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 Sectional Opener is Rematch of Cats and Dogs

October 22, 2008 - When Centerville opened the 2008 football season against Knightstown, the Bulldogs had three-year veteran quarterback Drew Schauss behind center. After the Panthers shut down the Bulldogs and led 18-0 at halftime, coach Matt Holeva, acting on a suggestion by Schauss, made a dramatic change and switched to Jacob Stewart as his signal caller.

The move paid dividends for Centerville, as the Bulldogs rallied for a 21-18 victory over Knightstown. Stewart stayed as the team’s quarterback the rest of the season and went on to guide his team to an 8-1 record by throwing for 2,060 yards and 26 touchdowns, while suffering just eight interceptions.

That quarterback switch occurred in the opener, but changed the entire season around for Centerville. At halftime of the Knightstown game, Schauss was 6-for-14 for 78 yards and the Bulldogs trailed 18-0. The Panther pass rush had gotten to Schauss and he was, for the most part, ineffective.

But Stewart was much quicker, avoided the Knightstown rush, and the Bulldog offense took on a different look. Stewart completed 6-of-11 passes for 76 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for another score and threw a 37-yard scoring strike to Josh Parr. Stewart also threw for a two-point conversion in a game that the Panthers missed on all three PATs.

The Bulldogs got 98 rushing yards from Briendle Fletcher, who is their top ground man with 779 yards and nine touchdowns this season.

Stewart has become an awesome weapon for Centerville this season. Last Friday night he threw for four touchdowns against Winchester, and is 117-of-195 on the season. His 2,060 yards passing is tops in the area, and his 26-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio is one of the best in the state.

His favorite target is the former quarterback, Schauss, who at 6-5 is a tough target to defend. Schauss has over 600 receiving yards this year. Stewart uses several receivers, including Jacob Honkomp (478 yards), Parr (377 yards), Josh Messer (262 yards) and Ryan Carman.

Stewart’s passing yard totals over the final six games, respectively, were 310, 261, 253, 238, 317 and 237 yards. Over those six games he also had 18 touchdown passes. He will present the ultimate test for the Knightstown secondary and pass rushing schemes.

The Panthers have taken on a different look since the last time the two teams met back in August. Quarterback Brice Biehl is no longer directing the Panther offense, as his season ended after he suffered a broken fibula at Lapel.

Drew Martin has been leading the Panther offense because primary backup quarterback Nolan Hall was out with a concussion. Martin scored twice against Tri-Central last weekend, but has just one start under his belt.

Panther coach Bob Prescott said Monday that Hall is cleared to play and will be working with the offense at quarterback this week. Hall will start and Martin will be ready if he is needed.

The big gun for the Knightstown offense is fullback Lane Fields, who, on the offensive side of the ball, was a non-factor in the season opener against the Bulldogs. Fields carried the ball just 12 times against Centerville in August, finishing with 37 rushing yards and one touchdown.

But as much as Centerville’s game play has evolved since August, Knightstown’s can offer a match of significant improvement. In the first four games this year, Fields rushed for just 248 yards and seven touchdowns. But over the last five games, Fields has gained 758 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. For the season he has gained 1,006 yards on 139 attempts. His numbers against the Bulldogs were microscopic compared to what he and his offensive line have been putting up recently.

Other than Union County’s Michael Duckworth (over 1,600 yards), the Bulldogs haven’t seen a more powerful running back than Fields.

Danny Ortman is Knightstown’s leading receiver, with 311 yards on 18 receptions. Ortman has also rushed the ball 29 times for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Travis Titus has nine receptions for 121 yards and three touchdowns.

The game could come down to Knightstown’s defense against Centerville’s passing game. If the Panthers can get pressure on Stewart and stick with the receivers long enough, the Bulldog passing game will be hard-pressed to maintain its recent success.

Centerville’s only loss this season was against 8-1 Hagerstown, 23-17. Knightstown lost to Hagerstown 6-0 in the second game of the season. The Bulldogs beat Winchester last week 49-0, while Knightstown clobbered Tri-Central 55-0.

Since the installation of the five-class football system, Knightstown is 15-3 at home playoff games. The Panthers are 22-14 in playoff games since 1994. The Panthers have played the Bulldogs in the playoffs twice in that 14-year history, with KHS winning 50-20 in 2001, and 14-13 in 2002.

Centerville traditionally has not fared well on the road during the playoffs. They have won just twice away from home in sectional play, and since 1994 have a 3-14 record in tournament play.

Senior Jacob Wooldridge, who missed the Tri-Central game, will be back in pads and ready for the Bulldogs. Prescott said the Panthers, with the exception of Biehl, Collin Kennedy and Levi Blair, who all suffered season-ending injuries, will be as healthy Friday as they have been all season long.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium.


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