By Dave Pearce
It took over 40 years for North Posey football coach Carl Joe Gengelbach to get into a position where he was playing for his 250th win as a head football coach. To the coach, it probably seemed like it took nearly that long to get No. 250. The Vikings began the quest on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. and it was finally over at around 3 o’clock on Saturday.
But rather than comment or concentrate on himself, the always-modest Gengelbach chose rather to concentrate on the importance of the win to this years’ Pocket Athletic title hopes and to the possibility of completing a successful campaign.
The Vikings had to come out ready to play on Friday night and then, after playing a half and going home for the night, they had to come out fired up again on Saturday.
“The kids played very well today,” Gengelbach said, following North Posey’s 37-6 victory over the state’s 13th-ranked Class 2A Southridge Raiders. “I didn’t know how they would respond after playing a half and then going home. That’s tough to do on any level because you are sore the next morning but they were still ready on Saturday. They came back and played very well in all three phases of the game.”
The Vikings earned a 14-0 lead on Friday night and could have had more a two drives stalled near the red zone. One resulted in a missed field goal and the other in a takeover on downs for the Raiders.
The Vikings showed why they will likely be in the top 10 when rankings come out this week as the team displayed both a ground game and a game through the air that Viking fans are not used to. It seemed that when the Raiders shut down one area of offense, the Vikings simply went to another. And everything was clicking.
“We hurt ourselves a little on Friday night as I thought we had a couple of bad snaps but that was because we had to change centers this week,” Gengelbach explained. “Our starting center had a strained knee, nothing bad and he will be back shortly. But, we had to make some adjustments and there was just a little bit of difference in the way the ball came back but it wasn’t anything bad. And today, we didn’t have any bobbles, physically or mentally.”
The Vikings know that one of the keys to the early success of this year’s team has been depth and experience and any time someone has to come out, there are quality people to go in their place. That’s a luxury Gengelbach likes but had not become accustomed to having at the Class 2A level.
On Friday night, both teams played well defensively for most of the first quarter in just a good. Solid, hard-fought contest. But it would be the Vikings who would draw first blood on the first play of the second period.
Quarterback Alec Werry dropped back and found Nick Neidig who had gotten behind the Southridge defense deep and Werry laid the ball right in his hands, against that same stiff wind, and Neidig dig the rest. He made the catch, ran to the end zone, and then kicked the extra point.
“Austin Little had a very good game and is getting better each week,” the coach said. “His aggressiveness is picking up.”
The Vikings seemed to have the perfect blend of the run and the pass against the Raiders as the Raiders attempted to crowd the line in an effort to stop Wes Harness, who had hung 150 yards on previously-undefeated Gibson Southern just last week. But the Vikings proved they had Harness…and a lot more.
After the Vikings forced the Raiders off the line of scrimmage with the passing game, Harness and Colton Martin began gaining yardage in hunks on the ground. The Raiders crowded again and again they paid as again Werry found Neidig in the corner of the end zone. However, this one would be called back on a penalty.
But the Raiders simply could not defend the entire arsenol and it would be Harness who would take the ball on first and 15 from the 20 all the way down to the one. On the next play, he scored to put his team ahead 14-0. That was at the 8:56 mark of the second quarter.
Despite the Viking threats in the remainder of the first half, they were unable to score. And when lightning began to signal the coming storm, the game was called to be completed on Saturday.
“The field was really in better shape than we thought it would be on Saturday,” Gengelbach said. “We were a little concerned at first but once we got out there, it was wet but not sloppy wet. It had drained very well.”
The Vikings wasted little time maintaining their rare dominance over the team from Dubois County as, on their first play from scrimmage, Werry found Neidig who took it to the house again and the rout was on.
After a three-and-out by a tough Viking defense, the Vikings used their second play of the half to find a speeding Jake Bender down the sideline and the Vikings were in control at 27-0 after the 55-yard scoring strike.
“Our lines both played very well,” Gengelbach said. “Our opffensive line gave us ample time to run throw the football and we ran the football, as well.”
Southridge then got their only score of the night when they scored on a pass play that Gengelbach said was covered about as well as it could have been.
“The ball was thrown right where it had to be and our defender was there but it was one of those deals where the kid just laid out and caught the thing and stayed in bounds,” Gengelbach said. “He made a great play.”
But on the next possession, the Vikings had a sustained drive that used a lot of the third-quarter clock and resulted in a Neidig field goal to put the team ahead 30-6 heading into the final period.
The Vikings added an insurance touchdown about two minutes into the final period when it would again be Neidig, this time on a 32-yard pass play from Werry.
“We felt like our kids really locked in and played well,” Gengelbach said. “Nick had a very good game as did our other receivers. Jake had a catch for a touchdown and Tyler Atkins had two or three catches for us in the first half.”
But it all came down to the Vikings having too many effective weapons for the Raiders on this weekend.
“You know, Wes draws a pretty good crowd and when he comes over the ball, it helps us get receivers open down the field,” Gengelbach said. “They played great defense and they always do.”
This weekend will go a long way in determining who could come out of the Pocket Athletic Conference race with a big edge. But this time, the Vikings will be facing the Heritage Hills Patriots in the jungle on Friday night. The Patriots will more than likely not be in a good frame of mind after dropping a 14-0 decision to Jasper on Friday night.
“This win was a great confidence builder but like I always tell them, enjoy it for a day and a half and on Monday, it is back to work,” Gengelbach said. “We have to get marked back in. They are very physical and they have a couple of players back who were not there when we faced them in the scrimmage.”
The Vikings finished with 117 yards on the ground with Harness leading the way with 97. Colton Martin had 34 and Darren O’Risky had two.
Werry hit for 12-of-19 passes and four touchdowns for a total of 357 yards. Neidig caught five passes for 183 yards and three touchdowns while Bender caught four for 129 and a touchdown. Tyler Adkins caught two passes for 28 yards and James Marshall caught one for 17.
Defensively, the Vikings continued to be incredible with Alex Goebel credited for seven solo tackles and three assists and Eric O’Risky with four solos and six assists. Harness and Little had six solo tackles apiece while Martin, Mitch Kuhn, Darren O’Risky, and Adkinds had four solo tackles apiece. Neidig, Bender, and Dylan Wright had three solos apiece while Chris O’Risky, Kolby Lary, and Zack Wargel had two apiece. Marshall, Lance Inkebrandt, Nick Heldt, and Dusty Graulich each was credited with a solo. Little also blocked the only extra point attempt made by the Raiders.
The Vikings finished with 474 yards of total offense to 165 for the Raiders.