Triton Central senior linebacker Jayden Mays takes down a runner in a game earlier this season. Mays and the Tigers will host No. 7 Evansville Mater Dei Friday in regional action.

FAIRLAND — Triton Central senior Jayden Mays has loved the game of football ever since he was in elementary school. Now, Mays continues to soak in each moment he gets to have on the field in his last high school season. Mays, one of six seniors on the TC football team, has been valuable with his leadership and his play on the field.

Despite missing time due to an injury, Mays was selected to the Indiana Crossroads Conference All-Conference team earlier this week. He said all-conference is something that he wants the younger players in the program to strive for each day as they continue their careers.

“It does mean a lot to me,” Mays said. “I have worked hard for the four years that I have been here, and this year I have just been about the team. I do strive personally but this year has been all about the team. I want to strive for the younger group of football players. I want them to grow and strive for greatness. I have been working hard this season to do that for them.”

Mays’ presence on the field is one reason why Triton Central has an opportunity to win its regional game against Evansville Mater Dei Friday night. Mays, who can time snaps perfectly and get into the backfield at his linebacker position, said this year’s football team is much different than the regional team from last year.

“We are a different team,” said Mays, who has also punted and played on the offensive line this season. “We have a different way of doing things this year than how it was done last year. We still had the same mindset of winning a sectional title (third consecutive) because of the bond we have together.”

It has been different for Mays this year, because he was used to playing with players like Hayden Kermode and Jaxson Miller (2021 seniors) the previous three seasons. With the departure of last year’s senior class, Triton Central head coach Tim Able called upon Mays to lead the Tigers in a new campaign.

“Hayden was always a motivational leader,” Mays said. “He would always give motivational speeches to the team, but I am not that way. I am the type of leader that will go up to players individually and motivate them that way. I care about inspiring individuals. That has been a part of my focus this entire season.”

Mays received the Hammer Award for the Tigers for his performance in last week’s win over Paoli. Coach Able said everyone guns for the award each time they step on the field.

“Mays got our Hammer Award for defense,” Able said. “It goes to the player that made the most key plays in key situations. He has done great for us all year, and he did a great job coming back from an injury he suffered a few weeks ago. He has shown the younger players what it takes to lead by example. I can’t say enough about what he has done for this program.”

Triton Central vs. Evansville Mater Dei

The Tigers reached their third consecutive regional final with a 37-35 win over Paoli last week. Triton Central won its first regional title in school history in 2019 when it defeated Mater Dei, 13-7.

The Tigers (8-4) and Wildcats (10-2) have met in regional play the last two seasons with the teams splitting the two meetings. Mater Dei defeated the Tigers 16-6 in last year’s regional round.

Last week, the No. 7 Wildcats got past North Posey 42-13 in the 2A Sectional 40 championship.

Junior quarterback Mason Wunderlich leads Mater Dei with 2,264 yards passing and 28 total touchdowns (23 passing, five rushing). He has thrown just six interceptions and has a 98.0 QBR (quarterback rating). Wunderlich has been known to air the ball out to his receivers this season as four players have over 292 receiving yards, including senior Eli McDurmon with 958 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Junior Joey Pierre leads the Mater Dei rushing attack. He has 200 carries for 929 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Wildcats have won seven straight games. The team’s last loss came to 4A Jasper (31-13) on Sept. 17. Mater Dei is averaging 27.9 points while allowing 15.7.

Friday’s regional contest in Fairland will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Justin Powell is a sports correspondent for The Shelbyville News. Follow Justin on Twitter @Justin_Powell24.