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Conference titles on the line tonight in three local games

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Shenandoah’s Lucas Wuestefeld (22) scampers down the field in the rain, eluding the tackle of Lapel’s Pheonix Mills (59), as other Raider and Bulldog players watch during their football game at Dale Green Field Sept. 7. Shenandoah goes for its eighth-straight win and a Mid-Eastern conference title tonight at Monroe Central.
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New Castle’s Gage Burk (34) looks for running room as New Palestine’s Luke Canfield (13) and other Dragon players close in on him during last Friday’s high school football game at Neal Field. The Trojans hope to finish with a winning regular-season record for the second year in a row when they play at Greenfield-Central tonight.
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Tri's Vade Dishman (7) looks for additional running room as Knightstown's Kyler Burchett (20) moves in to make the tackle and the Titans' Clayton Scott (77) tries to figure out a way to block to get Dishman more yardage during the two teams' high school football game Sept. 28. The Panthers play for a Tri-Eastern Conference championship tonight at home against Centerville, while Tri plays at Union County hoping to end the regular season on a winning note.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

The IHSAA draw has been completed and high school football teams are gearing up for the second season that begins next week, but there still is some unfinished business in tonight's final week of the regular season.

Among our five local teams, three of the games tonight will decide conference championships, one a guaranteed outright one in the Mid-Eastern Conference. The Tri-Eastern Conference could have a single champion, dual champs, or a sharing of the league title among four teams.

New Castle and Tri are on the road for their regular season finales. A win will give the Trojans their first back-to-back winning regular seasons since 1978-79. A Titans win would give them some momentum heading into the tournament next week.

All game are at 7 p.m. unless noted otherwise.

Shenandoah (7-1 2-0 MEC) at Monroe Central (7-1, 2-0 MEC) 7:30 p.m.

This battle of state-ranked small-school powers for the Mid-Eastern Conference championship should be interesting. In this week's AP poll, the Raiders are ranked No. 8 in Class 2A while the Golden Bears are ranked No. 7 in Class A.

Shenandoah has been clicking on all cylinders since a season-opening 28-26 loss at Class 2A No. 3 Indianapolis Scecina. The Raiders average 48.4 ppg while giving up 8.3 ppg, and have had many of their games all but wrapped up by halftime. Shenandoah has been able to employ a lot of different players in its contests.

Shenandoah rushes for an average of 265.5 ypg and passes for 153 ypg. Quarterback Peyton Starks has thrown for 1,224 yards and 17 touchdowns, Dallas Pugsley has carried the ball for 862 yards and 10 TDs, and Gabe Young has caught 17 balls for 513 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Raiders have 17 takeaways on defense, 14 interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Pugsley has five interceptions and Josh Farmer leads in total tackles with 71.

Monroe Central's only stumble of the season was at Class A No. 8 South Adams 36-15 on Sept. 14. The Golden Bears haven't been as dynamic on offense as the Raiders, but have been pretty good nonetheless at 30.4 ppg. The Monroe Central defense is comparable to Shenandoah's, as it gives up 10 ppg.

The Golden Bears average 202,9 ypg rushing and 154.6 ypg passing the football. Freshman quarterback Jackson Ullom has thrown for 1,185 yards and 11 touchdowns. Five different receivers have caught 10 or more passes, led by Matthew Poole with 15 catches for 286 yards and three TDs. Five different backs have run for at least 200 yards, led by Taft Manship with 442 yards and six touchdowns.

The Monroe Central defense is active with 27 takeaways in eight games, 12 pass interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries. Logan Patterson has picked off three enemy passes. Tyler Jones leads the team in total tackles with 75.

The Raiders have won five of the six meetings on the gridiron between the two schools, with the Golden Bears' only victory 16-0 in 2016. Last year, Monroe Central made it all the way to the Class A northern semi-state championship game before losing at eventual Class A state champion Pioneer.

Next week in the opening round of the sectional, Shenandoah hosts Madison-Grant while Monroe Central plays at Clinton Central.

Centerville (5-3, 5-2 TEC) at Knightstown (7-1 6-1 TEC)

The Bulldogs have lost to Hagerstown and Northeastern in the TEC and to Shenandoah in a non-conference contest, and average 22.9 ppg while giving up 17 ppg.

Centerville has averages of 192.4 ypg rushing and 95.9 ypg passing. Quarterback Ryan Dickenson was thrown for 682 yards and seven touchdowns, Dylan Benedict has caught 21 passes for 396 yards and three TDs, and Chris Pritchett has carried the pigskin for 683 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Bulldogs have 17 takeaways, eight interceptions and nine fumble recoveries. Defensive leaders are Drew Van Winkle with 93 total tackles and Mason Reed with two interceptions.

The Panthers have won seven straight games since a season-opening loss to Hagerstown, and average 32.3 ppg while yielding 17.1 ppg.

Knightstown averages 243.3 ypg rushing and 211.1 ypg passing. Quarterback Jose Olivo had thrown for 1,707 yards and 17 touchdowns and is the team's leading rusher with 901 yards and 12 TDs. Kyler Burchett has caught 36 balls for 858 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Panthers have 21 takeaways on defense, 11 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Olivo has pilfered six enemy passes. Liam Orcutt leads the team in total tackles with 88.

This is one of the two TEC games played tonight with conference-title implications. For Knightstown, it's simple. Win and it clinches at least a share of the title in its first season back in the league in a half century. Centerville must win and have Northeastern defeat Hagerstown to create a four-way share of the conference championship.

These two teams used to open the season against each other every year, but haven't played since the host Panthers defeated the Bulldogs 48-14 in 2012.

In next week's sectional openers, Centerville travels to Indianapolis Scecina while Knightstown hosts Union County.

Northeastern (5-3, 5-2 TEC) at Hagerstown (6-2, 6-1 TEC)

This is the other TEC matchup with title implications. Like Knightstown, the task is simple for the the Tigers - win and they capture at least a share of the TEC championship. For the Knights, they must win and have Centerville defeat the Panthers to get a piece of the four-way championship.

Northeastern's two league losses were at Union City 18-12 in double overtime and by two points to Knightstown at home last Friday. Shenandoah pounded the Knights 55-0 for their non-conference defeat. Northeastern averages 20 ppg and gives up 19.3 ppg, skewed by that loss to the Raiders.

The Knights average 189.8 ypg rushing but just 32.9 ypg passing. Quarterback Garrett Tudor has thrown for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Quantrell Gammon has caught five passes for 104 yards and two TDs.

Shane Berry is a major force on both offense and defense, leading the team in rushing with 729 yards and six touchdowns, recovering three fumbles, and leading the team in tackles with 82. Northeastern has 14 takeaways on defense, eight interceptions and six fumble recoveries.

Ironically, Hagerstown's two defeats have been by shutout at home, 14-0 to Union County in the league and 49-0 to Shenandoah. The Tigers have not been an offensive juggernaut like they have been in some past seasons, and average 20.3 ppg while yielding 19.8 ppg.

Hagerstown has averaged 157.8 ypg rushing and 128 ypg passing. Quarterback Noah Snodgrass has thrown for 962 yards and eight touchdowns, Mason Hicks has rushed for 747 yards and nine TDs and has caught 17 passes for 168 yards, and Cody Swimm has 14 catches for 275 yards and three touchdowns.

On defense, the Tigers have 21 takeaways, eight interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries. Ryan Golliher leads the team in total tackles with 101.

Hagerstown won last season's game between the two after the Knights won the previous four.

In next week's opening round of sectionals, Northeastern hosts Winchester while the Tigers entertain Oldenburg Academy.

New Castle (4-4, 2-4 HHC) at Greenfield-Central (0-8, 0-6 HHC) 7:30 p.m.

The Trojans are in a three-game slide after losing to tough conference teams Delta, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), and New Palestine. The Dragons already have clinched a share of the HHC title and can claim it outright with a win against the visiting Eagles, who could get a share of the championship if they upset New Pal.

New Castle did have some bright spots in its loss to the Dragons last week and average 27.3 ppg through eight games this season while giving up 33.3 ppg.

The Trojans average 189.5 ypg through the air and 127.5 ypg on the ground. Quarterback Drew Barber has thrown for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, Gage Burk has rushed for 454 yards and four TDs, and Luke Bumbalough has caught 46 passes for 638 yards and nine touchdowns.

The New Castle defense has 14 takeaways, split evenly in interceptions and fumble recoveries. Nicholas Grieser leads the team defensively with 111 total tackles and three pass thefts.

The Cougars' two non-conference losses were at home to very good teams Evansville Central and Whiteland, and Greenfield has lost every league contest it has played. The closest the Cougars have come to winning was a 28-27 loss at Shelbyville, which has been the Golden Bears' lone win this season.

Greenfield averages 11.6 ppg and gives up 47.4 ppg, and 170.4 ypg passing and 80.6 ypg running the football. Quarterback Gehrig Slunaker had thrown for 1,294 yards and nine touchdowns, Jake Vance has 33 catches for 610 yards and seven TDs, and Spencer Johnson has rushed the ball for 188 yards and a touchdown.

The Cougar defense has seven takeaways, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Tyler Antic leads Greenfield with 111 total tackles.

The Trojans won last year's meeting between the two 24-14, but the Cougars were victorious in the previous eight.

New Castle hosts Greenwood in the opening round of the sectional. Greenfield is in Class 5A and has next week off before playing at Anderson Oct. 26.

Tri (2-6, 1-6 TEC) at Union County (4-4, 4-3)

The Titans surely got a boost of confidence last Friday after taking TEC co-leader Hagerstown to the wire before losing 24-20. Can Tri build on that and defeat the Patriots, who shut out the Tigers on the road 14-0 earlier in the season?

The Titans' two wins have been at still winless Lincoln 13-12 in the league and 22-14 over Wes-Del, who got its first victory of the season last Friday. Tri averages 18.8 ppg while yielding 35.5 ppg.

The Titans average 197.5 ypg rushing and 96.1 ypg passing. Quarterback Syrus Butler has thrown for 826 yards and four touchdowns, Gage Rowe has 21 catches for 275 yards and a TD, and Luke Hill has caught three touchdown passes. The area's leading rusher, Vade Dishman, has carried the football for 1,091 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Tri defense has nine takeaways, four interceptions and five fumble recoveries. Logan Stephens leads the team in tackles with 108.

Union County's non-conference loss was at home to Class A No. 7 Monroe Central 38-12 last Friday. The Patriots' three conference losses were to teams above it in the standings, and their signature win this season was at Hagerstown. Union County averages 19.3 ppg and gives up 16.9 ppg.

The Patriots average 113.6 ypg passing and 91.8 ypg rushing Quarterback Mason Wicker has thrown for 886 yards and seven touchdowns and has run for 267 yards and seven TDs. Ryan Hensley has 24 catches for 438 yards and three touchdowns, and Nate Webb has 25 grabs for 156 yards and a TD.

On defense, Union County has eight takeaways, three interceptions and five fumble recoveries, Chase Thompson leads the team in tackles with 53, while Webb is close behind with 52.

In the opening round of next week's sectionals, the Titans travel to North Decatur while the Patriots face Knightstown on the road.