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, beginning today with Snider and Carmel.
Friday’s meeting in central Indiana will be the 13th in the series between the two powerhouses. Carmel has won the last four, including a 22-21 victory in last year’s regional round.
Whereas Carmel faces a who’s who of perennial state powers in the Metropolitan Conference, Snider typically has to wait until the postseason for its true barometer games against the likes of the Greyhounds and Penn.
The Panthers have not beaten Carmel since a 40-22 regional victory in 2004.
2. SLOW STARTS
Both Snider and Carmel overcame slow starts last Friday to capture sectional titles. The Greyhounds trailed Lafayette Jeff by 14 points early before coming back strong and eventually winning by 20.
Meanwhile, the Panthers fought back from a 28-14 halftime deficit against Homestead to capture their 12th straight sectional championship.
You would think that these teams are too good for one to come out of the gates sluggish and have to fight back from down double digits. But that’s just what Carmel did last year, coming back to win after trailing by 14 points. That said, it’s not a likely recipe for success to get off to a slow start in this one.
3. AVERAGE OFFENSES
Neither of these teams have put up gaudy numbers on the season offensively. For Carmel, running backs Zach White and Dylan Downing are both tough, physical running backs but aren’t going to gouge defenses for 200-plus yards.
Quarterback Gabe Quigley is a first-year starter and has looked good this year for the Greyhounds, but he isn’t a dynamic athlete that has the potential to pick apart Snider defensively. Tyler Trent may also see time at the position. He was 3-for-5 passing last week against Lafayette Jeff.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
DE BEAU ROBBINS, CARMEL
Robbins could create all sorts of problems for Snider on the edge. An IU commit, Robbins is listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds and has the quickness and bulk to be a potential mismatch. If the Panthers need help blocking guys like Robbins, it will prevent tight ends like Simon Dellinger and J.D. Wells from being as active in the pass game as usual.
QB JON BARNES JR., SNIDER
The junior quarterback came of age in the second half of last week’s victory over Homestead, helping to lead the Panthers to a 49-35 triumph.
The ability of Barnes to make the right reads in the passing game will be crucial. Carmel, as usual, has athletes all over the field. It will be Barnes who will have to outsmart those athletes and get the ball in the hands of his receivers downfield.
TE RHETT WILLIAMS, CARMEL
In Dellinger and Wells, Snider has a pair of tight ends who are matchup nightmares for defenses – guys too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for defensive backs to battle for position with. The Greyhounds have a guy in the same mold. At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, Williams is a beast. It will be easy to spot Williams on the field, but not as easy to block and cover.
RB A’NYIS LOCKETT, SNIDER
Assisted greatly by an offensive line that chewed up Homestead’s defensive front, Lockett rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns last week. Much of the yardage came on inside runs with Lockett shedding initial tackle attempts. That tough mode of running will be pivotal on Friday.
KEYS TO VICTORY – SNIDER
1. CREATE TURNOVERS
After surrendering 28 first-half points to Homestead last week, the Snider defense came to play after the break, forcing three turnovers and allowing just seven points over the final two quarters.
The Panthers were helped by some lucky caroms off Homestead players, but the defensive unit capitalized on the opportunities.
Carmel isn’t going to make too many mistakes, but Snider must make the Greyhounds pay when it happens. Handing Barnes Jr. and the offense a few short fields would be big.
2. DOMINATE THE GROUND GAME
Barnes Jr. is at his best when the pressure is not on in the pass game. He made some big throws in the clutch last week, but is much more comfortable when defenses aren’t keyed to stopping the pass.
That puts the focus firmly on Lockett, as well as guys like Lenny Bennett and receivers carrying the ball on jet sweeps. If the Panthers can put together a solid running game, it not only puts Carmel on its heels up front, it also will take some of the pressure off of Barnes, allowing him to thrive on designed rollouts where he is so dangerous.
KEYS TO VICTORY – CARMEL
MAKE SNIDER ONE DIMENSIONAL
The Greyhounds have been able to be consistently strong defensively all year long, with blips against superteam Warren Central, national power Louisville Trinity and Indy North Central the exceptions.
Bottling up Lockett and forcing the Panthers into second and third and-longs are not a recipe for success for Snider.
2. SPREAD OUT SNIDER
Homestead was able to pick apart the Panthers in the first half last week with some four-wide sets and crossing routes that left some wide receivers wide open over the middle.
The Panthers were able to make adjustments in the second half, but there were some noticeable weaknesses in the middle part of the defense. Knowing Snider, they will have shored those things up entering Friday, but the Greyhounds will still test the Panthers in the intermediate passing game with athletes spread out pre-snap.