What we learned from the IHSAA football sectional semifinals in SW Indiana

Kyle Sokeland
Evansville Courier & Press

BEDFORD, Ind. — This had the ingredients for a trap game.

A two-hour road trip. A good opponent with athletic playmakers. A possible rematch with a rival in the championship. But if Reitz learned anything from last year, it is you don't look ahead to November.

This performance showed what the Panthers could do.

Scoreboard:Evansville-area high school football scores for sectional semifinals

No. 2 Reitz hammered Bedford North Lawrence 42-6 in the Class 4A sectional semifinal on Friday. Are the Panthers 36-points better? Maybe. Maybe not. They were on this night.

"It was good to see us put it together in all phases," Reitz coach Cory Brunson said. "When this group can do it, they can be scary."

Reitz’s Roland Vera Jr. (9) runs the ball as the Reitz Panthers play the Boonville Pioneers at the Reitz Bowl in Evansville, Ind., Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.

Like any game, you could cherry pick moments that weren't ideal. A couple of penalties and a second quarter interception come to mind. But this was Reitz (11-0) at its best. And to think it came after a sluggish week of practice.

The Panthers never trailed and were not really threatened after the first quarter. Ben Davies was 12 of 16 for 278 yards passing and three touchdowns. His receivers, notably Roland Vera Jr. and Hayden Summers, got the ball in space and made defenders miss.

Vera had seven catches for 179 yards and two scores. Summers nearly reached 100 yards. Levi Oxley had two goal-line scores. Troy Davis also found the end zone. It was only the fourth time Reitz had scored 40 or more this season.

"It starts up front," Brunson said. "The guys have to give (Davies) time. When it's all clicking, it's a fun group to watch."

The Reitz Panthers leave the locker room ahead of their game against the Boonville Pioneers at the Reitz Bowl in Evansville, Ind., Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.

The other reason this semifinal wasn't close? It would be the Panthers' "most consistent group every week." The starting defense didn't let the Stars (7-4) sniff the end zone following a second-quarter score. It intercepted BNL quarterback Memphis Louden twice, including a key pick from Ayden Wells to flip momentum.

Reitz is fifth in the state in defensive scoring average at 7.4 points per game. BNL had 185 total yards, but the number is propped up by a late drive.

"We have the best defense in the state," Wells said. "That's how we feel. The leaders made sure everybody knows that if we lose we're done. We'll never play football again together. We focused on that."

The SIAC is having a productive postseason

The semifinal round showed the depth of the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference.

Five teams advanced to the sectional championship next week. It would've been six if a two-point conversion was completed by Mater Dei in overtime. The conference is guaranteed to have two representatives in the regional.

  • 5A: North at Castle
  • 4A: Reitz at Memorial
  • 3A: Vincennes Lincoln at Gibson Southern

The victories from North and Memorial were particularly impressive. Both went on the road and won by a single possession against good teams. Kaleb Harris had a key fourth-quarter score for the Huskies, while Pate Barrett made the winning field goal with 1:36 left for the Tigers.

Calm and consistent:Pate Barrett's go-ahead field goal sets up Memorial-Reitz rematch

North Posey’s Jed Galvin (33) breaks up a pass to Mater Dei's Wyatt Stratman (24) as the North Posey Vikings play the Mater Dei Wildcats in their sectional semifinal game in Evansville, Ind., Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.
North Posey ends the streak versus Mater Dei

More will be said on the Vikings' 35-34 overtime win over Mater Dei. It still deserves additional recognition.

It's their first win against the Wildcats in program history; they've played each other 19 times. An overtime thriller that came down to a single play with no time showing. They will talk about this game in Posey County for years.

Despite the result, this was also a word to the wise regarding Mater Dei. Yes, it is the first losing season for the Wildcats since 2008. They still came within one completion of being a top-five team in the sectional. Playing in the SIAC continues to make them tough to beat in the postseason.

Class 3A sectionals went as anticipated

It should come as no surprise how Sectional 30 and 32 have unfolded in the past weeks.

A Gibson Southern (9-2) versus Vincennes Lincoln (8-3) matchup was circled the moment the sectional draw was announced three weeks ago. These were the two best teams in the group all season. The semifinals weren't close as the Titans defeated Washington 48-14 and the Alices shut out Pike Central 63-0.

I'm also not shocked Heritage Hills went to the wire in a 23-20 win at Southridge. A repeat of the first week score was unlikely considering the quality of both programs. But the Patriots (10-1) had proven since August where they stood in the area. They'll be favored in a trip to Scottsburg.

Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on X (formerly Twitter) @kylesokeland.