With the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship likely out of reach, Class 4A, No. 9 Shelbyville must quickly rebound to maintain its grip on second place.
The Golden Bears suffered a 70-20 pounding last week from HHC leader New Palestine, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A. But there was little time to sulk.
Two nights later they learned they will open the postseason against 4A No. 3 East Central. And that led to a week of practice in preparation for a showdown for second place in the HHC with Mt. Vernon Saturday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“We’ve had good practices so far this week,” confirmed Shelbyville coach Pat Parks.
The Golden Bears’ last appearance at the home of the Indianapolis Colts was a 17-14 win over Pendleton Heights in 2012. Shelbyville is 4-0 in games at Lucas Oil Stadium since it opened nearly a decade ago. And Parks is 6-0 as head coach of the Golden Bears in games played inside the Colts’ home (Lucas Oil Stadium and the RCA Dome).
The Marauders opened the season 1-3 which included shutout losses to Marion and New Palestine. But Doug Armstrong’s team has won three straight and is an identical 4-1 with Shelbyville in the HHC.
“We were struggling with things we don’t usually struggle with… turnovers and penalties,” said Armstrong of his team’s slow start. “Our offense is still a work in progress.”
The Marauders rely heavily on junior quarterback Zac Montgomery (six feet, 195 pounds), who moved back to the Mt. Vernon school system after living in Tennessee for several years. He has completed 60 percent of his pass attempts for 1,045 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 472 yards and six more TDs.
“He is carrying the load for them,” said Parks. “You need to really focus on him but their running back is also very good.”
Junior running back Eric Jones is averaging 75 yards per game.
Mt. Vernon is averaging 20 points per game this season which tells Armstrong his team cannot get into a shootout with Shelbyville (32 ppg).
“I don’t think we can let them score 28-35 points and win,” he said.
Shelbyville needs a bounce back game from senior quarterback John Lux, an All-State candidate who passed for just 79 yards and threw four interceptions against New Palestine.
“He needs to make better reads and trust what he sees… not force the action,” said Parks.
Lux will be aided by a facility where the outdoor weather conditions will not be a factor.
Lux has already thrown for a program record 1,975 yards this season. His two favorite targets, senior Jalaen Ramsey (35 catches, 704 yards, 11 TDs) and junior Damon Lux (52 catches, 837 yards, 5 TDs), have been a lethal combination.
“It all starts with the quarterback and he’s got weapons at his disposal,” said Armstrong.
Damon Lux needs four receptions and 10 yards to break Josh Hamilton’s single-season records at Shelbyville.
The Golden Bears need two more wins to lock up a second-straight runner-up finish in the HHC. Shelbyville hosts Pendleton Heights (2-5, 1-4 HHC) in its regular-season finale on Oct. 14 while Mt. Vernon travels to Yorktown (1-6, 0-5 HHC) in week nine.
After New Palestine (7-0, 5-0 HHC), Shelbyville and Mt. Vernon, the other five HHC teams have at least three losses in the conference.
“We take a lot of pride in second place,” said Armstrong. “That makes this a big week.”
Jeff Brown is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @iamtsnsports.