A berth in the state championship is on the line this week with Bishop Dwenger, Bishop Luers and Adams Central looking to represent northeast Indiana next weekend in Indianapolis.
We here at Outside the Huddle will break down each showdown, beginning with Bishop Dwenger and Mishawaka.
1. BART BALL
Mishawaka’s offense is not tough to figure out. What is tough is stopping it.
The flexbone scheme is as intricate as it is frustrating, and the Cavemen run it to perfection. Many will be quick to say that since the Saints stuffed the majority of SAC opponents and Angola in the run game, the same should happen this Friday. But defending the flexbone, nicknamed “Bart Ball” after former coach Bart Curtis, cannot be mastered in one week.
The linebackers have been tremendous for Bishop Dwenger of late, and that unit is the key on Friday. If guys like Hayden Ellinger, T.J. McGarry and Charlie Howe can read where the ball is going and fill gaps and put the Cavemen in second and third and long, the Saints will be in good shape.
2. DWENGER’S PASS OFFENSE
Where did that come from?
OK, so Dwenger only had four completions last week, but that was four times the amount from the week before.
Of the five completions that Brenden Lytle has over the last two weeks, four have been for touchdowns.
The return of Patrick Finley is big for the pass game, but so is Patrick O’Keefe’s assimilation into the wide receiver corps since moving over from quarterback. Effectively, the Saints have added two playmaking passcatchers to the vertical attack to supplement Griffin Eifert.
Mishawaka is not immune to giving up points, with teams averaging 21 ppg against it. The Saints must convert when it can passing the football.
3. GOING THE DISTANCE
The Saints have only had a long road trip once this season, the sectional opener at Logansport. With a close to two-hour drive looming on Friday, how does that affect Bishop Dwenger, which traditionally preps at school before boarding buses to go to the game.
It will be a different routine for the Saints this week. It shouldn’t be a huge adjustment, but when playing a quality opponent any deviation from the norm could affect how Dwenger starts the game. A sluggish first few minutes could prove disastrous.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB DEVON TIPPMANN, BISHOP DWENGER
The sophomore barreled his way through and around Angola defenders all game last week, finishing with a career-high 221 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
Dwenger will try to control the ball offensively in an attempt to limit Mishawaka’s possessions. A bruising rushing attack will be huge and Tippmann, who runs with such a low center of gravity, is tremendously difficult to take down.
QB SAM SHIVELY, MISHAWAKA
The quarterback is always the decision maker of the offense, but when it comes to Mishawaka, that decision making is magnified.
Shively decides where the ball is going every snap in the flex bone. He is a seasoned veteran who runs this offense with precision. While the primary ballcarrier is Chris Harness, Shively is adept at running the ball himself, with over 1,000 yards rushing and 25 TDs. He can even throw it on the rare occasion the Cavemen go vertical.
DL/OL/FB JOE TIPPMANN, BISHOP DWENGER
There is a case being made by some that Tippmann should get consideration for area player of the year, and that case is warranted. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound two-way lineman not only is a problem up front, but now as a lead blocker (and occasional ballcarrier) in the Saints’ backfield.
Expect to see Tippmann as much as the Dwenger coaching staff feels comfortable with on the defensive side of the ball to try and stymie the Mishawaka run game.
S CJ FISHER, MISHAWAKA
Every good football team seems to have a ballhawk safety that can come up and play the run as well as drop in coverage. Fisher is that guy for the Cavemen. He leads the team with 131 tackles and has also grabbed four interceptions.
Look for Dwenger to vary its playcalling, much like it did against Angola and safety Ryan Brandt, to keep Fisher on his does and chasing the play rather than attacking.
KEYS TO VICTORY – BISHOP DWENGER
1. STOP FIRST DOWN
When playing against any time of option team, first down is paramount. If Bishop Dwenger can put Mishawaka “off sequence” with its offensive attack, it will make the night difficult for the Cavemen.
Conversely, if Mishawaka is able to put itself in second and short frequently, the Saints are in trouble.
2. KEEP MISHAWAKA OFF BALANCE
What the Saints did to Angola a week ago was masterful. When everyone thought Dwenger would be passive with its offense, it came out the aggressor and caught the Hornets off guard.
As we said, Mishawaka does not have a dominant defense, but it is not a pushover either. It will be well prepared with what the Saints like to do. But what if Dwenger has success in mixing up its offensive scheme?
KEYS TO VICTORY – MISHAWAKA
1. WIN THE BATTLE UP FRONT
Angola had no chance offensively last week, largely due to Dwenger being able to penetrate at will with multiple defenders. Running edge didn’t help either with linebackers and defensive ends sealing on the outside.
Mishawaka’s success is predicated on being able to win the line of scrimmage with its offensive linemen. If it does that, success in the run game follows.
2. RESPECT DWENGER’S PASS GAME
Last week, Angola sold out on stopping the rushing attack of Dwenger, stacking the box and putting their corners on an island in defending the passing game. The Saints took advantage of that by winning single coverage going vertical to guys like Finley and O’Keefe.
Oh, and Angola still couldn’t stop the run.
Mishawaka must not ignore Dwenger’s passing game and sell out on run defense, because Lytle will make the Cavemen pay.