While not mandated by the IHSAA, most area football programs are giving their players the week off this week with the official start of practice coming on Monday, Aug. 5.
In the final calm before the prep football storm that builds up and culminates with the start of the season on Aug. 23, Blitz thought he would take a look at some burning questions that loom heading into next week and beyond.
1. QUARTERBACK BATTLES
Coaches are reticent to tip their hands when it comes to naming a starting quarterback, particularly when either the competition is so close or if he has yet to have a conversation with those battling it out.
While the “Big Three” in the SAC have clear-cut starting QBs in Jon Barnes Jr. (Snider), Luke Goode (Homestead) and Brenden Lytle (Bishop Dwenger), there are ongoing competitions elsewhere in the league.
Bishop Luers coach Kyle Lindsay says he is nearing a decision on going with sophomore Carson Clark or senior Christian Fly behind center. Could we see both this season?
“Maybe, who knows,” said Lindsay recently.
Meanwhile at Concordia, juniors Jackson Valentine and Brandon Davis are in a competition to replace the graduated Jake Byrd.
Quarterback fights are not limited to the SAC. Senior Evan Eschbach threw for over 2,000 yards last season as a junior at Wawasee. Now at DeKalb, he finds himself in a fight with junior Corey Price on who will get the nod for the Barons in Week 1.
A lot will be decided in the coming weeks at the most important position on the field.
2. IS HOMESTEAD READY FOR AN SAC TITLE RUN?
When looking at returning starters and production back from last year, not many teams can match Homestead. Accordingly, some are picking the Spartans to compete for their first-ever SAC championship.
The aforementioned Goode is the unchallenged starter at QB, with position mate Jake Archbold moving elsewhere. That not only solidifies one voice in the huddle, but also allows Coach Chad Zolman to utilize Archbold elsewhere on both sides of the ball.
Braeden Hardwick rushed for 838 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore last year and returns stronger and hungrier. Griffin Little appears healthy after offseason injury rehab and will be the leader of a rebuilt wide receiver corps.
Defensively, Cam Rogers (99 tackles, 9 sacks, 14 TFL in 2018) doesn’t get the pub he deserves, while Nik Martin will be a name to remember this season.
Zolman’s program came close to an SAC title in 2017 finishing 8-1, but the defense was torched for 52 points by league champion Snider that year.
Is this the year Homestead puts it all together?
3. IS DEKALB READY TO CHALLENGE THE NE8’S TOP TIER?
Since the Northeast 8 came to be in 2015, the league has been dominated by the trio of East Noble, New Haven and Leo. Occasionally, a team like Bellmont will surprise, but it has been tough for the rest of the conference to break through and challenge for a league title.
Could DeKalb buck that trend this season?
Plenty of production from the league’s top defense returns, although replacing leading sack man Lukaas Roller (eight sacks in 2018) will be a challenge.
Offensively, the running back duo of Tanner Jack and Landon Miller combined to rush for over 1,100 yards and 14 TDs a season ago.
But perhaps the biggest key to the Barons’ season is the offensive and defensive line. North Side coach Mike Brevard raved about the size and physicality of DeKalb’s front after a scrimmage last week.
If DeKalb is going to be a factor in the NE8, it must find a way to corral an East Noble team that scored a combined 68 points in two wins over the Barons last year.
4. WILL ANGOLA REGRESS?
After back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, the Hornets have set the bar high for their program not only in the minds of NECC fans, but also through the entire area.
Coach Andy Thomas has done a phenomenal job developing a team from the ground up, one that is poised to have continued success year after year.
But while Purdue commit Ryan Brandt is back at safety, many familiar names are gone. Just as the 2017 senior class left a sizable void, 2018’s graduating group was a who’s who of studs, including quarterback Jarrett Gibson, running back Chase Schnepf, do-everything defenders Marques Tagliaferri and Luke Honer and underrated kicker Eric Cockcroft.
Angola was clearly a team trying to find its way when Blitz saw it at the OPS Summit City 7v7 Shootout in June. The Hornets will no doubt still be a team to beat in the NECC, but will they take a step back a bit after two years of regular-season dominance?
5. WHO SHOWS UP NEXT WEEK?
Talk to a coach long enough and eventually they will be candid about this kid or that kid who has not been seen all summer long.
This scenario plays out at nearly every school, with coaches wondering just who will show up and who won’t once practice “officially” kicks off next Monday.
Add to that the always-interesting situations in Fort Wayne Community Schools, where recent student registration will finally prove summer rumors true or false once kids settle in at a particular school.
Every coach holds out hope that a handful of athletic kids will emerge from their summer slumber and show up to practice next week. In some programs, gaining those extra bodies could be the difference between a season of struggles and one of success.
These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH.