As soon as the final whistle sounded last Friday, Harold Bender found himself surrounded by screaming friends and fans.
The North Posey senior quarterback couldn’t help but smile. His Vikings had defeated Southridge 40-28 in front of a packed home crowd. A win that felt like a long time coming. Literally.
They hadn’t defeated the Raiders since September 8, 2012. A season that saw the Vikings finish the regular season undefeated and earn a Pocket Athletic Conference crown.
Friday’s win brought back a glimpse of that title-winning feeling at Joe Gengelbach Field once again.
“It was like that championship kind of atmosphere,” Bender said. “When you don’t beat a team for almost 10 years, you can start to give up. It’s been awesome. It’s something you always want to happen.”
North Posey is atop the PAC Small School division with a 3-0 overall record and a 2-0 mark in conference play. Tell City (2-1), the Vikings’ home opponent this Friday at 7 p.m., is the only other team yet to lose in a division contest.
Waylon Schenk, who is in his fifth year as coach of the Vikings, has seen steady improvement. He said there were some lumps in the season-opening 14-8 win over South Spencer. But in their last two wins over Princeton and Southridge, everything appears to be coming together.
“I think we’ve gotten better each week and that’s what you want to see,” Schenk said. “I’ve seen some good leadership from our senior class. They’re not only leading with their performance on the field, but they’re holding other guys accountable and making sure everyone is doing things the right way.”
Both sides of the ball have been dominated by seniors who have put up some impressive numbers through three weeks. These upperclassmen have set the tone at practice and have created positive energy around the program.
Bender has thrown for 602 yards and six touchdowns and is coming off of a near-perfect 20-of-21 performance against Southridge. Two wide receivers — Dalton Reidford and Devin Lintenizch — both have three touchdowns.
On defense, it’s been a senior captain holding things down at middle linebacker. Wyatt Tillman, a three-year starter, leads the team with 47 total tackles and a pair of blocked punts.
“It’s been great. We make sure to always bring the intensity at practice,” said Reidford. “Every team has their slow days once in a while but we make sure to pick it up. It’s been a great season so far.”
There have also been several young players making an immediate impact. Freshman running back Jed Galvin already has two 100-yard games and four touchdowns. There is a sophomore on the offensive line and six total underclassmen starters on defense.
Schenk has been happy with how the seniors have treated the younger players. There’s no sense of jealousy with these guys getting varsity minutes. Everyone is wanting what’s best for the team’s success.
“Sometimes there can be that alpha dog mentality so to speak. But our seniors have accepted those guys,” Schenk said. “They’re smart enough to realize that for us to be successful, we need that good young talent mixed with that core group.”
While the Viking football program always had strong support, they’ve seen an uptick in attendance this year with their first 3-0 start since 2012. Away from the field, the North Posey Football Booster Club has helped raise money and support. There’s also a parent group organizing a breakfast at a local restaurant each Friday for the team to eat together and get out in the community.
The kids feel the love from their friends in the hallways at school and just when they’re out and about. It’s a special feeling that the players, especially the seniors, are trying to enjoy as much as they can.
“It’s been awesome. You’ve got other people from other schools contacting you, people you haven’t seen in forever come around,” Bender said. “It’s been nice.”
At practice on Wednesday afternoon, Schenk and his coaching staff kept repeating something simple to the team: “Don’t let the success get to your head.” While this start has been nice, the Vikings have bigger goals of a conference title and a deep postseason run.
Last Friday’s win over Southridge was a stepping stone to those goals. The magnitude of that victory may be felt moving forward.
“We feel like we’re a talented group who can make noise in the sectional. But to do that, you gotta beat the best teams. We had to get over that hump,” Schenk said. “It was a big win not only for our kids but for our community. It shows we can compete with the upper echelon teams in the conference.”
SOUTHWESTERN INDIANA FOOTBALL
(All times CDT)
Central (0-3) at Vincennes Lincoln (0-3), 6:30 p.m.
Jasper (3-0) at Bosse (2-1), 6:30 p.m.
Harrison (0-3) at Castle (2-1), 7 p.m.
Mater Dei (3-0) vs. Memorial (2-1), 7 p.m., Romain Stadium
North (1-2) at Reitz (2-1), 7 p.m.
Jeffersonville (1-1) at Mount Vernon (3-0), 6:30 p.m.
North Knox (2-1) at Boonville (0-2), 6:30 p.m.
Pike Central (0-1) at Southridge (1-2), 6:30 p.m.
Princeton (0-3) at North Central (Farmersburg) (0-2), 6:30 p.m.
Tecumseh (1-1) at Forest Park (1-2), 6:30 p.m.
Gibson Southern (3-0) at South Warren, Ky. (1-1), 7 p.m.
Heritage Hills (2-1) at South Spencer (1-2), 7 p.m.
Tell City (2-1) at North Posey (3-0), 7 p.m.
Washington (0-2) at North Daviess (2-1), 6 p.m.
Paoli (1-0) at Perry Central (2-1), 6:30 p.m.