First third: NE8 uncertainty and parity abound so far

This is part of a series on the state of area football conferences after the first third of the regular season.

By Justin Kenny of Outside the Huddle

Is the Northeast 8 truly up for grabs?

Since its inaugural season in 2015, the NE8 has been dominated by the “Big Three” of New Haven, East Noble and Leo. Only Bellmont has crashed the party, sharing the league crown with Leo and East Noble in 2015.

But with uncertainty and parity abound amongst the NE8 squads through the first three weeks, many are wondering if a team such as Columbia City or DeKalb can play its way into late-season league championship contention.

Speaking of Columbia City, the Eagles enter this week’s game with Huntington North with a 2-1 record that includes a 42-25 victory over Bellmont to open league play last week. The Eagles believe they can take that next step in 2018, but weeks 6-8 will tell the story with New Haven, East Noble and Leo on the schedule.

New Haven is under-.500 this late in the season for the first time since 2008. That squad a decade ago went 2-9 and winless in the Northeast Hoosier Conference. This year’s team won’t suffer the same fate, but there are concerns with the ‘Dogs with a home date with Leo coming on Friday, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Has Leo taken a step back or is Angola that good? It is a question that has been pondered since the Hornets demolished the Lions 26-0 in Week 2. Following Angola’s rout of Jimtown last Friday, the pendulum is swinging towards the latter being true. A.J. Restivo and the offense must find its groove and quick with New Haven and East Noble the next two weeks.

While junior Bailey Parker finds his way throwing the ball, East Noble has been leaning on a running attack that features senior Kaiden Harshberger and sophomore Jacob VanGorder in addition to Parker. Speaking of Harshberger, he has accounted for 54 percent of the team’s receiving yards, hauling in 21 receptions for 253 yards and a score.

Credit needs to be given to Coach Rick Burnau and Huntington North. After a 47-0 blanking at the hands of Marion to open the season, it appeared that the Vikings could endure another winless campaign. Instead, HN knocked off Jay County on the road in Week 2 then played East Noble tough in a 35-21 defeat last Friday.

Elsewhere, DeKalb, Norwell and Bellmont may not compete for the league title, but they are far from pushovers. Only the Braves have yet to win this year, but the schedule has been challenging with Adams Central, South Adams and Columbia City.

DeKalb’s 49-0 blanking of Garrett was the most lopsided win for the Barons since a 56-0 victory over Bellmont in 2000, bringing with it some positive praise for coach Pete Kempf.

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