MIDDLETOWN — Shenandoah is taking little comfort in its previous win this season against Knightstown.
Even though the score was 62-0 and the game was played just more than a month ago.
“I think they’ve improved throughout the year,” Raiders coach Scott Widner said. “They’ve got a new coach and a new system. So obviously the more time they get with the new coach and the new system, the better they’re going to be at it.”
There is evidence to support Widner’s view.
The Panthers (6-4) have won three of their four games since the loss at Shenandoah on Sept. 27. They’ll return to Dale Green Field on Friday in the semifinals of Class 2A Sectional 38. The winner faces either Scecina (8-2) or Winchester (7-3) for the championship next week.
But those thoughts are far from the Raiders’ mind at present. Knightstown is a long-time rival, dating back to the days of the defunct White River Athletic Conference, and Shenandoah (8-2) has lost its last two home games.
The chance to get back in front of a friendly crowd Friday has the Raiders excited.
“We’ve got a great community, and they do a lot of things to support us,” Widner said.
Last week, at least, Shenandoah also had a great defense.
Coming off back-to-back losses against Eastern Hancock (68-19) and Cardinal Ritter (63-35), there was some concern as to how the Raiders would react on the road against Broad Ripple and star quarterback C.J. Shittu.
Shenandoah answered those questions by keeping the QB contained all night and running away with a dominant 49-6 victory.
“I think it was great for our kids to get that win under their belt, especially after the last couple weeks of the season,” Widner said. “I think it gave us some of our confidence back.”
The Raiders’ defensive backs did a fine job in particular at Broad Ripple. They played in man coverage most of the evening and managed to stick to the Rockets’ receivers while keeping one eye on Shittu coming out of the backfield.
Broad Ripple’s inability to break off big plays kept its offense out of rhythm and allowed Shenandoah to navigate a slow start that included just a 7-0 halftime lead.
There’s little doubt about the Raiders’ own ability to put points on the scoreboard. Shenandoah averages 49.4 points per game, and that number leaps to 55.0 in its victories.
The Raiders have gone over the 60-point barrier three times and scored 50 or more points in each of the first six weeks of the season. That stretch concluded with the first contest against Knightstown.
Shenandoah won its first sectional title in eight years with an upset victory in the final against Heritage Christian last season, and it has played in the sectional championship game in each of the past three campaigns.
But the Raiders are careful not to look past Friday’s date with the Panthers and toward a fourth consecutive sectional final.
“We’ve tried to focus each game of the year by going one day at a time and one opponent at a time,” Widner said. “So, hopefully, (the Raiders) are in that habit by now.”