As we enter Week 7, we are past the time where we are trying to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of each team.
While there is still plenty of intrigue each Friday night, we have a big enough sample size to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
While each team has dreams of getting to Lucas Oil Stadium over Thanksgiving weekend, which squads TRULY have a shot? How difficult is the road? What obstacles stand in the way?
Blitz breaks down the chances of seven local teams that are in the conversation for deep runs in the tournament and if it is stock you should buy, sell or hold as we sit here in late September.
While the offense has been good, it is the play of the Saints’ defensive unit that has Dwenger undefeated and atop both the SAC standings and the Class 4A AP Poll.
The amount of disruptive plays amassed by a unit that lacks a true star are staggering – 44 tackles for loss, 27 sacks, ten interceptions and six fumble recoveries. Hayden Ellinger has been a beast in his junior campaign, leading the Saints in tackles (46), tackles for loss (seven) and sacks (nine).
As usual, the 4A north is stacked with speed bumps for whoever advances to state. The Saints must contend with the likes of Wayne, New Haven and Leo in Sectional 20, followed by the winner of a loaded Sectional 19 in regional play. It is so difficult to buy in on one specific team because of the top competition in the region in 4A.
Blitz likes to take chances, but even he has to be smart…sometimes.
STOCK OUTLOOK: Hold
The Generals are no longer the team that is looked upon as one with a lot of athleticism but lacking in the ability to play a complete game and close out good opponents. What Wayne did to Snider last week should alleviate all concerns in that regard.
We all wonder what would have happened in Week 1 against Dwenger if Mother Nature hadn’t unleashed a monsoon on northeast Indiana. Luckily, it is probable we will get a rematch at some point in sectional play.
While the offense is electric, success in the postseason likely comes down to defensive play in the same vein as it does for Dwenger. Defensive studs like Tristan Pernell (58 tackles, 6.5 TFL), Darius Alexander (47 tackles, 8 TFL) and Xavier Ellington (20 tackles, 6 TFL, 3.5 sacks) will play just as big of a part in Wayne potentially winning its first sectional championship since 1996 as Brandan and Craig Young on offense.
Much like Dwenger, it is difficult to predict 4A in the north, which is why Blitz would avoid investing much stock. It is not that the Generals aren’t capable, but like Dwenger, the road is not easy.
STOCK OUTLOOK: Hold
The Knights have kind of been an afterthought in the SAC, particularly after the surprising loss to North Side in Week 5.
Yet in Blitz’s mind, Luers may be the best bet at an SAC team advancing to Indianapolis.
Hear me out.
The Knights put up points, lots of em. They also give up a lot of points.
Against the athletic and speedy offenses of the SAC, the Knights’ problems on defense are magnified. But in a 3A playoff setting, those issues may be lessened. Sure, Luers still needs to figure out how to stop the run and limit big plays, but that feels to be more manageable against potential sectional/regional opponents like West Noble, Lakeland and Mishawaka Marian as opposed to Carroll and Homestead.
In addition, Norm Knapke and Jordan Presley have been tearing up defenses in the SAC. They could be even more scary in the postseason.
However, it is not a clear road south. The aforementioned Mishawaka Marian handled the Knights in regional play a year ago, dropping 30 points in a lopsided victory. It’s by no means easy, especially with Concordia wanting another shot in sectional, but you can see the possibility.
STOCK OUTLOOK: Buy
It is amazing that with all the success the Knights have had over the years that their last sectional title came in 2003.
Could this be the year the drought comes to an end?
As we talked about above, 4A in the north is brutal. Entering this week, four teams in Sectional 19 have two or less defeats and only one squad has a losing record.
In short, there is a ton of competition to deal with.
While East Noble looks the part of the best team in the NE8, it is not dispatching of teams in dominating fashion. Look, a win is a win right? Yes, but when looking for signs that a squad can go deep in the postseason, you look at results and you look at personnel. I am not sure if the Knights can be as physically dominating on the field as they have in years past. They are still growing in a lot of areas.
Blitz hopes he is wrong. Kendallville deserves a sectional champion.
STOCK OUTLOOK: Sell
Looking for dominance? The Flying Jets have provided it.
Through six games, Adams Central has not won a game by less than 28 points. The loaded senior class has a very business-like approach to Friday nights.
Logan Macklin may be the best Class A athlete in the state, made even more impressive considering hardly anyone in Fort Wayne knows who he is, let alone elsewhere. Jalen Hammond and Parker Bates are as good as advertised, and unsung heroes along the offensive and defensive lines continue to get better.
In terms of a deep run, the Flying Jets could get their biggest challenge from a Southwood team that picked them apart last season. Good news is, quarterback Carson Blair is gone. The Knights are very much a run-oriented team this year, led by junior rusher Gabe Lloyd.
I am not sure a run-dominated team can beat AC. The defense is accustomed to shutting down rushing attacks. Last year’s vertical passing game of Southwood gave the Flying Jets all sorts of fits. That doesn’t exist anymore.
Regional will be tough with Sheridan looming, with the Blackhawks defense looking legit. Semistate has Pioneer as the likely opponent.
The road to Indy is not easy. But this team feels like a team capable of getting to LOS. Let’s buy in, shall we?
STOCK OUTLOOK: Buy
When asked earlier this week how it felt that his team did not have the target on its back, Woodlan coach Sherwood Haydock was quick to correct.
“Oh I think we still have that target.”
The Warriors may be that one team in the area that we aren’t ENTIRELY sure about yet. Playing Lima Central Catholic, South Adams and Adams Central the final three weeks of the year will go a long way in how we feel about Haydock’s squad entering the postseason.
But the pieces are there. Ben Reidy looks to have the pocket presence of a seasoned vet in the pocket. Reggie Blackmon has picked up where he left off at running back after showing signs last year. Meanwhile, Sebastian Spieth has added some rushing ability to his already-impressive football prowess on defense.
Whereas Adams Central and South Adams have ruined conference and sectional title aspirations for the Warriors in recent memory, might Woodlan return the favor in 2018?
Other than Bremen, the sectional looks manageable for Woodlan. After that, could a rematch with Whiting (I just shivered thinking about the snow globe that was Whiting in 2015) in regional play be a possibility?
STOCK OUTLOOK: Buy
The Hornets are undefeated, yet doubts remain.
This feels familiar. Almost like in a past life I lived this.
Look, Angola is just pummeling foes. If it plays to its potential it will breeze through the final three games of the regular season, going 9-0 for the second straight year. But things get tougher, a lot tougher, in the playoffs.
Again, 4A is loaded. To win a sectional you have to pull out some wins against very good opponents, as the Hornets did last season.
While this team is 6-0 like it was last year, it just doesn’t feel as if it has that same swagger as 2017. Maybe it is because the second year of being dominant in a league isn’t as big as the first time?
I want to see Angola succeed. I want it to shut me up when it comes to saying how the Hornets cannot compete with a Dwenger or Wayne in a regional situation. But until it happens…
STOCK OUTLOOK: Sell
These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH