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  • Val T.

Week 11 preview: After running over South Central, Rodgers, Cavs get Triton in sectional semis

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Triton (7-3) at Culver (1-9), 7 p.m.

(Winner plays South Newton-North Judson winner in Class 1A, Sectional 41 final)

The Culver football team had lost 10 straight games dating back to last year and had lost 10 of their last 11 road games dating back to 2021.

They broke out of their rut with a 40-15 win over South Central (Union Mills) in LaPorte County in a Class 1A, Sectional 41 quarterfinal last week.

Jack Rodgers ran for 193 yards and three touchdowns and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Jonas McCuen also threw his first touchdown pass of the season to Ryan Beem.

“Obviously, Jack is a talented runner, and he ran really well, ran hard and did a nice job setting up his blocks,” Culver coach Austin Foust said. “But I thought offensive too, our offensive line really did command the line of scrimmage. It’s something that we’ve been asking them to do, and we thought we might have a shot against South Central to do that. We were able to move the ball on them in Week 2 (a 44-22 Culver loss), so we just said that has to be our game where we assert our will, and we ended up running collectively as a team for over 300 yards. So anytime you do that, a large portion of that is because of your guys up front.”

Rodgers’ kickoff return also marked the second time in the last three games Culver scored a special teams touchdown. Two weeks earlier, Isaiah Gonzalez scored on a return after teammate Anthony Sommers blocked a punt in a loss to Pioneer.

Foust credited special teams coach Kyle Klinge.

“Coach Klinge is our special teams coordinator in the punt block and kick return role, and he saw that the way South Central tries to kick it, there’s a possibility for us to get a sideline return, and they did exactly what they’ve shown on film,” Foust said. “They kicked it right to Jack on the short left side, and we wanted to return it right to our sideline, and our kids executed it, and we ended up having three guys leading the way for Jack, and that was obviously a huge difference in the game because that was right after they had scored, and we were up 14-8, and there’s a little bit of momentum that gets switched back to their side, and we put what in the next play, which obviously was huge.”

Meanwhile, the defense, which had allowed at least 44 points in every game, blanked the Satellites over the second and third quarters to build up a 40-8 lead.

They had a goal line stand after South Central had first-and-goal at the Culver 1 and later followed it with a 98-yard touchdown drive.

Meanwhile, safety Jonas McCuen returned an interception for a touchdown.

“By far it was,” Foust said when asked if it was his team’s best defensive performance of the season. “Our defensive line really played well. Colton Risner, Braiden Molebash and Logan Caudill were the three key guys up front that really just played with great effort all night long and demanded double teams and kept our linebackers uncovered so they helped make plays, and they made a lot of plays. And then secondary-wise, I thought we did a really good job. They have a nice receiver, and Hayden Parker did a good job of covering him, and then we made a few adjustments to help Hayden out a little bit more, and that was what allowed Jonas McCuen to step in front of a slant, and he did the rest and took it 70 yards to the house too as well, so that was another big momentum turner as well.”

Foust described the locker room atmosphere as one of excitement and relief.

“I think there was a monkey-off-our-back kind of thing,” Foust said. “The kids were incredibly excited to sing the school fight song, which we do after every win. … They want to do everything possible to keep that going forward. … It’s about obviously making sure you’ve got a team mentality-wise that everybody’s going in the right direction and wants to keep playing.”

Next up for Culver is a home matchup with No. 9 Triton, who won 71-6 over North Newton last week in their quarterfinal. Triton also beat Culver 58-6 in their regular season meeting on Sept. 15 and has won the last four meetings against the Cavaliers.

New coach Zach Whittaker is a former Jimtown assistant, and Triton’s use of plays like iso, power and toss resemble plays that Jimtown would run, according to Foust.

Cole Shively is a four-year quarterback, but the Trojans also utilize weapons like Vincent Prater, Dante Workman and Javan May. May is 6-3 and can play tight end or receiver for Triton, and he caught four touchdown passes against North Newton.

Defensively, they have allowed six points total in their last six quarters.

“They’re big up front, and they’re tough to move,” Foust said. “But they do a good job. Their d-line and linebackers, they just put pressure. They come downhill, and they have nice athletes in the back, especially Cole Shively. If something breaks open, they expect them to make a play for them and not get beat, and that obviously takes a lot of pressure off those front six guys, front seven guys, where they can really just play and focus on the run and get after the quarterback, knowing that their secondary is not going to make big mistakes and keep everything in front of them.”

Culver is 2-2 all-time in postseason games against Triton, including sectional wins in 1998 and 2001. Culver lost to Triton 34-12 in the teams’ most recent postseason meeting in 2018.

If Culver wins, they would host South Newton or North Judson in the sectional final.

This is Culver’s first game since the passing of former coach Neil Wagner, who coached Culver from 1996-2000 and won sectional titles in 1999-2000. Wagner also coached at Harrison (West Lafayette) before eventually leaving coaching and becoming the principal at Lafayette Central Catholic.



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