The crosstown rivalry between Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South is probably one of the most heated in the Midwest. Close to 11,000 fans attended the game this year, and they weren't disappointed.
The game went to overtime, and Terre Haute South's junior quarterback Danny Etling led the way for the Braves. He was glad to bring the Victory Bell back to the South side this year.
"Yes, every single year it's close. Every single year. It's brutal. We just came out on top this time.
"It's exhilarating. We lost in overtime last year, so it was a great win. It feels like redemption."
Terre Haute South has a difficult schedule ahead, but the one that everyone circles at the beginning of the year is the crosstown rivalry. Etling knows every game matters, regardless of the opponent.
"Every game is important. We have to treat every game like it's important."
Etling struck early, leading his team to a touchdown on its opening drive. Later in the half, however, he took a hit to his throwing hand and had to pass the load to senior running back Tyler Evans.
"Everything was working in the first half with our passing stuff, but then I took a hit and hurt my finger a bit. A lot of my throws weren't there. After that, we started to run it more. Our running back is great."
Etling knew the North defense would be paying attention to him after a 270 yard performance the week prior. North ate up quite a bit of clock, sometimes orchestrating drives that lasted up to nine minutes.
"When they hold the ball so long, we wanted to keep the ball from them too. They keyed on me a lot, so we tried to be patient."
Etling could be seen pacing the sidelines, almost impatiently waiting to return to the field. Especially with the nagging injury, he really had to tune in his focus.
"It was a lot of mental toughness. I want to win every game, so I did what I had to do to overcome that."
Etling got a few starts last season as a sophomore. Playing such an important role that early on a varsity squad can be a daunting task, but he grew through the challenge.
"It was a great learning experience. I kind of knew what to expect this offseason, instead of competing for the job. I'm a lot more relaxed and a lot more calm. I just learned a lot this last season."
Still, he knows his game has plenty of work left. Etling never wants to settle for anything less than his best.
"Obviously completing more passes, being more patient, being very accurate and just winning more games."
So far, Etling has attracted the attention of a few schools, one of which is Illinois.
"Illinois, Indiana Purdue are about it right now."The 6'-2" signal caller participated in a camp at Illinois this past summer. His first impressions were favorable; he seemed to like the overall experience.
"I just went to the camp, and they really liked me. I really like the campus, I really like the coaching staff, and I really like the offense."
Based on his priorities for college, the Illini seem to be in pretty good shape.
"Proximity to home. I love my family, and I want to stay close to them. I want to play early if possible. That way I can get that experience and improve."
Etling visited a number of schools in addition to the Illini this summer. Through that experience, he was able to compare schools side by side. Of the nearly two-dozen schools he saw, one seemed to stand out.
"I've visited a lot of campuses. I went on this thing called ‘The Rock Tour,' where I visited 11 different campuses each year. So I've visited 22 different schools. But Illinois was the best I think."
So what was it about Illinois that made his time there so special?
"The coaching staff is great. I love the coaching staff. Coach Petrino is great. I loved his energy when I was there. He was teaching me stuff that made me a better player."
Etling made it clear he cares first and foremost about his team and his teammates. For now, recruiting is taking a back seat to their season.
"I think I'm going to focus on this year, then during basketball season I'll start taking some visits."
Off to a 2-0 start, Etling gave his simple formula for continuing success this season.
"Not turn the ball over, and finish, finish, finish."