RENSSELAER — Still stinging from last week’s loss to Hamilton Heights, a rejuvenated Rensselaer Central squad will host Twin Lakes for homecoming on Friday night, Sept. 10.
Game time is set for 7 p.m., CST.
It will be the Hoosier Conference opener for both squads and the first meeting between the two schools since 2019. COVID forced a change in scheduling last season and neither team could find an open date.
The Bombers (2-1) will have to wait a full seven days to erase the memory of their 26-21 loss to Hamilton Heights. They committed four turnovers — an uncharacteristic statistic for Chris Meeks-coached teams — including two when it appeared they were on their way to adding to their lead in the second half.
“I hate the way we lost the game, but we did so many things well,” Meeks said. “But then we have four turnovers. Two of those led to scores. I was very confident we were going to score. We were moving the ball very effectively. Turning the ball over is not very characteristic of Bomber football teams.”
Hamilton Heights scored its final touchdown with under two minutes left in the game after the Bombers’ third fumble of the evening. Senior running back Dylan Kidd, who is among conference leaders in rushing at 514 yards on 71 carries with eight touchdowns, had two balls slip out of his hands.
The other fumble came on a poor snap at quarterback Tate Drone’s feet.
“As hard as it hit me and the coaches to lose, I know it hit the kids just as bad,” Meeks said. “But our kids will bounce back. The best thing that can happen is go back out there and play football the way we’re capable of playing.
“That’s been a heavy point of emphasis this week: We’ve got to protect the ball.”
It will be Rensselaer’s punishing running style against Twin Lakes’ passing game this week. The Indians, who lost to Class 2A state-ranked Tipton last week and 4A New Prairie — which is getting votes in the state’s 4A poll — in week two, lean on junior quarterback Jaden Franceschina, who has thrown for 337 yards and four scores in three games.
His top targets downfield include seniors Ty Gillum (7 catches, 133 yards, 2 TDs) and Blayze Woods (6-129, TD).
“They have lots of speed. They look to throw the ball a lot, but they will run (senior running back) Kayvion Jackson some,” Meeks said. “They like to get the ball to their athletes in space.”
It’s a similar offense to Hamilton Heights, which got a career game from senior thrower Guy Griffey last week. Griffey was able to avoid to avoid Rensselaer’s pass rush and get the ball downfield to top receiver Isaac Tuma, a two-time all-conference performer.
“We want to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, put pressure on their quarterback. We struggled with that last week, but give Hamilton Heights credit. They maxed protected him when he sprinted out. He threw the ball well,” Meeks said.
Rensselaer’s defense is led by Kidd, who has 33 tackles with five tackles for loss. Junior Jordan Cree has a team-high eight tackles for loss.
Linebacker Ethan Bowsman, a senior, has 31 tackles, including 13 solos with an interception in defensive coordinator’s Steve Snyder’s scheme at Twin Lakes.
A Rensselaer High School graduate, Snyder served as head coach at RCHS in the early 1990s.
“He knows us well,” Meeks said of Snyder. “He’s going to pressure the line of scrimmage. He’s going to do a lot of blitzing. He’s going to do some things to try to confuse our linemen. We’ve just got to stay solid and be disciplined and do what we do well, which is pound the football and mix in some play-action passes.”
Offensively, Drone has thrown for 314 yards with three touchdowns. Senior Kelton Hesson has 14 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns and has rushed for two more.
This week’s match-up continues a tough stretch for the Bombers, who face state-ranked Lafayette schools (West Lafayette, Central Catholic) over the next two weeks.
“That’s what makes it fun. Every week is a challenge and you can’t take a week off,” Meeks said. “You just have to keep after it and be dialed in each week.”