Rivalry week in the SAC headlines the Week 7 schedule in the area. All five of the matchups in the Summit could easily go one way or the other.
Elsewhere, Columbia City tries to surprise again with a business trip to Kendallville, while Woodlan starts a tough stretch of games with a home battle with Lima Central Catholic.
Who should you keep an eye on tonight? We break down some of the leading contenders.
BRAEDEN HARDWICK, HOMESTEAD
Rarely do we talk about the run game of the Spartans as a key to success, but it fits the bill as Carroll visits tonight.
In a contest that is expected to be high scoring, Homestead’s ability to be balanced offensively would serve two purposes – it would open up opportunities downfield with Trevin Taylor and Griffin Little and it would help keep the ball away from a Chargers offense averaging close to 33 points a game.
Hardwick had his best game of the season statistically last week, rushing for 134 yards and a score on 17 carries. While only a sophomore, Hardwick leads Homestead in rushing at 324 yards for the season.
The Carroll defensive front has been dominant at times this season, particularly in the Week 2 victory over Snider when it made the Panthers one dimensional. If Hardwick can help keep the chains moving with a solid game, Homestead’s chances of winning its third straight game over its rival improve considerably.
JORDAN PRESLEY, BISHOP LUERS
The Knights need their offensive playmakers to show out tonight against rival Dwenger and Presley leads the way. The senior is averaging over 200 all-purpose yards per game and scored four different ways in the two-point victory at Northrop last week.
Justin Gaston’s return from injury has helped take some of the load off Presley, but he is still one of the top targets of Norm Knapke in the pass game and the team’s leading rusher.
With the Saints consistently taking away opposing offenses’ strengths, Presley will surely get plenty of attention from DC Casey Kolkman’s Dwenger unit.
JON BARNES JR., SNIDER
The big question in the Snider-Northrop game tonight revolves around the Bruins offense. Can the unit score consistently against a talented Panthers defense?
Let’s assume that answer is yes. After all, Northrop has shredded the likes of Wayne, Homestead and Carroll on that side of the ball this year.
That means that Snider is going to have to score some points to avoid falling to Northrop for the first time since 1999.
That is where Barnes Jr. comes in. The junior is now the de facto full-time quarterback for Snider. He has completed 57 percent of his passes on the year for 512 yards, four TDs and five picks. While he has made some plays, the Panthers have relied upon the running game to move the football consistently. This feels like a game where Barnes Jr. will get plenty of opportunities to make some plays vertically to match Northrop score for score.
The good news is, the Panthers are scoring an average of 36.5 points in their four wins, proof that they can indeed light up the scoreboard.
AUNTRAL FRANKLIN, NORTH SIDE
The North Side passing offense has struggled to get much traction for much of the season, but that could change in tonight’s Totem Pole game.
South Side has had difficulty in slowing down anyone offensively, allowing an average of 43 points per game.
Franklin, a junior, is North’s leading receiver with 132 yards and a couple of touchdowns through the air. Don’t be surprised if he doubles those numbers tonight.
GREGORY BOLT, COLUMBIA CITY
While just a freshman, Bolt has found the confidence and moxie to be a big reason why the Eagles are 4-2 and control their own destiny in the NE8.
It takes a special type of person to be able to take the reins of a high school offense and run it effectively at the varsity level just one year removed from playing middle school football. Bolt has been able to do it and do it well.
He wasn’t overly flashy in last week’s victory over New Haven, accounting for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But he didn’t make the big mistake that let the Bulldogs get any kind of momentum in the second half.
If he protects the football at East Noble tonight and makes a few plays in the passing game, Columbia City has a chance to shock again.
SEB SPIETH, WOODLAN
A year ago, all Spieth had to do was simply run around and tackle people.
He did it to the tune of 174 tackles as the Warriors advanced to the state championship in 2A.
This year, Spieth is still tackling people but has added running over people to his repertoire.
Seeing significant snaps in the offensive backfield this year, Spieth is second on the team in rushing with 432 yards and is tops in rushing touchdowns with five. Coach Sherwood Haydock has a true two-way stud on his hands, one who will likely be needed on both sides of the ball tonight with undefeated Lima Central Catholic coming to town.