Ben Davis as the underdog?
That’s Mike Kirschner’s take on Friday’s Sectional 5 football championship game at Avon. The Ben Davis coach insists he’s not just playing up the Lou Holtz-esque “woe is us” angle.
It does make some sense. Yes, Ben Davis (6-4) is the defending Class 6A state champion and defeated sixth-ranked Avon (8-2) earlier this season, 49-42. The Giants have won five in a row in the series, including a pair of games last season.
But Avon racked up 555 yards of total offense in the first meeting this season, including 390 through the air by quarterback Brandon Peters. Following that game, Ben Davis lost three games in a row and four of five. The Giants allowed 35.3 points a game in those losses.
Avon lost once more, 21-18 to Hamilton Southeastern on Sept. 4, but has since ripped off seven consecutive wins, including a 61-14 rout of Brownsburg last week in its first sectional game. Peters, a Michigan recruit, is putting up phenomenal numbers as a senior, completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,501 yards with a 33-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
It makes sense to categorize Ben Davis as the underdog. But it still might hold the mental edge over an Avon team that hasn’t been able to break through and knock off the Giants.
Prediction: Avon has an excellent quarterback in Peters but is far from a one-man show. The Orioles have three good running backs in junior Corey DuPriest (567 yards, seven TDs), senior Dorian Love (552 yards, five TDs) and junior Bryant Fitzgerald (314 yards, six TDs) and a pair of top-notch receivers in senior Andrew Griffin (974 yards, 15 TDs) and Matt Moore (595 yards, eight TDs). The defense has not allowed more than 21 points in any game other than the first meeting with Ben Davis.
The Giants have quietly improved since a 45-28 loss to Warren Central on Sept. 18. Sophomore quarterback Reese Taylor (68 percent passing, 1,526 yards, 11 TDs) has gained confidence. And the Giants still have the X-factor in senior Chris Evans, who rushed for 224 yards and four touchdowns last week against Pike.
Avon is senior-dominated, much like Ben Davis a year ago. Those teams tend to play with urgency. Avon 34, Ben Davis 31.
Here are predictions on five other top area sectional games for Friday. I was 38-4 (90.5 percent) last week to improve to 355-76 (82.4 percent) on the season. Check IndyStar.com on Friday morning for a look at all of the area sectional predictions (all games 7 p.m. Friday unless noted):
>> Fishers (7-3) at Carmel (8-2): Fishers beat HSE and Carmel in the sectional en route to a state title in 2010. The Tigers, a 38-22 winner over HSE last week, will have to beat both to win Sectional 4. If Fishers can run the ball like it did last week, it has a shot. Carmel 27, Fishers 24.
>> Southport (8-2) at Warren Central (7-3): Seventh-ranked Warren Central may be playing as well as anybody in 6A right now. Zach Summeier (1,807 passing yards, 12 TDs) has been better than expected in his junior season at quarterback for Warren Central. Southport senior quarterback Luke Johnston (2,760 passing yards, 37 TDs) and junior receiver Blake Evans (97 catches for 1,221 yards, 21 TDs) pose a serious threat for the Warriors in this Sectional 7 final. Warren Central 42, Southport 35.
>> Whiteland (7-2) at Columbus East (10-0): Class 5A No. 6 Whiteland lost standout running back Shaw Cloud in the third game of the season but persevered and won the Mid-State Conference outright. The Warriors are averaging 277 rushing yards per game and the defense is allowing just 14.8 points against a tough schedule. Second-ranked Columbus East’s only close game was a 28-21 win over rival Columbus North back in Week 2. The winner likely gets No. 1 New Palestine in the Sectional 14 championship next week. Columbus East 24, Whiteland 21.
>> Guerin Catholic (8-2) vs. Bishop Chatard (6-3), at Lawrence North: This Class 3A Sectional 29 semifinal is a rematch of fourth-ranked Guerin’s 17-13 win over No. 5 Chatard three weeks ago. Guerin picked off two passes in that game and generated just enough offense (219 yards). It’ll be tough to beat the Trojans twice. Bishop Chatard 24, Guerin Catholic 17.
>> Eastern Hancock (10-0) at Howe (7-3): This Sectional 38 semifinal should be one of the best Class 2A games of the night and one of the most difficult to project. Eastern Hancock’s closest game this season was 26-14 over Milan, a team Howe defeated 57-35 last week in the first round of the sectional. Howe 38, Eastern Hancock 34.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.