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Regional Preview: Lawrence Central faces familiar foe in Pike
November 9, 2012VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Indiana
By CLIFF BRUNT
For VYPE Magazine (Central Indiana)
For the third time in postseason play, Lawrence Central faces a rematch.
The top-ranked Bears host Indianapolis Pike on Friday, and coach Jayson West isn’t thrilled. Lawrence Central beat Pike 34-23 in Week 4, its closest game of the regular season. The Bears led just 14-10 heading into the fourth quarter of that game, and the Red Devils have improved since then.
“It’s not a great deal, really,” West said. “It’s just tough. You don’t have any choice, so you can’t really reflect on it too much. It is what it is. We’ve got to go out and do our best on Friday."
Perhaps he’s worried because rematches haven't gone well as the originals so far for the Bears. Lawrence Central (12-0) defeated Southport 47-6 in the regular season but just 34-13 in the playoffs. Last week, the Bears defeated North Central 21-7 after rolling 38-3 in Week 2.
Pike (9-3) performed well in its last rematch. The Red Devils lost to Ben Davis 24-0 in Week 2 but beat the Giants 35-25 in the first round of sectionals, then knocked off Zionsville and Avon to advance.
Pike coach Derek Moyers said it will come down to execution.
“They’re bigger than we are, they’re faster than we are,” he said. “I think our kids are up for the challenge.”
West said the opponent doesn’t matter too much at this point because at this time of the year, all the Indianapolis-area teams left are capable of getting to the finals at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Indianapolis football has come so far in the last five years,” he said. “There’s much more parity and a lot of good programs around. It’s definitely hard to dominate. You’ve got to play well to get out of Indianapolis and play well, play consistent and play physical and be healthy.”
Lawrence Central quarterback Drake Christen has passed for 1,506 yards and rushed for 1,043 this season. West believes the Bears will go as far as Christen takes them.
“He’s our mojo, he’s our engine,” he said. “He does a good job of managing the game and taking what the defense gives him. When he’s on and playing well, we’re very good.”
Christen, a senior, is listed at just 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. West said the height is a stretch, but the honors student makes up for his lack of size with commitment and smarts.
“It’s not about how big you are, it’s about who you are,” West said. “He has all the ability in the world to control the game through making smart plays. He’s another coach on the field. He’s put in all the extra work that 99 percent of the kids don’t do, and that’s why he’s successful.”
Lawrence Central boasts three 1,000-yard rushers – Christen, leading rusher Alex Rodriguez (1,205 yards) and speedster Isaiah Townsend (1,006 yards on just 90 carries) highlight the team’s balanced offense. They run behind an offensive line led by Ohio State recruit Tim Gardner.
Defensive end Derrick Dunlap leads Lawrence Central with seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Linebacker Nikia Averitte has seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
All will need to be ready to handle Pike.
The Red Devils have won seven of eight since losing to Lawrence Central. The Red Devils were plagued with injuries early in the season – three players tore ACLs in the loss to Ben Davis.
Now, with continuity in the offensive line, the Red Devils have hit their stride. They shifted from being more of a passing team to a two-back offense that features the zone read game.
“I think our last eight weeks, we’ve kind of found out who we were, we’ve gained our identity, we’ve figured it out,” Moyers said.
Brent Lyles leads Pike with 2,197 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Dominique Booth has 61 catches for 807 yards and 11 touchdowns. Taylor Sanders has rushed for 1,297 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Ja’Juan Self has added 508 yards and seven scores.
Tyler Sanders has seven interceptions for Pike, leading a unit that has picked off 25 passes this year. David Kenney leads the defense with nine sacks and 19 ½ tackles for loss.
West believes the challenging schedule will have his Bears ready.
“When you play our schedule, it’s a weekly effort to not only to survive but to get better every week,” he said. “It’s hard to do that with the quality teams we play week in and week out, but our kids have handled that really well this year and have achieved many of their goals this year.”
Cliff Brunt is the founder and editor of IndySportsLegends.com. He will be contributing to VYPE Magazine (Central Indiana) routinely throughout the year. You can follow him on Twitter @CliffBrunt_ISL