The South Putnam varsity football team is ready for another chance.
After losing to Tri West, 53-14, in the second week of the season, the Eagles return to face off with the defending Class 2A state champions Friday for the IHSAA Sectional 29 title.
"At the beginning of the sectional, we knew whoever we faced in the final game would be a good team," South Putnam coach Mark Wildman said. "Who it is, really doesn't matter much, as far as how we feel playing in the game."
The Eagles come into Friday's game with 7-4 record, while Tri-West is boasting a 10-1 overall record. The Bruins only loss came to Danville in the ninth week of the season. South Putnam hopes they have two come Saturday.
"I think there's more that we can do offensively than we did 10 weeks ago," Wildman said. "It seems like we're more balanced."
The Eagles struggled to get much going offensively against the Bruins in the second week of the season, while Tri-West's offense was trucking. The Bruins amassed a total of 444 yards on offense, including 369 yards rushing. Running back Tony Pugliese had 109 yards rushing 10 carries, while quarterback Tyler Bruce ran for 87 yards on a mere five carries, including a 76-yard touchdown run.
"The things that they hurt us the first time with -- we have to try to eliminate those," Wildman said. "They ran the ball real well against us."
On the other hand, South Putnam struggled to establish a running game against the Bruins. Quarterback Anthony Tomasino threw for 136 yards passing, but the Eagles only gained 92 yards on the ground. Running back Drew Christy, who averaged 92.3 yards per game in the regular season, only managed 50 yards on 14 carries in the contest.
Since then, some things have changed.
"There has been a whole season in between," South Putnam coach Mark Wildman said. "We've hopefully turned things around to be competitive."
In two postseason games, Christy has 295 yards rushing and six touchdowns, averaging 147.5 yards rushing and three touchdowns a game. South Putnam's offense has been explosive, averaging 452 total yards and 47 points per contest. Tight end Matt Hicks had 201 yards receiving last Friday, while Anthony Tomasino was 12-of-14 for 265 yards passing for three touchdowns.
"We've been able to get big plays out of a number of people the last few weeks," Wildman said.
However, the Bruins have not lacked offense either of late. The Bruins shutout Cloverdale 42-0 last week, compiling 437 yards on offense. Wildman knows the Eagles' defense will be challenged.
"To beat Tri-West, the margin of error is going to have to be real small," he said.
The Eagles have played the Bruins 12 times in the last 10 years, including to sectional matchups in 1995 and 1996. The Eagles lost both of the postseason games, and have only beaten Tri-West three times in the last 10 years. However, the Eagles know all those numbers are in the past.
"If people are looking to say, 'Do they have a chance to beat Tri-West?,'" Wildman said. "We're looking at it -- we're the only team that can beat Tri-West this week."
A win Friday would give the Eagles their first sectional title since entering Class 2A in 2003. There is little doubt South Putnam will come to play.
"I think what they're excited about is the opportunity," Wildman said. "Just to win Friday night would be to win the sectional."