By Dave Pearce
For the third week is a row, a North Posey football opponent found out Friday night just how tough the Viking defense can be.
In what had been billed as a classic early-season match-up between two neighboring teams, the billing never materialized as the Gibson Southern Titans were able to muster only 32 yards on the ground in Fort Branch and the Vikings (literally) ran away with a 31-7 victory.
The Vikings set the tone early as the Wes Harness, behind what has been so far an incredible offensive line, picked up yardage in chucks on his way to the Vikings’ first score at the 7:36 mark of the first period. The Titans had outscored Forest Park 56-10 in the season opener and then obliterated South Spencer the second week.
But the Vikings were stronger and more determined and it was evident. They also cut down on penalties but still finished with six penalties for 55 yards.
“We worked hard getting ready for this one,” North Posey Coach Joe Gengelbach said after the win. “Gibson is definitely headed in the right direction and we knew we had to do everything we could possibly do to bottle up Scheller and Anguish.”
And bottle them up they did. The talented Gibson Southern duo finished with a total of only 17 yards…combined. Scheller completed 7-of-16 passes for a total of 123 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice.
“”They are two kids, that if given a chance to get out on the perimeter or get a seam, they have the presence of mind to make some big plays,” Gengelbach said of the talented pair. “I thought they made some plays that in most situations high school players don’t make but I was proud of our defense because for the most part, they stayed in their rush lanes and put some pressure on them and helped control their offense.”
Thanks to the Viking defense, the Titans did not get a lot of offensive opportunities. The Vikings gave up a total of 155 yards of total offense while the offense was overwhelming, racking up 396 yards. The Vikings finished with 24 first downs to only six for the Titans.
“I think our defensive kids are playing together better as a team each week,” Gengelbach said. They are try8ing to do things they think will make us a better football team.”
The defense stepped up near the end of the first quarter when the Vikings fumbled on the 33 with one minute remaining in the period. Immediately, the Viking defense stepped up and before the quarter ended, the Titans were facing a fourth-and-13 and faced a punt to begin the second period.
That punt led to another sustained drive by the Vikings which nearly stalled with the Vikings facing third-and-10 at the 8:30 mark. But it would be Wes Harness who would break enough tackles to get the first down and then, on the next play from scrimmage, would take the ball in and give the Vikings a 14-0 lead at 5:10 of the second period.
But despite an impressive performance on both sides of the ball, the Vikings were ahead only 14-0 at half-time and Gengelbach assured his team that unless they continued to play well, there were no guarantees. His team took that advice to heart and put another 10 points on the board in the third period when kicker Nick Neidig hit a 24-yard field goal and Harness added a 2-yard touchdown run with a minute showing in the third period.
Neidig was also key in helping keep the Titans buried beneath the shadows of their own goalposts, leaving the Titans with a long field every time while the Vikings, in turn, averaged just over 10 yards for each of three punt returns to help give the Vikings a shorter field.
“That’s extremely important,” Gengelbach said. “Our specialty teams have put us in a position with a short field many times. And when you don’t have to go the full length of the field, your chances increase. These are high school kids and they are going to make mistakes. And the shorter the field and the less time you have the less number of plays you have to run, the better off you are.”
But to demonstrate the Viking dominance in this game, they ran 69 plays to Gibson Southern’s 36.
Colton Martin got in on the scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter when he got loose for a 33-yard run to put the game out of reach.
Gibson Southern did put a score on the board late in the game when quarterback Jordan Scheller hit Josh Elpers for a 51-yard strike with 1:29 to play to avert the shutout.
Even by Harness standards, the senior running back had a very good night, averaging nearly nine yards per carry on 29 attempts for a total of 250 yards. Martin finished with 75 yards on 10 carries while Darren O’Risky had four carries for 20 yards and quarterback Alec Werry kept the ball four times for 11 yards. Dylan Wright and James Marshall also saw some backfield action.
Werry was efficient and kept the Titan defense honest by hitting 7-of-13 passes for 45 yards. Neidig caught three passes for 21 yards wg=hile Jacob Bender had two for 12 yards. Martin caught one pass for nine yards and Mitchell Kuhn caught a pass for three yards.
Neidig and Austin Little each recovered fumbles while Neidig and Darren O’Risky each had interceptions.
For the Titans, Scheller was 7-of-16 for 123 yards, including a touchdown and two interceptions. Spencer Schmitt caught three passes for 24 yards while Elpers caught two for 58 yards. Brooks Martin had two receptions for 41 yards.
Scheller and Anguish finished with a total of 31 yards in 19 attempts. Austin Martin carried once for a yard.
This Friday night could go a long way toward determining who will have the best shot at a Pocket Athletic Conference title as the Southridge Raiders come to town. They have been impressive in their first three outings, shutting out Forest Park 41-0 this week.
Gametime is set for 7 p.m. at North Posey’s Memorial Field.