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 Angola and Bishop Dwenger.
1. CAN ANGOLA HANG?
Last year, the Hornets were undefeated, sectional champs and confident they could be competitive against Bishop Dwenger.
A 34-0 shutout at Angola was the result.
Fast-forward to 2018 and the situation is similar. Angola is 12-0 and fresh off a one-point victory over top-ranked NorthWood to secure a sectional title. It once again has its sights set on gaining a new level of respect by knocking off a perennial power.
Will the 2018 regional be kinder to the Hornets than 2017?
2. FINDING ENOUGH OFFENSE
The story last week with Bishop Dwenger was trying to figure out how it beat Wayne despite a pitiful first half offensively and completing just a single pass all night.
There is no avoiding the topic now as the Saints advance deeper in the playoffs. Dwenger must find more success offensively, particularly in the pass game.
Sophomore quarterback Brenden Lytle continues to acclimate himself to the position, and his one completed pass last week was a big one, a TD toss to Vinnie Tippmann. Against an Angola defense that has held eight opponents to seven or less points this year could be a big challenge on Friday.
Does playing Friday’s game at New Haven on the turf benefit Angola or Bishop Dwenger?
Frankly, we here at OutsidetheHuddle.net are tired of the turf talk. Ideal field conditions or not, both teams have to play on the same 120 by 53ish yards of grass, turf or mud.
Footing will be better at New Haven than say Zollner Stadium, but it is impossible to predict who that benefits.
If anything, turf will prevent the muddy mess that covers jerseys as the game progresses, meaning everybody wins when trying to identify players.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB T.J. TIPPMANN, BISHOP DWENGER
A year ago, Chip Clark was able to churn out yards on the ground for the Saints as they wore down Angola in the second half. This could be a role that Tippmann plays on Friday.
Entering this week as Bishop Dwenger’s second-leading rusher, Tippmann has scored a team-high 12 touchdowns and is that between-the-tackles bruiser that punishes defenses.
Tippmann isn’t going to give you too much flash, but that isn’t what this Saints offense is about anyway.
QB JARRETT GIBSON, ANGOLA
A worthy successor to Chance Roddy, Gibson has accumulated over 1,800 total yards this season for the Hornets.
While not as prolific a passer as Roddy was, Gibson has been effective when needed going vertical, throwing for 630 yards and eight TDs against just a trio of INTs. But is in the rush game where he has been dangerous. As defenses key on Chase Schnepf, Gibson has taken advantage with 1,209 rushing yards and 14 TDs.
Despite all the weapons Angola had a year ago, it could not score against Bishop Dwenger. With Friday’s game expected to be low scoring, a big play or two from Gibson could go a long way.
LB HAYDEN ELLINGER, BISHOP DWENGER
The Saints’ strongest defensive unit is its linebackers, with guys like T.J. McGarry and Jordan Watercutter as fundamentally sound as they come.
But it is Ellinger who is seemingly in on every big defensive play for Dwenger. He leads the team in tackles (71), tackles for loss (10) and sacks (nine), wrecking havoc from his outside linebacker position against offenses.
To have a shot at the win, Angola must be able to neutralize Dwenger’s linebacker corps, Ellinger in particular.
LB MARQUES TAGLIAFERRI, ANGOLA
The Hornets must be able to contain the Dwenger running attack and force Lytle and the Saints passing game to beat them. Tagliaferri is Angola’s leading tackler and also paces the defense in tackles for loss (17).
With Dwenger going with jumbo packages offensively to try and open up holes for its runners, including big Joe Tippmann seeing time in the backfield as a lead blocker, the Angola linebackers must be aggressive both getting off blocks and sealing holes that open up. Tagliaferri and fellow senior linebacker Luke Honer will be key in this endeavor.
KEYS TO VICTORY – ANGOLA
1. STAY COMPETITIVE FOR FOUR QUARTERS
This one is obvious, but it is what cost the Hornets a year ago.
With the final score of 34-0, many will forget that Dwenger led by just seven at halftime last season. It was the second half that saw the Saints instill their will on the Hornets, particularly in the run game, wearing down an Angola team that just couldn’t match up in the trenches.
Can 2018 be a different story?
2. MAKE DWENGER HAVE TO PASS
Wayne did a great job in taking the pass game away from the Saints, allowing Lytle just one completion on five attempts last week.
Unfortunately for the Generals, that one pass was a touchdown and the running game did just enough to keep the chains moving when it counted in a 14-13 win.
For Angola, allowing the Saints to get its punishing running attack with the myriad of Tippmanns the offense can employ is a recipe for disaster. The Hornets must force Lytle to beat them with his arm.
KEYS TO VICTORY – BISHOP DWENGER
1. INSTILL ITS WILL EARLY
Angola enters Friday feeling optimistic about its changes against the Saints, feeling as if it now knows what it takes to compete with Bishop Dwenger after last year’s defeat.
If the Saints are able to come out Friday and dominate on both sides of the ball from the outset – perhaps a long, punishing opening drive for a touchdown and a few quick three-and-outs by the defense – it will be tough for the Hornets to not fall into the mindset that 2018 is simply a rehash of 2017.
2. BE DWENGER
Nothing flashy is needed to triumph over Angola. A methodical, punishing running game mixed with some play action success would likely be plenty for the Saints to win. It is getting that production against an improved Hornets defense that will be the key.
The confidence gained from last year’s regional win will surely feed the psyche of the players that played big parts in that game. Doing what Dwenger does – including limiting turnovers and mistakes – and not giving Angola short fields and easy scoring opportunities will be pivotal.