One year ago Fort Campbell was looking across Fryar Stadium at South Warren, a program simply excited to make a playoff appearance in its inaugural season.
Fort Campbell proceeded to win the 3A playoff opener 40-0.
One year later, Fort Campbell and South Warren will again be standing across the field from each other, only this time it’s in the playoff’s second round and South Warren isn’t expected to be the pushover it was last November.
South Warren (8-3), coming off a 16-7 win over Trigg County last Friday in the 3A playoff opener, will play Fort Campbell (9-2) Friday at 7 p.m. at Fryar Stadium.
Fort Campbell, which is scoring at a racehorse’s pace, is coming off a 57-8 win over Hart County in its playoff opener last Friday. The Falcons have scored 57 or more points in four straight games, but will face a Spartans defense that’s allowing only 11 points a game and has three shutouts this season.
“They have the entire team back from last year, they’ve had an offseason together and they’ve had a good football season together,” said Fort Campbell coach Shawn Berner, who has a 25-7 playoff record in his 11 seasons as the Falcons head coach. “We have looked at a lot of film and they are strong and aggressive on defense and do a lot of different things on offense. They can really hurt you. They’ve got a good scheme to go with it, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
South Warren is led by quarterback Jay Eblen, who has thrown for 1,1137 yards and 12 touchdowns and run for 585 yards and another 11 touchdowns. The Spartans average 29.9 points a game and 309 total yards per game.
The Spartans defense is allowing only 154 yards per game and has given up only two touchdowns in the past eight quarters.
But South Warren’s defense will be tested by the speed and depth of Fort Campbell’s offense. Falcons running back Triston Luke has 1,938 rushing yards and a school record 30 rushing touchdowns.
He can become the first running back in the Falcons’ 51 year history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.
Luke is the Falcons’ featured back, but he’s not the only offensive threat. Isaiah Washington has run for 503 yards and six touchdowns, and running back Christian Berry scored five touchdowns last week against Hart County.
“Christian Berry is another real explosive player,” Berner said. “He’s a hard worker and has a lot of ability and is one of those sophomore guys we have in our system. He’s an another threat and we are fortunate to spread the ball around and use multiple guys in our offense.”
Quarterback Jonathan Jethroe, who took over the offense four weeks ago after Jaylen Williams was lost for the year with an injury, has thrown for 481 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
Berner said it’s always difficult to face the same team in consecutive years in the playoffs, but having a game at home is an obvious edge.
“The advantage is you know what to expect in some situations as far as base schemes on defense and base offensive schemes,” Berner said. “Those are big advantages, but it’s always hard to beat a team twice. You have to play really well.
“Anytime you can play at home it is always an advantage, especially in the playoffs. We are excited to have another home game and we look forward to it.”