Four teams sit at 3-0 amongst Northeast 8 teams, including the duo that face off on Friday in Waterloo.
While East Noble is no surprise at 3-0, DeKalb’s run over the first few weeks of the season has been one of the more exciting storylines to watch.
Now, the perennial NE8 power meets the upstart challenger in one of the biggest games in recent DeKalb football history.
1. BIG NIGHT IN WATERLOO
Those waiting to return to the stands to watch DeKalb football no longer have an excuse to stay away. The Barons have not been 4-0 since 2001, when the program won their first five games of the year.
Some will look at the 1-8 record of DeKalb’s foes and scoff at how it pales in comparison to East Noble’s victories over teams such as Plymouth and Mishawaka. But that doesn’t mean that the Barons can’t hang on Friday.
2. BAILEY PARKER’S DOMINANCE
I mean, how is this NOT a storyline? All the senior has done is already amass over 1,000 total yards while also amassing 34 tackles and leading the back end of the East Noble defense.
DeKalb must find a way to slow down Parker in the running game, but more on that later.
3. EAST NOBLE’S OWNERSHIP OF NE8
The Knights have not lost multiple conference games in a season since the old Northeast Hoosier Conference. Last year they went undefeated in the league, one year after losing just once to Leo.
Meanwhile, the Barons have not beaten East Noble since 2007, with many lopsided games between then and now. Does that change in 2019?
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
JACOB VANGORDER, JUNIOR, EAST NOBLE
It was thought that perhaps VanGorder would get first dibbs at the running back position vacated by Kaiden Harshberger when he graduated. Instead, it has been junior Justin Marcellus carrying the load.
All VanGorder has been doing is destroying opposing ball carriers to the tune of 53(!) tackles through the first three weeks, including 33 solo tackles.
The linebacker is a stud despite being just 5-foot-10, 185 pounds.
EASTON RHODES, SENIOR, DEKALB
Every quarterback needs a deep threat, and Evan Eshbach has one in Rhodes. He has just seven catches on the year, but four of those have gone for touchdowns and he is averaging over 21 yards per catch.
Rhodes is also a threat to flip field position as the primary punt returner.
BAILEY PARKER, SENIOR, EAST NOBLE
He has to be here. While he has thrown three interceptions, Parker is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns.
While he is a threat as a passer, what makes Parker truly dangerous is the fact that he can just as easily beat you with his legs. He leads the team in both rushing yards (343) and rushing touchdowns (five).
DEVON SMITH, JUNIOR, DEKALB
Tall and wiry, Smith has been downright nasty on the edge of the Barons’ defensive line through the first third of the season. The junior leads the team with 33 tackles and also a pair of sacks.
He could be challenged with the ingenuity of Parker inside and outside of the pocket, but Smith has the talent to bring the QB down.
KEYS TO VICTORY – EAST NOBLE
1. SET THE TONE
DeKalb has the confidence that it is ready to compete against East Noble. A 13-game losing streak to the Knights shows that it has been awhile since the program could say that.
If East Noble can come out on the road with a quick score or two and deflate a crowd that is sure to be big and energetic, it could take the Barons out of the game early.
2. ATTACK ON THE PERIMETER
We know that DeKalb is strong up the middle with some mammoth linemen and a solid linebacker corps. But how are the Barons going from sideline to sideline?
With Hayden Jones expected to be back for East Noble, it gives Parker another weapon that can be used on quick throws outside of the hashes to then test the Barons on the edge. Sweeps and other runs to the perimeter can also do the same thing.
Don’t batter your head against the wall of the DeKalb defense, instead flank it and force it to play on your terms.
KEYS TO VICTORY – DEKALB
1. GET THAT RUNNING GAME ROLLING
Landon Miller is averaging over 7.2 yards per carry and also has seven touchdowns. Defensively, he has been nearly as invaluable. But offensively is where Miller will have the crosshairs on him the most on Friday.
While it is up to the offensive line to open holes for Miller, he needs to be on his game to help facilitate an effective run game against East Noble. Controlling the tempo of the game will come with a solid rushing attack. That will give the Barons an edge.
2. MAKE PARKER UNCOMFORTABLE
Too many teams sit in coverage against Bailey Parker, waiting for him to make a move and reacting instead of making Parker react to them.
DeKalb could sit in a standard defensive set on Friday, or it could get aggressive and bring its defense into Parker’s grill.
With the emotion that the Barons are surely to be playing with on Friday, it wouldn’t be a bad play to feed off that emotion and bring run blitzes and pass pressures from various areas on the field. Confuse East Noble instead of allowing them to dictate the game on their terms.
Check out Blitz’s pick for what he feel will happen in Waterloo on Friday.