For The Tribune

Seymour football coach Josh Shattuck said Jennings County doesn’t care that the Owls have won seven straight games going into Friday’s Sectional 23 semifinals at North Vernon.

“We want to play well early. We’ve got to come out of the gate swinging,” Shattuck said. “Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence. You hope to build off that momentum.

“Jennings County doesn’t care how many games we’ve won. They just know they’ve got a one-time opportunity, and we’ve got a one-time opportunity to beat them. One team will advance to the sectional finals, and the other team will have equipment turn in and their season will be done.”

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Both teams avenged regular-season losses in Friday’s opening round of the sectional when Seymour topped Silver Creek 24-6 and Jennings County beat Madison 17-7.

Seymour defeated Jennings County 30-19 on Sept. 30 at home.

“Their kids play really hard,” Shattuck said of the 1-9 Panthers. “Coach (Rick) Zimmerman does a great job. Obviously, any time you have a team go 0-9 and then win in the tournament, it tells you that they haven’t given up on the season.

“They do a good job of disguising their defenses. They jump in and out of three different defenses almost at random, and that keeps you kind of on your heels a little bit when you have the ball. They’re kind of built around defense and built around toughness. That’s definitely noticeable watching film.”

Shattuck said his team needs to stay away from turnovers and penalties.

“We’ve just got to stay poised in our base offense and make sure our offensive linemen aren’t getting confused by them jumping in and out of different looks they like to give,” he said. “We’ve just got to really use technique and just have a really focused, concentrated effort on just doing the things we’ve been coached.”

The Panthers’ strength offensively is its run game.

“They really don’t have a basic offense,” Shattuck said. “They want to establish the run. They’re struggled with that this season. They haven’t been able to score a lot of points this year (averaging 12 per game), so they started throwing the football in the last couple weeks.

“They had a big game against Jeffersonville throwing the ball. They had a big game against us throwing the ball. They’ve been throwing it a little bit more, but they want to establish the run. They’re just improving overall in all three phases of the game.”

Jennings County isn’t afraid to bring out its special teams on fourth down. Last week, the Panthers converted a 38-yard kick against the Cubs.

“The biggest thing is taking away the run,” Shattuck said. “Their passing game has been successful in a lot of one-man routes, and if we can take away the run and make them one-dimensional in the passing game, we feel pretty good.

“They may complete a few bombs and things like that, but they’re not a pass first for first downs. They don’t really move the chains with the passing game. They want to make big plays in the passing game, so if we can take away the run or limit the run, we feel pretty good about our chances.”

The Owls hope to get the offense moving often and early in the opening stages of the game.

“With Jennings County running three defenses, I think one of the objectives they have is they want to slow the offenses down by jumping in and out of defense and make you kind of overthink,” Shattuck said. “So we’re kind of going to push the tempo a little bit and not let them dictate the style of play based on what defense they’re in.”

Seymour is averaging 32.9 points per game, and the Silver Creek game marks the first time the Owls scored less than 30 points since the Jeffersonville game Aug. 26.

“It’s back to fundamentals and technique for us,” Shattuck said. “We have some pretty good players on offense, and we feel like we can score some points, but we can’t get worked up on them switching defenses all the time.

“The game plan with us is real simple: Run the football. If the passing game becomes something semantically that we see as advantageous, then we won’t be afraid to throw it.”

The Owls have spread teams out with split ends and backs in the slot, and they have run tight formations with two tight ends.

“It’s one of those things as the season progresses, we want to be really difficult to defend, and I think to be difficult to defend you,” Shattuck said. “Either A, have to be really, really a lot better than your opponent with the players, or B, you have to be unpredictable. Ideally, you’re both.

“Now, as we advance in the tournament, teams are doing some really good things with our option game, so we like to be able to go into that two-tight-end kind of goal-line-type package and move the ball that way, basically keep teams guessing, make them prepare for a lot of different looks.”

East Central will play Franklin County in the other Sectional 23 semifinal.

Catch the Owls

Class 4A Sectional 23 Semifinals

What: Seymour (7-3) at Jennings County (1-9)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Jennings County field

Radio: 92.7 Nash Icon

Last outing: Seymour def. Silver Creek 24-6, Jennings County def. Madison 17-7.

Previous meeting: Seymour def. Jennings County 30-19 on Sept. 30, 2016.

Series past 30 years: Seymour 26-6.

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.