Floyd Central’s first-round sectional opponent — Jennings County — could not throw the ball because of the wicked weather conditions that swept across the region. This week, Whiteland will likely not throw it either — by choice.
Whiteland will look the run the Highlanders into the ground during Friday night’s Class 5-A Sectional 14 final. The No.11 Warriors (7-3 and the defending sectional champions) have attempted only 41 passes this season.
“They run the ball, and they run it,” said Floyd Central coach Brian Glesing, who also loves the grind-it-out style. “They’re very good at it, they’re very good at what they do.”
Whiteland’s ground game has different prongs, all capable of piercing a defense. Junior running back Shaw Cloud (1,061 yards, 12 TDs), junior Brandon Patterson (699 yards 7 TDs) and sophomore Anthony Schantz (514 yards, 8 TDs) power an offense that has been lethal of late, averaging 31.6 points per game during a five-game winning streak.
“You have to play assignment football against them, similar to playing the wing-T,” Glesing said. “Everyone has to do their job, or they will get you on a back-side play. They do a good job of balancing the running game.”
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The Highlanders (6-4) have won four in a row, although Glesing was quick to temper that with the realization the last three have come against opponents (Jennings County and New Albany) that won only one game apiece.
“Let’s not get over-excited,” he said. “But we’re excited about the guys who have played through some adversity and have started to come together a little bit. This is our goal every year, to play our best football at this point.
“That’s all you can ask as a coach, to get better every day and be the best at the end. It might not be good enough against these guys, but that’s what we like, that we have peaked. That’s cool. We’re playing in November.”
Floyd’s statistics don’t reveal exactly how the Highlanders did it. Gaige Klingsmith, slowed by nagging injuries, is the leading rusher with only 739 yards and 9 touchdowns. Colton Kimm has thrown for 909 yards and four scores. Kimm pointed to a maturing of young players in key positions.
“We’ve grown up,” he said.
How much? Whiteland will test that. The Warriors won last year’s sectional encounter 41-20. The Highlanders were limited to 221 yards of offense and a season-low 3.2 yards per carry. Kimm completed 9 of 14 passes for 112 yards. Klingsmith was held to just 58 yards rushing on 22 carries.
Meanwhile, Whiteland totaled 273 rushing yards and completed only three passes. The biggest stat was kickoff returns, with Whiteland getting 260 yards to flip field position.
“We did a terrible job against them last year,” Glesing said. “We’ve tweaked some things, and we do have something to build on. We got killed in special teams. We have to do a much better job. That was a key.”
Defensively, with senior Nick Ratti (123 tackles, 7 for loss, 3 interceptions) and senior Gabe Clippert (5 interceptions) leading the charge, Whiteland has allowed only 36 points during its last four wins.
Justin Sokeland can be reached at (502) 582-4059.
Floyd Central (6-4) at Whiteland (7-3)
Class 5-A, Sectional 14
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
No.11 Whiteland is the defending sectional champion.
• The Highlanders have won two sectional titles, the last in 2009. Whiteland has won four sectional crowns. The Warriors won last year’s game with Floyd 41-20, breaking a 20-20 deadlock in the third quarter with the final three touchdowns.
• The winner will play either No.8 Decatur Central (8-2) or No.7 Cathedral (5-5) in the regional. Cathedral has won four straight state championships, the first three in 4-A before getting bumped up by the IHSAA “Success Factor” rule last year.
• Floyd Central, with a win, would host Cathedral and visit Decatur Central in the regional.
• ” Defensively, we can’t give up the big play. If they’re going to score, we have to make sure they earn it.” – Floyd Central coach Brian Glesing
The pick: Whiteland 35-13