The long-awaited finale of IHSAA Sectional 40 is set to unfold tonight at Viking Field in Poseyville, Indiana. Kickoff scheduled for 7:30 PM EST time. The Paoli Rams are making the nearly two-hour journey to face the North Posey Vikings in what promises to be the matchup of the year for both teams. As we move forward in the 2A state championship, the stakes only get higher.
Both teams boast impressive 10-1 records going into the game, and their familiarity with each other adds an intriguing layer to the competition. John Harrell has tipped the Vikings as the favorites with a predicted score of 38-24. However, most pundits seem to be underestimating the Rams, overlooking the fact that they house one of the state’s best backs. In my opinion, that’s a critical oversight.
North Posey has faced tougher opponents. They narrowly escaped defeat from Evansville Mater Dei in the previous round, clinging to a 35-34 victory after halting a potential game-winning 2-point conversion. Noteworthy wins against Tell City and Southridge further demonstrate their mettle. Their sole loss came at the hands of a solid Heritage Hills program, a game in which they managed to hold their opponents to just 10 points—a testament to North Posey’s defensive prowess.
Last year, North Posey clinched a decisive 55-31 victory over the Rams in the second round sectional game. Many might recall that score to predict the outcome of tonight’s game, but that would be a mistake.
This year, Paoli’s defense has undergone a remarkable transformation. Last year, they allowed an average of 27 points per game; this year, that’s down to just 15. This defensive fortitude has given their offense the latitude to shine, boosting their average game score to 43.4 points from 2022’s 39.
Conversely, North Posey is averaging 40 points per game while conceding only 10. Returning all their starters from the previous season, they’ve bolstered their performance on both ends—last season they scored 34 points per game and allowed 25.
Defense is likely to be the deciding factor in this game, and both teams are up for a challenge. Paoli’s Trey Rominger is a dual-threat on both sides of the ball. His staggering 2,257 rushing yards not only place him at the top of the state’s rushing leaders but also 9th in the nation. His career has been nothing short of extraordinary, and he’s undoubtedly aiming for a career-best performance tonight in pursuit of his first Sectional title.
Although Rominger is a powerhouse, Paoli is a team where every player has upped their game, embracing their roles with full accountability. Their wishbone West Coast offense sets the stage for unpredictable scoring. While opponents may focus on Rominger, they risk being blindsided by the swift Dane Padgett on outside sweeps or a clever run-option QB keeper by Fletcher Cole. The Rams have the firepower; the crux will be whether their defense can neutralize North Posey’s threats.
The Vikings, favoring a spread offense, often set up with two receivers on one side, one on the other, and a wingback at the ready. Their quarterback, Liam Stone, is a force to be reckoned with, capable of causing headaches for the Rams’ defense. Despite their passing setup, the Vikings lean towards running plays, often deploying a runner for a potential QB run option. However, if the Rams focus too much on the run, North Posey could easily shift to a passing strategy.
I haven’t watched too many North Posey games, but from the bits I have seen, and following their stats, their defense is standing out to me as one of the toughest in Southern Indiana. I’m not sure the Rams have faced this level of threat. The Rams offensive line has to be prepared and ready to play, and QB Cole needs to be aware of the blitz and those defensive backs lurking, prepared to snatch an interception.
Paoli’s Head Coach Neill Dittmer spoke about the upcoming challenge: “We had a great week of practice. I feel very confident in our kids and think that they are ready to go. This will no doubt be a tough challenge; North Posey is a very good team. If we are going to win, we will have to take advantage of our opportunities on offense, avoid turnovers, and defensively, we will have to slow down their potent rushing attack.”
Predicting the outcome of this game is no easy feat. North Posey hasn’t encountered a running attack like the Rams’ all year, and the Rams haven’t encounted a team that was this good on both sides of the ball. Despite their decisive victory last year, Paoli has evolved into a tenacious team that refuses to back down. While many expect North Posey to sail to victory, I’m placing my bet on the Rams clinching the IHSAA sectional 40 championship with a score of 28-20.
Round 2 Win: Forest Park Rangers vs Paoli Rams
Seeing that I did not get a story up about the Rams previous win, I’ll share a little bit about it now. The rams 50 to 14. And if you read my preview story that game, you would have seen that I predicted a Rams win, 48 to 14. Forest Park was strong, but they just didn’t have enough to stay with the rolling Rams. Here are some highlights and box score from that game.
First Half Video Highlights: Forest Park vs Paoli
Second Half Video Highlights: Forest Park vs Paoli
Key Team Stats:
Rushing Yards: Paoli amassed an impressive 346 rushing yards with an average of 9.6 yards per carry, overshadowing Forest Park’s 177.
Total Offense: The Rams outgained Forest Park with 387 total yards of offense.
Turnovers: Paoli’s defense was a nightmare for Forest Park, forcing 6 turnovers (4 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries).
Red-Zone Efficiency: Paoli was clinical in the red zone, scoring on all 3 of their opportunities.
Key Offensive Players
Jace Berg: Berg had an impressive game with a total of 109 rushing yards on 6 carries, scoring 2 touchdowns. He also caught 1 pass for 17 yards and returned 2 kickoffs for 22 yards, giving him a total of 148 all-purpose yards.
Joel Bueltel: Bueltel contributed with 17 rushing yards, and he was significant in the return game, bringing back 2 kickoffs for a total of 70 yards, accumulating 87 all-purpose yards.
Mason Lubbers: Lubbers caught 3 passes for 43 yards and had a kickoff return for 3 yards, totaling 46 all-purpose yards.
Trey Rominger: Rominger had a standout performance with 188 rushing yards on 16 carries and scored 4 touchdowns. He was the game’s top rusher and did not participate in the receiving or return game, amassing 188 all-purpose yards solely through rushing.
Dane Padgett: Padgett was a dual-threat, rushing for 78 yards on 3 carries with 1 touchdown and catching 1 pass for 10 yards. His total all-purpose yards were 88.
Fletcher Cole: Cole had 23 rushing yards, returned 2 kickoffs for 41 yards, and had an interception return for 1 yard. He also contributed in the passing game by completing 2 of 3 passes for 41 yards. His total all-purpose yards were 65.
Key Defensive Players
Tyler Fetter: Led the team with 7 total tackles (6 solo, 1 assisted).
Caydan Leisman: Made significant contributions with 5.5 total tackles (5 solo, 1 assisted) and 2 tackles for loss totaling 11 yards.
Aaron Beckman: Also had 5.5 total tackles (5 solo, 1 assisted) and contributed 2 tackles for loss totaling 7 yards.
Trey Rominger: Led the team with 6.5 total tackles (3 solo, 7 assisted), 1.5 tackles for loss totaling 3 yards, and 1 forced fumble.
Isaiah Apple: Contributed with 4 total tackles (1 solo, 6 assisted) and recovered a fumble.
William Baker: Had 2.5 total tackles (2 solo, 1 assisted), 1 interception with a return of 29 yards, and 1 pass break-up.
Cooper Spires: Recorded 2.5 total tackles (2 solo, 1 assisted), 1 interception returned for 27 yards, and 1 fumble recovery.