The sign of pressure on a passing quarterback is a dirty jersey, and Corydon’s Chase Burton had muddy Charlestown paw prints all over his following the regular-season showdown with the Pirates.
Burton, who spent much of the night dodging defenders and climbing off the muddy turf of his home field, was sacked eight times during the 47-0 loss on Sept. 28. He will get a shot at vengeance tonight when his No. 16 Panthers (8-2) visit No. 2 Charlestown (10-0) in the Class 3-A Sectional 23 semifinal.
Burton’s safety was only half of Corydon’s problems that night. Charlestown quarterback Aaron Daniel ran for 275 yards and four touchdowns, and running back Seth McCutchen added 156 yards as the Pirates punished both Corydon front lines.
As dominant as Charlestown has been this season, that was arguably its best performance. The Pirates ignored the sloppy field conditions and executed their spread offense flawlessly, and their defense shut out an opponent that had been averaging 46.2 points per game.
Not much has changed since. Charlestown, despite playing half its games with a running clock in the second half, leads the state in scoring at 60.9 points per game. The defense has not gotten the headlines but has been just as brutal, ranked fourth in the state while allowing only 6.3 points per game.
The Pirates are scary good, and Corydon, the defending sectional champion, hasn’t quite recovered from its fright that night.
“We haven’t played our best football in a while,” Corydon coach Darin Ward said. “They’ll have to play average at best and we’ll have to play our best game.”
What can Corydon do in the rematch to be successful? It starts with containing Daniel, and no defense has done that yet. Daniel, the best run-pass combination in the state, has rushed for 1,257 yards and 22 TDs as the focal point of the read-option, and he’s thrown for 1,549 yards and 28 TDs.
It’s an offense that relies on speed and shock value. Before a defense can adjust, Charlestown has often already scored two or three times. The Pirates are off and running, and the rout is inevitable.
“Anytime in high school football, when you get up on people it takes the kids out of their game,” Charlestown coach Jason Hawkins said. “It changes the coaching philosophy. The more we can get the home-run ball early, the more our kids get fired up and the other team gets down. We’ll take that opportunity.”
The other Corydon factor will be keeping Burton upright. Burton (2,098 passing yards and 20 TDs) needs a running game (and leading rusher Alex McAfee is out with mono) to take some heat off, and he needs time from his offensive line to look for leading receiver Tyler Ross.
“We have to be more productive on every down,” Ward said. “We can’t be in third and long, we can’t get sacked if we decide to throw the football. They way they play defensively, how aggressive and physical they are, is really difficult to adjust to.”
Ward hopes to get to the second half and still be within striking range. The Pirates haven’t really had to play a meaningful second half.
“I don’t think they’ve had a game, less than four scores, in the second half this year,” said Ward, whose Panthers trailed 28-0 at intermission the first time. “So we need to put ourselves in position to make them uncomfortable. Then we’ll see what we can do.
“But they’re good enough to raise their level of play. They’re a good football team, and as they come into bigger games they really get focused and have a lot more energy and speed. We can’t sit back and think they will create opportunities for us.”
Charlestown hasn’t forgotten last year’s sectional semifinal at Dutch Reis Field. The Pirates won last year’s regular-season game 21-19, but the Panthers turned that around in the postseason with a 33-28 win and went on to a regional title.
“We need to make sure we’re ready to go,” Hawkins said. “We can’t afford to overlook anybody. It’s hard to beat a good football team twice. Darin is a great coach and he’ll have his team ready. As soon as you look past someone, the season is over and we don’t want that to happen.”
The winner will face either No. 11 Brownstown (9-1) or Salem (4-6) in the sectional final next week. Charlestown hasn’t won a sectional crown since 1996.
“We’ve done a good job of staying true to our goals and staying focused every week,” Hawkins said. “We’re trying to get better every week.”
Corydon (8-2) at Charlestown (10-0)
No.16 Corydon is the defending Sectional 23 champion.
» The No.2 Pirates dominated the regular-season game 47-0 at Corydon. They sacked Corydon QB Chase Burton eight times, and Charlestown QB Aaron Daniel ran for 275 yards and four TDs.
» Daniel (1,549 passing yards and 28 TDs, plus 1,257 rushing yards and 22 TDs) directs the highest-scoring offense in the state at 60.9 points per game.
» Burton has thrown for 2,098 yards and 20 TDs, but he was only 13 of 29 against the Pirates.
» “Right now it’s about keeping the focus and intensity. We have to play a little bit better each week.”
— Charlestown coach Jason Hawkins
» “I think there’s some good football in there for us to play. It’s just a matter of finding it and not making mistakes.”
— Corydon coach Darin Ward
The pick: Charlestown 42-14