FOUNTAIN CITY, Ind. – Ever since last November, the Northeastern High School football team has wanted to get revenge at Eastern Hancock.
The Knights got some redemption with a dominant 34-6 victory over the Royals in Week 1 of the 2014 season, but Eastern Hancock is a different team.
Ten Northeastern victories later — as well as nine for Eastern Hancock — the teams will meet again Friday night in a rematch of the 2013 IHSAA Class A Sectional 45 championship.
Eastern Hancock rallied for a 57-36 win a year ago, en route to a 14-1 finish with the only loss coming in the state championship game.
“We’re not going to overlook them, because even though we beat them in the season, they’ve gotten better,” Northeastern senior Kelsy Kirkland said following Friday’s 50-13 victory over Hagerstown in one semifinal. “Every team’s gotten better that we’re going to play. So we’re going to keep working.”
Northeastern finished the regular season ranked third in Indiana’s Class A and has been as high as second. Eastern Hancock (9-2) is ranked ninth.
The 11-0 mark is the Knights’ first in program history, as was the outright Tri-Eastern Conference championship after a perfect 7-0 mark.
But the trip to the sectional championship is far from a first.
The Knights have made trips to the sectional in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013, with often heartbreaking losses.
This year could be different. The Knights have an overwhelming offense that averages 48.45 points per game and allows just 8.64.
“I’ve been saying this the last several weeks, but defense is the reason that we’re where we’re at,” Northeastern coach Mike Roeder said. “It’s nice to talk about the offense and the passing and all the yards, but defense is the reason that we’re where we’re at, and (last Friday), defense set the tone there early.”
Tyler Sandlin had a key interception, Petey McDaniel and Chace Mosley teamed up on a quarterback sack and Ryan Hartmann added another, while Quest Schwab has nine on the season.
McDaniel and Dakota Green have four each, Craig Dingwerth, Kelsy Kirkland and Gunnar Adams each have two and Mosley and Sandlin one.
Dingwerth has four interceptions, Jake Slinker and Joey Claypoole each have two and Green one. Kirkland leads with 102 total tackles, followed by McDaniel with 100.
Offensively, Claypoole surpassed 1,000 rushing yards with Friday’s 127 and now has 1,048 plus 15 rushing touchdowns.
The three-year starting quarterback also has 1,858 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. He had two passing touchdowns and four rushing on Friday.
“I thought early on Joey was doing a good job. It’s not easy to pass on a night like this (rain and snow),” Roeder said. “I think he threw for close to 200 yards and that’s probably about as good as we could expect, so I thought he did a real good job, and running the ball, as well. Obviously he’s a tremendous athlete.”
Coming This week
• Northeastern and Winchester to play in sectional championship games.