With Hoosier Hills Conference play starting this week, the Jennings County football team understood the importance of gaining a little confidence last week.
The Panthers did that Friday by picking up their first win of the season, a 35-14 victory against Greensburg. That gave coach Rick Zimmerman his first win since his return to the head coaching job at the school he coached from 2002-08.
“It’s huge,” Zimmerman said. “It was big for us to execute and not give up big plays. It was nice to get that first one not just for me, but for the kids heading into conference.”
Jennings committed four turnovers and blew two coverages that led to touchdowns in a season-opening 33-20 loss against Batesville.
“We actually beat ourselves against Batesville,” Zimmerman said. “They’re a very good team, and it just seemed like from the get-go, we were behind. It’s hard to beat a bad team, much less a good team, when you’re blowing coverages and making turnovers.
Zimmerman appears to have settled on a quarterback. After junior Jake Hahn played all but last two series of the Batesville game, senior Garrett Day finished the opener and then played the entire Greensburg game, despite turning an ankle in the second quarter, and will start Friday at New Albany.
“It’s pretty nice to have two quarterbacks,” Zimmerman said. “They’re pretty equal. We have a little depth at quarterback, which other than my first two years here, we’ve not had that kind of depth.”
The Panthers also have a solid backfield with seniors Austin Grunden, who was injured most of last season, and Ethan Chandler.
“They’ve been a pretty good 1-2 punch for me,” Zimmerman said. “Offensively, we have some other kids there, and that’s helped.”
Greensburg was the only team Jennings beat last season. They hope to add to this year’s win total on Friday against a New Albany team whose lone win a year ago came against the Panthers.
“We need to play well and go down there and compete and not give up the big play with their speed,” Zimmerman said.
Gaddis nets milestone win
While Zimmerman won his first game since returning to Jennings County, Columbus East football coach Bob Gaddis won his 150th game with the Olympians in Friday night’s 28-21 victory against Columbus North.
Gaddis is now 150-30 in his 15th season at East and 268-130 in his 37th season overall. The Olympians have won 27 consecutive regular-season games.
“I’m just happy to be 2-0 and getting ready for the next one,” Gaddis said. “It means we’ve had a lot of good players.”
Meanwhile, North coach Tim Bless is seeking his 100th career win with the Bull Dogs. He is 99-74 in his 16th year at North and 111-83 in his 18th year overall. His 100th win with the Bull Dogs could come Friday against Bloomington North, which is coached by his brother, Scott.
Two other area coaches still are seeking their first coaching victories. Tony Bell at South Decatur and Derrick Ball at Edinburgh are off to 0-2 starts in their head coaching debuts.
Bull Dog runners shine
Junior Rachel Brougher and senior Chase McQueen came through with big races Saturday in leading Columbus North to Conference Indiana titles.
Brougher won the girls race in 18 minutes, 42.7 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) at Terre Haute’s LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course that hosts the state finals. That was more than 44 seconds faster than her winning time last year on the Indiana University course.
“I really like LaVern,” Brougher said. “It’s my favorite course. It reminds me of state, and it always makes me want to run as hard as I can. I was happy with what I ran because our whole was in a little pack together for most of the race, and that was so much fun. You could hear the names of everyone being cheered, and it was awesome.”
McQueen finished second in the boys race in 16:19.6, a cross-country personal-best by about 25 seconds. He ran a 15:59 5K to finish a triathlon this summer.
“It felt good to get out on the state course and get a feel for it,” McQueen said. “We got to race on a course that not everybody gets to race on. It was pretty cool to experience.”
Panthers still perfect
For the second consecutive year, the Jennings County girls soccer team is undefeated going into the Hoosier Cup.
The Panthers moved to 6-0 with Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Brown County. This weekend in Bloomington, they’ll play Vincennes Lincoln at 8:20 p.m. Friday at Bloomington South, Bloomington South at 10:50 a.m. Saturday at Karst Park and Richmond at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Karst Park.
“I’m hoping to go into Hoosier Cup and win Friday night and go into Saturday on a high note,” Jennings coach Kate Gray said. “(The Hoosier Cup has) lost a little bit of its clout, but it’s still a fun tournament to go to.”
The Panther boys will also play in the Hoosier Cup. They will face Plainfield at 10:10 Friday, Merrillville at 12:40 p.m. Saturday and South Bend Adams at 6:10 p.m., all at Karst Park.
Teams to recognize youth
Columbus Youth/Middle School Football Night will be Friday at North, and Sept. 18 at East.
On Friday at North, players will be greeted at the team gate at the south end of the field and will be welcome on the field until 20 minutes before the 7 p.m. game against Bloomington North. They also will be recognized at halftime.
Youth players will also be recognized before East’s Sept. 18 game with New Albany. In addition, PAAL players will receive free admission to middle school games Sept. 21 at Central and Sept. 28 at Northside.