Whiteland running back Anthony Schantz understands the significance of tonight’s home game against Franklin.
The fact both programs enter the annual matchup winless for the first time in no less than two decades isn’t cause for alarm.
Plenty of Mid-State Conference games remain.
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“We still have everything to lose,” Schantz said. “Franklin is going to try and come out and get us because we’re 0-3, and we’re going to try to get them because they’re 0-3.
“Coach (Darrin) Fisher told us at the beginning of the season that our first three games would get us ready for the rest of the season.
“We are a good team. We just haven’t come out and gotten the ‘W.’ This team has improved every week.”
Few, if any, programs were eager to swap nonconference schedules with the Warriors before the season began.
They gave defending Class 5A runner-up New Palestine a game before losing to the Dragons in Lucas Oil Stadium. The momentum proved short-lived, however, as reigning 6A state titlist Center Grove blasted Whiteland 43-0 in Week 2.
Fisher’s squad opened up a 34-21 lead at high-powered Decatur Central last week, then proceeded to watch the Hawks produce 28 consecutive points in the final 7:55 of the fourth quarter.
The Warriors, though, own a 13-game regular-season win streak against county rival Franklin. Whiteland has also won four sectional games over the Grizzly Cubs during that span.
Franklin’s most recent victory is a 34-20 decision in Week 5 of the 2003 season.
Like the team they’ll face tonight, the Grizzly Cubs played two of the state’s premier teams early.
Losses to a pair of 6A top 10 teams — No. 6 Columbus North and ninth-ranked Brownsburg — sandwiched a 38-26 loss at home to Shelbyville.
“It’s certainly a big game because it’s in the conference,” Franklin coach Adam Reese said of tonight’s affair. “I’m really happy with our kids. We’ve gotten better each week, and as a coach that’s all you can ask for. We’ve used these first three games as learning opportunities.”
The Warriors’ 0-3 start is their first since 2011. Whiteland hasn’t opened a season winless in its first four outings since the 1996 season.
“We are just really working on our game. We’re just trying to get better,” Fisher said. “We’re really beat up, so we’re going to have some part-time players who are going to be full-time starters at key positions.
“We’ll see how they respond. The season is only three weeks old. There’s a lot of football left to be played.”