The time honored traditions of the Allen County Athletic Conference often means a run through Adams County. Don’t expect that to change now, not as one team sees somewhat of a rebuild and another sees their time coming.
Like the other conferences you will see us discuss in our prep football preview final days, the ACAC is a race that could be open. At least half of the league is strong in many areas, but who has the most skill to spread out? This is a league often won in the trenches so it is going to take heavy physicality and maybe some luck to claim a conference title.
South Adams, while not the top ACAC team in our preseason power poll, is going to take this spot because of expectations for the Starfires by year’s end. If South Adams can stay healthy, they have a load of capable skill position playmakers headed by quarterback James Arnold. Arnold, however, has not had luck with the injury bug that grappled with him at the end of football season in 2018 and struck again in the form of an ACL tear in his first basketball practice back this winter. Arnold threw for 1,675 yards and 18 touchdowns a year ago. Fellow ACL tear bounce back Nic Stuber will also need to stay healthy after a severely shortened 2018, but the Starfires also have Christian Summerset, who became a crucial player last year in Stuber’s absence and Arnold’s top two targets: Nick Miller and Drew Stutzman are both back to make South Adams so dangerous aerially.
To not call Adams Central the favorite feels a little weird. Yet, graduation hit them hard with sweeping movement of many guys who affected games as two way players. That has to hold the Flying Jets back some, but let us remember that a down year in Monroe is rarely a bad year in Monroe. Dallas Schwaller is going to get tasked with handling major two way duties as the quarterback and cornerback but he seems patient and confident in the preseason. The Flying Jets defense, behind Ben Voirol and Joseph Collier, will need to get stops consistently to help their young offense.
To keep Woodlan out of the contender conversation would also be foolish at best. Ben Reidy put up big numbers on multiple occasions and the Warriors have kept a lot of guys who can gobble up those receiving yards. Reidy threw for 1,295 yards and is one of the area’s more popular players, as far as our polling goes. With targets like David Bischoff, Trevor Wallace and younger brother Joe Reidy, the Warriors could go aerial quite a bit. Coach Sherwood Haycock is also known for being a little unpredictable during his many winning seasons. Woodlan will always have something up their sleeve, you can count on that.
Not too far out of the upper echelon is where Bluffton will stay, despite a big change for them without Everett Johnson. This year, the Tigers are going to pride themselves in a lot of areas with Hayden Nern as the quarterback and guys like Kaden Gerber and Bobby Malcolm being his targets. If the conference really is more about passing this season than usual, Bluffton’s defense could be fun. Cornerback Cody Mittlestedt is back as the top tackler and Kain Thorton and Malcolm could provide depth in the secondary.
In three years under Nico Tigulis, things have been tough at Heritage. This may not be the year to be a top half team, but the coach’s methods and strategy are starting to take hold. They have some new face and new options on offense, but on defense they return a tough secondary face in Beau Bosler as well as Justin Burnham up front. Offensively, it helps to have Parker Tracey back at quarterback, while Ryan Elias could get some snaps too.
Southern Wells will lean on their second new coach in as many seasons as Mike Roeder takes over. He has won 113 games in his career, but the Raiders are coming off three straight 1-9 seasons. Jed Perry is back for his senior campaign after leading the team in passing and rushing yards a year ago.
Jay County was so senior laden that they are going to have to hit a hard reset. Good thing for them they are the biggest school in the ACAC and have more guys to choose from. Juniors Bailey Cox and Landon Grimes will be important returning offensive pieces that have a modicum of experience. Sophomore Quinn Faulkner will be a big contributor though time will tell how well he can throw the football.
Nick Miller of South Adams is a monster to contain on both sides of the ball. He had a team high 502 yards receiving last year and had 67 tackles and nine sacks on defense. His stature is intimidating to try and stop or run away from. He COULD be the best player in the ACAC by season’s end as just a junior.
Ben Reidy of Woodlan is arguably the top returning quarterback in the conference after completing 56 percent of this passes in 2018. His 13-of-15, 224 yard game against Jay County was masterful and then he threw for 322 yards in the season ender against Bremen. His arm is proven and it is good.
Kaden Gerber of Bluffton has shown a strong athletic prowess this summer and as Bluffton looks to be more dimensional than just a run game, he could really thrive. Few DB’s in the ACAC are going to be able to out perform Gerber in the open field week in and week out.
Players on the Rise
Aidan Wanner of South Adams is a guy that coach Grant Moser is going to find a way to use. As a back up to Arnold, he throws a decent looking ball and once he grows some (just a sophomore), he will be more vital. Wanner is also the Starfire kicker but has an athletic prowess that leads us to assume Moser will find additional ways to utilize him.
Joe Reidy of Woodlan is one that we mentioned earlier and for good reason. So many top level area basketball players to transitioned to the gridiron this fall, Joe among them. He is long, making him a big target but is also a little slight of frame. Bulking up will help for the winter, but for now there is intrigue to see just how overall athletic Joe is.
These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH