By Bryan Ault
Since 2013, Indianapolis Lutheran and Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter have exchanged victories every season. The series has been tied 3-3 over the past six years, and both teams have been eagerly preparing for tonight’s contest.
“We have prepared for Ritter just like every week,” Lutheran defensive back and receiver Jalen Elliott said. “Execution is the biggest emphasis. If we execute the plays our coaches give the way they are supposed to be executed, there should be no excuses on this or that.”
Lutheran has been strong under Dave Pasch for the past three seasons, registering three regional titles. Ritter is looking to rebound after a 3-7 year in 2018. Both teams enter tonight’s matchup with a 1-0 record: Lutheran topped Beech Grove with a 27-22 win, and Ritter beat Monrovia 14-6 last week.
“The environment of the Beech Grove game was crazy, and it was a very well-fought game by both teams,” Lutheran senior offensive lineman Peyton Knight said. “We were very proud that we rose to the occasion. As a team, I felt we performed fairly well for our first game, but we definitely had some things to work on and clean up. From a personal standpoint, it was my first game playing offensive line and I felt I performed pretty well.”
Knight said the team was not prepared for Beech Grove’s offense, one he said was “completely different” from last season. But playing well in all three phases of the game, he said, was a key factor in the win.
“We adjusted to it and played it better and learned to stop it,” he said of their offense.
Knight and the rest of the Lutheran team expects a tough challenge against Ritter, saying they “bring an intensity to the table.” A primary concern for Lutheran is Ritter quarterback Jack Henninger, who Knight says is “obviously very talented and has an excellent arm.” The senior passer is an Indy Select 7-on-7 selection and threw for 1,540 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018, and threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns during the opener against Monrovia.
“We got the win over a pretty big rival which is all you can ask for,” Henninger said. “I’m fortunate enough to have a really good receiving core that can bring everything in that I throw to them and also a really good offensive line.”
“We have just been going extra hard in practice for their passing game because they like to do that a lot,” Lutheran defensive back Marcus McFadden said.
Ritter tailback Ashton Hall ran for 61 yards off 12 carries last week in the 15-6 victory over Monrovia. He finished 2018 with 311 yards and four touchdowns. He says although he did not perform as well as he wanted to, the team as a whole played well and looks forward to tonight’s matchup. Hall is also starting at defensive end.
“It was more exciting to watch the defense fly to the football and how hype they were and I’m glad to be starting both ways now,” he said. “Practice has been intense and I’ve been working on my pass rush and how to be more patient as a running back and wait for my hole to accelerate through.”
Henninger said he has focused on pocket movement and trying to get the ball out faster over the past week in preparation against Lutheran. He said he expects a high-octane pass rush against the Raiders.
“Their linebackers are very fast and physical,” Henninger said. Among those linebackers is 6’1” 180 Nolan Bryant, an underclassman recruit to watch throughout this season. Senior cornerback Jalen Elliott is another player to watch.
Ritter has some weapons on offense, including sophomore receiver and defensive back Justin Browder, who had a strong start against Monrovia. He caught a touchdown pass last week on offense and returned a kick to the house on special teams. The 5’9” 175-pound sophomore is one to watch on the recruiting trail.
“We’ve studied film and I have all the confidence in the world that our coaching staff has prepared us for this game,” Browder said. “Now it’s just on us to execute. One of our coaches always says ‘Games are won from Monday to Thursday (and) Friday you cash your check.”