The first five minutes Friday at McKeand Stadium should be interesting.
New Castle, still a relative newcomer to Hoosier Heritage Conference football, will arrive to town riding a wave of confidence after a stunning 15-14 win over Pendleton Heights last week.
The win was the first for the Trojans as a member of the HHC — they are now 1-14 — and it was the first time the program has won back-to-back games since mid-September of 2008.
“They will definitely be riding high,” said Shelbyville coach Pat Parks. “They will be feeling good and they should be. That was pretty awesome last week.”
The Arabians led 14-0 entering the fourth quarter before Luke Bumbalough returned an interception 25 yards for New Castle’s first touchdown.
And on its next possession, Raul Banda finished off the game-winning drive with a 6-yard scoring run. New Castle faked the extra-point kick with Bumbalough sprinting into the end zone with 4:32 to go in the game.
“They have more athletes… you can see that on film… than they’ve had in the past,” said Parks.
Can emotion carry the Trojans to a third-straight win — something the program has not done in decades?
Those first five minutes Friday against Class 4A, No. 9 Shelbyville (3-0, 1-0 HHC) will determine how far New Castle has come in one year.
Quarterback John Lux threw for 306 yards and four touchdowns in the first half in their last meeting. That turned out to be a preview of what was to come in 2016 for the strong-armed QB.
Lux has completed 55 percent of his passes this season for 866 yards and 11 touchdowns. More impressively, five different receivers have touchdown receptions and seven different receivers have caught a pass.
All of that aerial production has been needed because the running game has been mostly ineffective. Shelbyville is averaging just 40 yards per game on the ground and that has Parks’ attention.
“We’re still not able to run like I want to but when we needed it late in the game (at Delta), we were able to,” he said.
Shelbyville opened its HHC schedule with a confidence-building win last week at Delta, 28-21. It was the first win on that field since 2007 and the first time the Golden Bears have beaten the Eagles in consecutive years.
“The first three games were really important last year (to our success) and again this year,” said Parks, who led Shelbyville to a 9-2 mark last season. “We still need to go out and continue to get better every week. We now have opportunities to get wins if we take care of business. We’re on a roll. We’ve got confidence but we can’t underestimate anybody.”
And that starts with the Trojans who attack with quarterback Niah Williamson (19-for-37, 294 yards, 3 TDs), running backs Nic Broyles (23 carries, 119 yards) and Uriah Howe (13 carries, 109 yards) and receiver Luke Bumbalough (9 receptions, 2 TDs).
“They have size on the offensive line and a good-sized fullback in the backfield,” said Parks. “And they try to throw the ball. I like what they are doing in the passing game. They will prove a challenge for us that we haven’t seen in a lot of teams this season.”
Shelbyville counters with a wrecking crew of linebackers that are making life difficult for opposing offenses.
In last week’s win at Delta, senior middle linebacker Nolan Ray led the Golden Bears with 17 total tackles to move within five of breaking Jacob Cord’s career tackles record (321).
“He is all over the field,” said Parks. “That’s the kind of play you want from your (middle) linebacker. He goes sideline to sideline… from tackle to tackle… he’s that guy.”
Senior linebacker Melvin Justice finished with seven tackles and a quarterback sack against the Eagles.
Undersized for a Class 4A linebacker, Justice uses speed and leverage to be disruptive.
And junior linebacker Nathan Phillips had a breakout performance. The first-year starter recorded a career-high 14 tackles.
“Right now, the three of them are making the bulk of the plays,” said Parks. “Our defensive linemen are doing a good job of keeping them clean.”
Ray leads the defense with 37 total tackles. Defensive back Sam Lewis is second at 27 — ahead of Phillips (23), defensive linemen Jacob Hartwell (22) and Xain Ballenger (17) and defensive back Cooper Lewis (17).
Jeff Brown is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @iamtsnsports
New Castle at Class 4A, No. 9 Shelbyville
Site: McKeand Stadium.
Kickoff: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Broadcast: Pre-game show at 6:30 p.m. on 96.5 FM (WSVX).
Student section theme: On Military Appreciation Night, the Shelbyville student section (Twitter handle: @SHSstudent_sect) has chosen U.S.A. as its theme.
2016 records: New Castle 2-1, 1-0 HHC; Shelbyville 3-0, 1-0 HHC.
Coaches: Will Ragle, 5-29 in fourth year at New Castle, 5-39 in fifth year overall; Pat Parks, 115-114 in 22nd year at Shelbyville.
Series history: Shelbyville leads the all-time series 4-1.
Last year: Shelbyville QB John Lux threw for over 300 yards and four TDs in the first half on the way to a 42-7 win.
Sagarin ratings: Shelbyville is favored by 36 points.
In other HHC games Friday: Delta (2-1, 0-1) at Yorktown (1-2, 0-1); Class 5A, No. 2 New Palestine (3-0, 1-0) at Mt. Vernon (1-2, 1-0); and Pendleton Heights (1-2, 0-1) at Greenfield-Central (2-1, 0-1).