem (5-4) at Corydon (3-6) in the semifinals on Oct. 28.
READ MORE: Complete Class 3A pairings
The Pirates beat Heritage Hills in their first-round game last year but fell to Brownstown in the semifinals 44-19. North Harrison came up short against Southridge in its 2015 opener. The Raiders went on to top Corydon before the Braves won the sectional final.
Class 2A: Sectional 40
Red-hot Providence will take on host Clarksville in the first round of 2A sectional play on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. The Pioneers (5-4) and Generals (0-9) met in Week 9, as well, with Providence winning 61-6.
READ MORE: Class 2A pairings
The winner between Providence and Clarksville will move on to host the winner between North Posey (5-4) and Evansville Mater Dei (5-4), last year’s champ. In the top half of the Sectional 40 bracket, Crawford County (0-9) travels to Eastern (2-7).
Class 1A: Sectional 46
Unbeaten West Washington will host Oldenburg County (0-9) in its sectional opener on Oct. 21. The Senators, with a win, will move on to a road meeting with either North Decatur (5-4) or Edinburgh (3-6) the following weekend.
A win in the semifinals means a shot at back-to-back sectional titles for the Senators. West Washington completed another undefeated regular season and its second consecutive Patoka Lake Conference title this year.
READ MORE: Complete Class 1A pairings
Eastern Greene (7-2) is likely to come out of the top bracket and challenge the Senators. West Washington won last year’s matchup with Eastern Greene in the sectional semifinals 34-21.