November 06, 2013Defense was the key for the Floyd Central football team Friday night as the host Highlanders shut out visiting Jennings County, 27-0, in Class 5A sectional play. The Highlanders will travel to Whiteland Friday for the championship game at 7 p.m. Whiteland won its semi-final round over Franklin, 24-22.
"We're just going to keep doing what we do," Floyd Central coach Brian Glesing said. "We're going to have to travel, so whoever we play it will be for the sectional title. It's November and you're playing football in November, and that's good."
Floyd Central's Gabriel Kennedy goes end over end in the third quarter against visiting Jennings County in the Highlanders' sectional game against the Panthers. Kennedy had two interceptions in the second half in Floyd Central's 27-0 win. Photo by Wade Bell
The week's heavy rains had softened the Floyd Central field, and the Highlanders didn't want to waste any time getting a jump-start. Both teams blanked out on their first possessions, but, on the first play of Floyd Central's second possession, Gaige Klingsmith put the Highlanders on the board with a 62-yard touchdown run. Floyd Central missed the extra point but still held the 6-0 lead.
After the Highlander defense forced the Panthers to give up the ball on downs on the Floyd Central 42-yard line, Floyd Central kept the ball on the ground on the possession, which was capped by Klingsmith's second touchdown on an 8-yard run. The junior also got the two-point conversion, putting the Highlanders in front 14-0, the score after one period.
"I think it was a big deal to get ahead of them early, because we knew the field was going to get torn up and the footing was going to get bad," Glesing said. "That was good for us."
Floyd Central forced the Panthers to boot the ball away on their next possession. The Highlanders ran their ground game again and got some help on a face-mask penalty by the Panthers. Garry Posey got the call from two yards out and went in to score. The Highlanders failed to convert for two but still held a 20-0 lead.
Jennings County fought to score before halftime, but instead saw Floyd Central senior Brandon Stout intercept a pass, leaving the Panthers down 20 at the break.
Glesing said the Panthers had a good enough team to knock the Highlanders out of the tournament and that his team had to keep its focus.
"They were a couple or three plays of beating Jeffersonville," Glesing said. "They were a couple of plays from making a closer game with us the last time (Floyd Central won 54-30 on Oct. 11). We knew they're better than their record indicates. They've got some good football players over there.
"We had to be able to run the ball. We were able to do it better than they did. They got a couple of good drives there, but we were able to run it a little bit better than they did."
Jennings County had its best chance to score on its first possession of the second half. After taking the ball on their own 20-yard line following a touchback, the Panthers worked to the Floyd Central 3-yard line after coming back from a second-and-30 situation.
On its next play, however, Jennings County fumbled the ball and Floyd Central's Elijah Miller fell on the ball. Nick Uhl then ran the ball to the 30-yard line to get Floyd Central away from the dangers of a safety.
"That was the clincher right there," Glesing said. "That was a big deal. It was huge. … Nick Uhl had a big run to get it out of there. He had a good night running the football, and he's a good alternative for our tailbacks."
Floyd Central didn't score on the possession but had another big defensive play on the Panthers' next drive, which began on their own 15-yard line, as Gabriel Kennedy thwarted intercepted a pass on the Jennings County 39-yard line.
The Highlanders were forced to boot the ball away, but they got the ball back on a Panther fumble. One play later, Kennedy got the call and ran in from 27 yards for the score.
Kennedy later had his third big play with a second interception. That allowed the Highlanders to run out the clock for the 27-0 win.
"We won the turnover battle and forced some turnovers," Glesing said. "That was huge for us. It wasn't a stellar performance, but, in November, a win is a win, and you take it. But, defensively, we did a great job."
The Highlanders finished with 280 yards of offense, with 260 of those coming on the ground on 32 plays. Quarterback Colton Kimm completed one of just four passes, a 20-yard play to Trevor Smith. Klingsmith had 15 carries for 125 yards, and Uhl carried seven times for 86 yards.
On defense, Chase Herron had 11 tackles and four assists. Miller had eight tackles and Posey had six tackles and six assists. Lukas Quinkert had five tackles.
"It was a big deal to get ahead of them early," Glesin said, "to get on top and force them to get out of their comfort zone and throw it a little bit more than what they want to."
The Panthers (3-7) finished with 209 yards of offense. Jennings County carried the ball 35 times for 152 yards and completed just five of 20 passes for 57 yards.
Floyd Central's season has been a complete turnaround from last year when the Highlanders were 2-8. Glesing said a good group of seniors (28 in all) and minor changes here and there have made a big difference. There won't be any big changes, however, as the Highlanders visit Whiteland for the sectional championship.
"We were 2-8 last year and now we're 8-2, so that's a big turnaround," Glesing said. "We've got eight wins, so now our goal will be to get nine. We've got some great senior leadership making sure everybody is doing a good job and doing what they're supposed to do.
"We had a great off-season. We changed a couple of things offensively, and defensively tweaked some things. The bottom line is, we've got guys who want to win football games."