Eagles win finale, have eyes on playoffs

Saturday, October 15, 2016
Senior receiver Jonah Sanders of South Putnam hauls in a first-quarter pass against Brown County on Friday night.
Banner Graphic/Joey Bennett

SP winner in battle of Eagles

The difference between finishing 11th or 12th in the Western Indiana Conference football standings is truthfully not that huge of a factor, other than that the winner of the crossover matchup is able to avoid finishing last.

South Putnam’s 30-0 win Brown County on Friday night not only allowed the Eagles to escape the cellar after finishing last in the unquestionably tougher West Division, but also provided a nice sendoff for the team’s 11 seniors and gave momentum going into the sectional to a team that had lost three straight games and four of its last five.

“This is what we needed,” South Putnam coach Nathan Aker said. “We needed momentum, and we got it on senior night. It’s outstanding to get this win for them and get us ready for the tournament next week.”

As if Aker needed another benefit from this game, the Eagles finallygot sophomore quarterback Allen Plunkett back from injury and he showed no signs of rust.

Plunkett suffered a concussion in the team’s game at Greencastle last month, and sat out the past four games while recovering.

Coach Aker had lauded the performance of junior Christian Zeffel as Plunkett’s replacement during that stretch, but the superior arm strength provided by Plunkett gives the Eagle offense an additional boost.

South Putnam sophomore running back Aidan LeBlanc is hauled down by Brown County’s Luke Getts as teammate Cody Wyatt (51) battles the defenders.
Banner Graphic/Joey Bennett

“He did a great job,” Aker said. “Our guys came out and talked about tempo right out of the gate. Brown County got a big play on us, but we bowed up defensively and got a big stop.”

Brown County started from its own 22 on the opening drive, and on the fourth play promising freshman quarterback Noah Carter took off running and wasn’t stopped for 57 yards to give his team the ball at the South Putnam 31.

South Putnam’s defense held, and a BC field goal attempt was unsuccessful.

Plunkett marched his team deep into BC territory, with senior Devin Workman kicking a 33-yard field goal to give South Putnam the only points it would actually need.

Aker said the kick, which began a string of five straight possessions to open the game on which South Putnam scored, was huge.

“After that defensive stop, we went down the field and put a field goal on the board first,” he said. “That was something different for us. Devin has spent a lot of time working on that, and it paid off.”

The struggling Eagles, who have now lost eight straight games since an opening-week win over Edinburgh, only managed two first downs in the remainder of the half and ended each of its drives either punting or having a pass intercepted.

South Putnam, meanwhile, was feasting on the BC defense.

Kyle Shaffer, still ranking in the top 10 running backs in the state in terms of average yards per game, sandwiched touchdown runs of four and 34 yards around a 29-yard TD pass from Plunkett to promising freshman receiver Kain Gregory on the team’s next three possessions and the lead quickly exploded to 23-0.

Shaffer carried four times for 39 yards on the team’s next drive, getting an eight-yard TD run with 4:12 left in the half to conclude the game’s scoring. Plunkett had started the drive with a 17-yard completion to Hunter Higgins.

The 5-10, 200-pound Shaffer never needs to be told to run hard or play hard, and continued to do so instinctively and not because of the many other storylines that went along with the team’s special night.

“You always want to run harder every game and try the best you can,” he said. “We’re playing great and with heart, and focusing on our game plan.

“It’s great to be going into the sectional on a win,” Shaffer added. “We are optimistic for next week.”

Penalties far outweighed first downs in the second half, as Brown County got deep into South Putnam territory and had a potential touchdown pass called back due to a penalty.

No additional points were scored, and Aker was able to remove his seniors individually down the stretch.

He has been patient through his team’s winless conference season, knowing the preparation for tournament play will be beneficial.

The superiority of the West Division was shown on Friday night by its 6-0 record over East Division teams in the crossover games.

“You go through this WIC West and it’s a grind,” he said. “Everybody is a good football team every week. I don’t know if people know the level of football around here, but it’s outstanding.

“It’s a testament to what the coaches in the Wabash Valley are doing.”

Brown County 0 0 0 0 — 0

South Putnam 10 20 0 0 — 30

First quarter

SP — Workman 33 FG

SP — Shaffer 4 run (Workman kick)

Second quarter

SP — Gregory 29 pass from Plunkett (Workman kick)

SP — Shaffer 34 run (kick failed)

SP — Shaffer 8 run (Workman kick)


First downs 8 12

Rushing yards 109 140

Passing yards 63 183

Total offense 172 323

Penalties-yds 6-50 6-67

Punts-avg 5-32.0 5-31.2

Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0

Passing 7-22-2 8-15-0

Individual statistics

Rushing — Brown County: Carter 14-75, Harper 9-23, Ryan 2-4, Richards 2-(-4), Malan 2-2, Carney 0-0. South Putnam: Shaffer 27-128, LeBlanc 2-7, Plunkett 2-(-7), Scott 4-12, Cain 1-7.

Passing — Brown County: Carter 7-22-2 63. South Putnam: Plunkett 8-15-0 183.

Receiving — Brown County: L.Getts 1-9, Keefauver 2-15, Partyka 1-22, Richards 1-9, Harper 2-8. South Putnam: Sanders 3-103, Gregory 1-29, Scott 1-6, Zeffel 1-17, Higgins 2-28.

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