Regional week is really the first time in the postseason where it truly feels like the best are playing the best. Sectionals weed out the inferior, while the elite of each class begin to emerge over the month of November, culminating in the state championship games on Thanksgiving weekend.
We at OutsidetheHuddle.net want to bring proper coverage to regional week. The plan is to detail each area regional showdown, continuing today with Mishawaka Marian and Bishop Luers.
1. FANCY SEEING YOU AGAIN
These same two teams met up a year ago in the regional round, with Mishawaka Marian running roughshod over Bishop Luers in a 30-7 victory.
Following that loss, Luers coach Kyle Lindsay told Hall of Fame journalist Reggie Hayes “They pounded us. They dominated the line of scrimmage up front on that side of the ball.”
The Knights hope that their defense is in a better position to slow down an offense that has amassed over 2,200 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground.
2. METHODICAL BUT EFFECTIVE
Mishawaka Marian is not going to “wow” you with an exceptional amount of athleticism like Bishop Luers can. Instead, it carves out yards (and eats up time) with a running game that is perfectly fine with gaining four to five yards per carry.
Last year, the combination of running backs Zack Whitfield and Michael Hemingway and quarterback John Brach had their way with the Luers defense. Brach is the lone player back this year, but has an adept supporting cast with junior Tyler Deboe (458 yards, 7 TDs) and sophomore Malcom Anderson (474 yards, 7 TDs).
3. PRESLEY RETURNS
The Knights lost senior Jordan Presley to an injury on the second offensive possession in this game a year ago. On the first possession, Presley took a screen pass 73 yards for a score. The standout had to watch as his team fell hard to Marian and the season ended.
While Presley could not have done much to prevent Mishawaka Marian from putting up 30 points last year, he would have added a dynamic to the offense that it lacked when he left the game. Entering Friday with over 1,600 total yards, plus an always-dangerous return threat, Presley will be a key to Luers’ chances of victory.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB JOHN BRACH, MISHAWAKA MARIAN
Last year, Brach led Marian from behind center to hand Luers its second 23-point defeat in the postseason in two years. While the QB didn’t put up eye-popping numbers, he ran the offense efficiently. His connection with Trevor Teumac for a 15-yard touchdown with three minutes left in the half put Marian up 21-7 and was a backbreaker for Luers. Brach has amassed over 1,000 yards of total offense this year.
QB NORMAN KNAPKE, BISHOP LUERS
Many want to point out that Knapke’s gaudy numbers (2,643 yards passing, 31 TDs) have been helped tremendously by yards after catch on short throws, but Luers coach Kyle Lindsay is quick to point out Knapke’s ability to throw downfield.
Fact is, Knapke is one of the more underrated players in the area. He can make all the throws and has been sensational in utilizing a plethora of weapons to great effect.
With a defense that is susceptible to allowing lots of points, Luers may need to win Friday in a shootout. No one better to lead that charge than Knapke.
DT MIGUEL ORTIZ, MISHAWAKA MARIAN
The biggest threat to Luers up front is Ortiz, a 5-foot-1, 235-pound road grater that is a disruptive force along the defensive line.
His numbers (77 tackles, 11 TFL, 10 sacks) do not do the junior standout justice. He thrives on getting off blocks and making big plays in the offensive backfield. Luers must account for Ortiz on every play.
DL WILL DERRICK, BISHOP LUERS
Luers has had some serious issues slowing down the run game this year. For the Knights to win on Friday, it will have to play one of its best games of the season up front.
Derrick could be the key. A versatile defender that can play up front or at linebacker, the junior has excelled after being moved to the defensive line about a month ago. While Camari Harris is a stud at linebacker, Derrick is the key cog up front that will have to limit Marian’s rushing attack.
KEYS TO VICTORY – BISHOP LUERS
1. SLOW DOWN THE RUN
We could say “stop the run” here but that may be both unrealistic and not entirely needed. Sure, best case is that Luers stifles the run-heavy Marian offensive attack, but in a game that should see Luers have success in moving the football, limiting Marian to a couple big plays should be enough to win.
There are plenty of questions regarding the defense of Luers, and for good reason. But this team remembers how it was owned on its home field a year ago by this very same team. Expect to see a better effort on Friday.
2. WIN THE SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE
If Marian dares to kick to Jordan Presley, Justin Gaston and the host of other dangerous returners that Luers puts on the field, they are playing with fire.
There is no team in the area better at flipping a game in the return game than Luers, just ask West Noble.
This aspect of the game is where Luers should dominate, if given the opportunity.
KEYS TO VICTORY – MISHAWAKA MARIAN
1. SUSTAIN DRIVES
Mishawaka Marian did a great job last year in this matchup in putting together long, sustained drives that eat up the clock. Its drive just before half that put the team up 21-7 took eight minutes off the clock.
This key is twofold. If Marian is able to win the time of possession battle, it means the team is moving the ball on the ground. That is advantage Marian as well.
2. LIMIT LUERS POSSESSIONS
This is tied in to the first key to victory, but every bit as important. Bishop Luers will put up more than the seven points it did last year in this game. The less possessions Luers has, the better. Navy is tremendously good at limiting an opponent’s time with the ball with their option game. Marian needs to do something similar within its offense.