Two of the SIAC's consistent powerhouses meet in Paradise to begin their 2013 conference schedule.

The path to the conference opener was strikingly similar for the Reitz Panthers and the Castle Knights. Both lost their season opener with Castle taking a 44-14 pounding at the hands of Terre Haute North at Lucas Oil Stadium, and Reitz losing to Henderson County at the Bowl 24-21 after the Colonels scored on a pass play with 16 seconds left on the clock.

Each followed the losses with wins at home as Reitz easily disposed of visiting Paducah Tilghman 28-16, and Castle took care of New Albany 14-7. Fortunately for both teams, those two games have no bearing on determining the conference champ at the end of the season.

As they enter Friday night's game with essentially clean conference records, both will no doubt look to make a statement to the rest of the conference with a decisive win.

After a game against the Colonels that saw their defense give up 230 yards on the ground, the Panther's righted the ship in week two allowing the Blue Tornadoes of Paducah Tilghman to gain 105 rushing yards.

Offensively, Reitz sliced up the Tilghman defense with their ground game which saw DeWayne Esters rack up an impressive 139 yards on 17 attempts with one score, and Malik Higgins, who normally plays the role of receiver, pick up 144 rushing yards on just six attempts, more than half of those coming from a 74 yard touchdown run.

The passing game was also effective with Higgins picking up a second touchdown through the air, and Jordan Summers hauling in six catches for 70 yards. Quarterback Austin Reagan showed improvement over week one as he continues settle into his first year as the team's starter going 14-29 for 131 yards, the aforementioned touchdown pass to Higgins, and one interception. While he still had some issues with overthrown passes to receivers downfield, he was nearly perfect on all quick slant routes run by the Panthers. Plays that require near perfect timing between the QB and his intended receiver.

The Panthers have the benefit of returning a few familiar names to the field this season which certainly helps in the chemistry and cohesiveness of the team. The Knights on the other hand lost a number of players in key positions to graduation leaving behind a young team still looking to develop that same chemistry.

Gone are playmakers such as QB Mitch Gilles, receiver Cameron Parus, and running back Jon-Marc Anderson. All multi-year starters that were key components to the Knights' two straight undefeated seasons and two straight conference titles. Lead by first year starter, 6'5", 200 pound sophomore Will Randell, who's thrown a total of five interceptions in their first two games, Coach Dough Hurt's 2013 team lists 21 seniors on their 76 man roster.

Much like Highway 261 that runs right in front of their school, its clear the Knights are in the midst of a rebuilding. Looking to improve each week while still staying competitive in a tough athletic conference.

If playing for a win against Reitz isn't enough motivation, the Knights will have extra inspiration Friday night as former coach, John Lidy, who led the team to state titles in 1982 and 1994 before being inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2000, will be in attendance for special presentation at halftime which will see the Knights home field renamed "John Lidy Field" in his honor.

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