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Gophers v. Bulldogs headlines week 3

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FACE OFF: Clinton Central and Anthony Ransford, above right during last year's game, host Clinton Prairie on Friday after topping the Gophers, 35-14, last season on the road.
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TOUCHDOW CARAVAN: Frankfort players surround Jack Wilkins as the offense runs from the end zone after Wilkins 26-yard touchdown run in the first half against Logansport last Friday.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Clinton Prairie visits Clinton Central tonight with the county rivalry highlighting week three of the high school football season, while Frankfort stays at home opening Sagamore Conference play against Tri-West.

All three county schools are coming off losses after Central fell 49-29 on the road to Sheridan in a Hoosier Heartland Conference game after leading at halftime, Prairie got down early to state-ranked Attica and never recovered losing 58-14 and Frankfort played Logansport fairly evenly statistically but a breakdown at the end of the first half where the Berries scored 14 points in a minute and a half cost them in a 35-12 loss.

Brief overviews of this week’s games are below.

Clinton Prairie (1-1) at Clinton Central (1-1), 7 p.m.

Clinton Central head coach Justin Gardiner expects to see a different Prairie team than last year when the Bulldogs beat the Gophers, 35-14, on their way to a 6-4 season. It’s also a challenge playing three rival teams – Frankfort and Sheridan being the others -- to start the season.

“This is three of our biggest rivals right in a row to start the year,” he said. “Prairie is one you always get circled in the summer going into the season. We know they are a lot better this year. They are going to be a good team and good challenge for us.”

Prairie head coach Raymond Jones shares mutual respect for the Bulldogs and looks forward to the challenge.

“Any time you can play a cross-town rival is an exciting experience, a community event to bring everybody together,” he said. “I’m excited to play Central. They are a great team and well-coached, so it will be a fun game on Friday.”

Last year, current junior Anthony Ransford ran for 142 yards on 23 carries for the Bulldogs, while Ross Cripe had 71 on 10 carries and Payton Moore had 32 yards rushing and 105 yards receiving with two touchdowns as Central pulled away taking a 13-8 halftime lead to a 35-14 victory over the Gophers.

Gardiner isn’t judging the Gophers off of last week’s blowout loss to Attica, which moved to No. 10 in the Associate Press Class 1A poll after beating Prairie last week.

“(Prairie) can strike quickly and I think they got behind and had to get out of their game plan, so it’s not really indicative of what they really can do," he said. "Prairie’s a good football team and we’re going to have to be on our A game to beat them.”

Central has dealt with some early season injuries, but still had perennial HHC power Sheridan on the ropes leading 21-7 before the Blackhawks got a touchdown and two-point conversion right before the half and blew open the game in the fourth quarter. Gardiner agreed that the lack of depth from the injuries may have played a part with the fourth quarter.

“You don’t want to make excuses,” he said. “We did get worn down a bit and we had some guys playing out of position. I was really proud of a lot of guys for stepping up because we were hurting even before the game had started and then we had some other guys get banged up during the game.

“It was more about we came out early and got Sheridan out of their game plan and then that score before the half they were able to go back into what they do well and then at the end we just kind of ran out of gas. We scored too quickly for our liking to be honest with you.”

Jones said Attica’s physicality gave the Gophers trouble last week and his squad needs to match that against another physically strong team in Central.

“Last week, Attica was a little more physical than us and that’s what got us,” he said. “It’s going to be another physical, strong team and we have to make sure that we match that physicality and intensity and kind of get up to that level this week when we didn’t do that last week.”

Senior Jacob Baker continued a strong start to the season with 73 yards rushing on eight carries with a touchdown against Attica, giving him 261 yards and four TDs in two games. Running mate Jacob Fullerton was held to minus 2 yards after a 98-yard day against Park Tudor to open the season. Quarterback Kade Osborn was 8-13 passing for 128 yards and a touchdown and is 11-19 for 185 yards on the season, with 123 yards rushing. Kaleb Peters leads the Gophers with three receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns.

For Central, Ransford went for 111 yards on 21 carries with two TDs against Sheridan, giving him 250 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and five scores on the season. Quarterback JT Holton completed 9-19 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown last week, making him 13-26 on the season for 234 yards and two TDs. Caleb Heide leads the team 141 yards receiving on five receptions with a touchdown (last week).

“It was nice to see Caleb, he’d been a little gimpy the first couple of weeks, and he scored a long touchdown on the first play of the game and had a nice game receiving,” Gardiner said, also praising a freshman and his new quarterback.

Brandon Primeaux had to start on both sides of the line against a good team and he did a really nice job for a freshman out there,” he said. “JT is getting better out there each week throwing the ball. It’s only his second game playing football really and he didn’t make any bad mistakes.”

Both coaches expressed their admiration for each other.

“I like coaching against him,” Gardiner said. “It’s weird that you’ve got a county rival and a team that you play during the season and we scrimmage together during the summer.

“We get along pretty well and we realize you put what’s best for your kids first and seeing a good opponent in the summer time is more important than whether they see your plays or something like that.”

“We get along,” Jones said. “I’ve got to know him over the last few years and he’s a really good guy and runs a great program."

“It should be fun Friday night,” Gardiner concluded. “We’re looking forward to it. I know the boys are looking forward to getting the bad taste out of their mouth from last week.”

Tri-West (1-1) at Frankfort (0-2), 7 p.m.

After the young Hot Dogs made progress last week following their opening week loss to Clinton Central, Frankfort gets another tough test as they host Tri-West to open conference play for both teams.

“They beat a really strong Central Catholic team (22-7) and then got beat last week by a Plainfield team (28-13) that’s pretty dang good and is a (Class) 5A school,” Frankfort head coach James Byers said.

He noted that the Bruins have plenty of weapons.

“(Bryce Hendershot) is a great slot receiver,” Byers said. “They put him in the backfield some too. They did that against us last year some. No. 1 (Garrett Cora) was their main ball carrier against Plainfield and he’s really explosive.

“Their line is big and strong and their defense is really aggressive. No. 9 (Ethan Depinet) is back. He’s a sophomore linebacker and he does a great job of coming down hill. They have a lot of athletes.”

Despite having fewer carries than Cora or Hendershot, senior Justin Curry leads Tri-West in rushing early in the season with 81 yards on 15 carries (with Cora having 57 yards and Hendershot 42). Senior quarterback Luke Robertson has completed 23-46 passes for 242 yards this season with four TDs and two interceptions, with his passes spread out with five players having 30 yards receiving or more.

Jack Wilkins leads the Hot Dogs in rushing with 133 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown, with quarterback Sam Michael next with 71 yards on 18 carries. Michael is 21-39 through the air for 158 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. Jade Ayers leads Frankfort in receiving with 147 yards on six receptions with two touchdowns.

Byers said that his team has practiced well this week and he looks forward to the challenge against the Bruins.

“I’m really excited,” he noted. “The kids have had a great week of practice. They are really focused in and they’ve just kept building on what we had in that second half against Clinton Central (opener) and they’ve got better each week and things are starting to click with them now.”

Byers knows that things won’t get any easier in the Sagamore Conference.

“We’re excited to open conference play,” he said. “We have a really deep conference and every week is a grind from here on out.”