The 2015 IHSAA football season begins tonight with the renewal of a rivalry between a pair of Hendricks County schools. The Avon Orioles and Plainfield Quakers kickoff the season tonight at Hendricks Regional Health Field in Avon. Once regular staples on one another’s schedule, the series came to a halt in 2005 when the Hoosier Crossroads Conference expanded to ten teams leaving the Orioles without the capability of scheduling non-conference games. Eleven years later, the HCC is now down to seven teams and the rivalry resumes. It’s been almost eleven years to the day since the Quakers and Orioles last met on the gridiron. Back on August 20th of 2004, Avon won 33-7.
The Avon Orioles enter tonight’s game ranked 6th in Class 6A. The Orioles finished last season with a record of 8-3 and the outright Hoosier Crossroads Conference championship. Of their three losses, two came at the hands of the eventual 6A state champion Ben Davis Giants whom the Orioles will play next week in their first road game of the season.
There was plenty of excitement during the off season and Avon senior quarterback Brandon Peters announced this spring that he would continue his football career upon graduating from Avon at the University of Michigan under coach Jim Harbaugh. Peters threw for 1,876 yards last season with 21 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while completing over 56% of his passes.
Peters will have experience in the skill positions in senior flanker Andrew Griffin who himself signed to play football at Princeton next year. Griffin led the team in catches (61), receiving yards (880) and touchdown receptions (10) in 2014. Senior tight end Matt Moore also returns after catching 4 touchdown passes last season. Darian Love will start at tailback for head coach mark Bless’ Orioles. Love amassed 716 yards on 127 carries last season while scoring 5 touchdowns. The Orioles will look to take advantage of their Blue Chip quarterback’s skill as they will run more 3 to 4 wide formations with a single back rather than the two back sets they have run successfully the past couple of seasons. Wide receivers Harrison Weber and Jordan Peterson along with Drew Pankey-Wallace should provide plenty of targets for Peters in the offense. The offensive line starts two freshman on the right hand side in D.J. Bowles and Addison Batton but both players possess excellent size and have shown an uncanny maturity to earn the starts as freshman. Senior left tackle Nick Shoemaker returns to protect Peters’ blind side and Ryan Dickison slides over to center to start the season.
While Avon will switch things up a little offensively this season, the defense remains a constant in their 3-3 stacked alignment. Senior A.J. Elcock returns after leading the team in sacks (10) last season as does outside linebacker Matt Thompson. Junior Bryant Fitzgerald will start the season at strong safety where his versatility and instincts will allow him to play off receivers or up close to the line as a linebacker. Senior Brody Gude will start at linebacker after having missed almost all of last season due to a knee injury.
The Orioles have the talent and tools in place to make some serious noise in class 6A. But they will have a tough assignment playing in an improved HCC this season and non-conference games such as tonight’s along with class 5A powerhouse Whiteland and defending 6A champion Ben Davis.
Head Coach Brian Woodard’s Plainfield Quaker squad epitomized the adage about the IHSAA tournament being “the second season”. The Quakers finished the regular season with a record of 2-7 thanks in no small part to their youth and injuries to some of their key players. But the Red Pride started anew in the tournament, defeating Danville for the second time last season in their sectional opener before pulling off a huge upset in the sectional semifinal on the road at heavily favored Northview 28-13. Plainfield found themselves in the sectional championship game against long time nemesis Roncalli and while they gave the Rebels all they could handle, the Quakers season came to a close in a 24-17 defeat.
Now, one year more experienced and healthier at many key positions, Coach Woodard’s team will see if they can improve even further. Junior Colin Nysewander returns at quarterback after throwing for 1290 yards and 9 touchdown last season. He’ll look for junior wideout Dante Keys who led the team in yards receiving (415), receptions (24) and touchdowns receptions (3). Senior running back Dylan Foster rushed for 747 yards and 7 touchdown in 2014. The Quaker offense should be bolstered by the return of senior Jacob Maple at tailback. Maple spent much of last season playing hurt but his production improved as his health did making him a dangerous threat rushing the ball and catching it out of the backfield.
The 3-4 defense will be anchored by senior defensive lineman Bryce Biddle who recorded 111 tackles and 3 sacks as a junior along with 8 tackles for loss. Linebacker Tevin Tomlinson will be a force to contend with all season long after recording 107 tackles as a junior last season.
The 2015 IHSAA football season kicks off tonight and you can join me for all the action on Audio Sports Online and XRBradio.com. Joining me tonight will be the Indiana Football Hall-of-Famer Dave Shelbourne and as my special guest color analyst, I welcome the voice of the Quakers J.P. Sinclair to the booth tonight.
It all begins with the pregame show that sill get underway at 6:00 PM as we hear from both Coach Woodard of the Quakers and Avon’s head coach Mark Bless followed by the kickoff between the Quakers and Orioles at 7:00 PM.
As an added bonus, I also had the call of the JV game.