Oh, to be in the SAC this year. I mean, we thought last year was crazy with almost any team capable of winning almost any game in any week. North Side over Luers, Carroll over Snider; it was lunacy sometimes. The difference between first and third and fourth and ninth has tightened since these teams last did battle in conference.
Anybody who is anybody has said all preseason that this year’s SAC race could see a lot of three and four-win teams because a lot of these guys are just capable of trading wins. A good equalizer to the craziness? At least we have two more turf fields this season. Less slop, less grime and maybe less unpredictability. That is, unless you play at Concordia. Zollner will still be a swamp, even if it’s sunny and 80 degrees on game day.
You’ve read Outside the Huddle’s official preseason top 15 power poll, so you know a lot about these teams already (Top 15 teams in Outside the Huddle’s Preseason countdown). But preseason and the end of the year mean different things. Also, I didn’t write those previews so perhaps I see the SAC shaking out a little differently than my gracious site operators see it sitting on Week 1.
Bishop Dwenger won a state title in 2018. Did anybody else? The Saints are the Saints, and that means consistently strong. If a new coach didn’t see them take any steps back in 2018, then what makes anyone think they will step back this season? Brenden Lytle could be uncorking his arm a little bit more this year and he has impressive range with a host of guys to throw to. But for the Saints, I think the defense is where teams will struggle to hold a candle to them. Hayden Ellinger is primed for another stud season and look for Jordan Watercutter to make some major waves immediately. Last season, the Saints opened by pitching a shutout against Wayne. Look for more than one of those this year.
Snider is right there, in the driver’s seat knowing it topped Dwenger a year ago. Yes, the Saints are my favorite. The gap between them and Snider is microscopic. The ebb and flow of Snider’s offense is important. This is a team that has a quality back in Lenny Bennett, but he’s probably not as explosive as recent Snider rushers, although he showed some flash in the scrimmage last week. Going back and forth between Bennett’s legs and Jon Barnes Jr.‘s arm is a rotation that Snider needs to be comfortable with. I think we are all anticipating a Snider/Dwenger showdown, but with some quality elsewhere in the SAC, the Panthers are going to have to be careful of letdowns before that one.
Homestead is right there too, in that same breath of the minimal gaps among the top three teams in the conference. Moving Jake Archbold from the quarterback position is going to give Homestead more consistency. Last year, there seemed to be a by-the-book method to having Archbold and Luke Goode share the quarterback position. By giving it to Goode, it frees a playmaker like Archbold up to harass other teams on both sides of the ball. The Spartans crave their first-ever SAC title and hunger may win out with the top three teams.
Wayne will lean on Janarion “Nate” Moore a lot to make plays this season. He will have an untested quarterback in Aidan Meek throwing him the ball, but don’t discount Moore’s playmaking ability. The Generals will have the ability to put up a ton of points still. Will a significantly new look defense be able to stop them?
Bishop Luers will be the next team to go to the dual quarterback well, but how long will it last? Christian Fly and Carson Clark are both capable and valuable so it will be interesting to see how the Knights use them. Yet, the biggest playmaker of this team will be Will Derrick, the next in line of Luers linebackers who could brutalize opponents. Derrick’s intensity is going to do wonders for Luers in the trenches.
Concordia is going to wish that it played home games somewhere else if it even sprinkles this year, because they can be fast and any sludge at Zollner will just slow them down. Jalen Vanderbosch burned East Noble’s defense a couple of times in their scrimmage and with speedster Jeren Kindig lined up opposite of him, quarterback Brandon Davis is going to have options to test his arm and try to out-quick teams. Like other teams in the middle of the SAC pack, the Cadets will have a lot of new faces on the frontline for both sides of the ball. How quick the newbies get up to speed could make or break the Cadets’ season.
Carroll has some of the best experience on the line of anyone in the conference and that has to give them some confidence. What it does with that confidence remains to be seen. The Chargers desperately want a bounce-back year from a disappointing 2018 and could be willing to work harder than anyone else to get there. Do they have the talent to equal the effort?
North Side has been building up for the past several seasons and had some quality moments to add to its resume in 2018. This is a team that a lot of people are watching to see if they will rise to the upper half of the conference or stay towards the bottom. This year’s SAC could see them do either because spots 4-9 is super close. Ronald Collins III‘s star is shining brighter each year and each game. He’s become a ground threat with an arm that is getting strong. North Side has to replace a lot on the offensive line, but if this year’s O-line can give Collins and Alex Holliday-Robinson time to work, then North Side could surprise a team or two.
Northrop has two guys in Nigel Robertson and Antoine Scott that are probably sick of hearing about Northrop’s defense and an inability to stop scoring. This team was in a lot of games last year but giving up points at inopportune times was a severe issue for them. Pack them into the teams that could finish anywhere between 4-9 in the conference too, but be warned: if they can pull an upset as early as Week 1 against Homestead, this team’s momentum could make them a dangerous threat.
South Side needs a chance to change their fortunes and that is going to happen only by getting gritty and getting mean. I’m putting that on their linebackers and linemen: get nasty. Kyle Caudill is a big presence on the line and has the mental toughness to be a leader the Archers desperately need. Linebackers Deontray Coach and Tahj Alford can then take cue and up the nasty. Alford can put up big numbers and may be the most underrated linebacker in the area, let alone the SAC. With Omar Jackson gone, South Side needs another playmaker to emerge and whether that is quarterback Demere Clark or someone else, they will need it quick.
Hayden Ellinger of Bishop Dwenger is here to make plays and do it about as cool and casual as he can. Capable of dropping the hammer at will, Ellinger is going to make a play to be the conference’s top player.
Randy Holtz of Snider is, as Coach Kurt Tippmann said in Outside the Huddle’s team preview, a MONSTER. Holtz is going to be a tough battle for anyone on any team. We value the powerful offensive lineman here at Outside the Huddle and it’s unlikely anyone will outpower Holtz.
Keshaun Fields of Wayne will face a lot of pressure this year and no bones have been made about the fact that Wayne’s future rests a lot in his hands. He has the legs and the lateral quickness to make a lot of guys miss.
Players on the Rise
Theo Redmond of North Side was somewhere in the middle of brilliant and too energetic last season. Towards the end of the year, Redmond started to find a significant balance as the defensive firestarter for the Legends. Here is my warning now: be careful throwing the ball to a player or area defended by Redmond because he is intense.
Michael Ledo Jr. of Bishop Dwenger has the chance to make a real impact for the Saints. His full range of talents has yet to be uncorked for various reasons, but there is no holding back this speedster as a senior. In the open field, he is loose and fast and his addition at Dwenger gives them a huge weapon to try and claim another Victory Bell.
Jalen Vanderbosch of Concordia was impressive during his team’s scrimmage at East Noble. If he can be a consistent pass catcher in the open field, he can break off for big gains. Would love to see him used that way and not just as a tall guy who can catch the ball over people.
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