The first big-time game under the lights at Shields Field happens on Friday when undefeated Homestead comes to Bishop Dwenger to take on the Saints.
It is the first huge collision of the season in the SAC, one which will go a long way in deciding who takes home the Victory Bell.
This matchup is oozing with intrigue, making it an easy choice as one of our two OTH Week 4 games of the week.
1. EARLY EDGE ON LEAGUE TITLE
The winner of this game will sit at 4-0 in the SAC and in a commanding position in the conference, at least for now. Both squads still have to play Snider and Carroll, two other teams who could be in the thick of the race for the bell all year long.
While a loss doesn’t eliminate a team from contention, consider that in seven of the last 12 years, the SAC champion has finished undefeated in the league.
2. BATTLE OF QBs
All quarterbacks Luke Goode and Brenden Lytle have done through the first three weeks has been to throw for a combined 1,143 yards and 16 touchdowns against just a single interception.
The play of the two juniors will go a long way in deciding this showdown, with both offenses thriving behind their signalcallers.
Can the Spartans’ underrated defensive front put pressure on Lytle? Will the Saints keep Goode from making precision throws downfield? Both defensive coordinators have a lot to prepare for.
3. THE CROWD
Bishop Dwenger handed its initial foray into hosting a home football game well, but the visiting crowd wasn’t exactly overwhelming against North Side.
There is talk that the Homestead students have made it a mission to fill all of the visiting bleachers, which number about 600 in total.
Point is, if you’re wanting a seat in the stands for Friday, best get there early.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB BRAEDEN HARDWICK, JUNIOR, HOMESTEAD
Apart from some plays in the first half against North Side, Bishop Dwenger has been incredibly stingy with its run defense. All Hardwick has done is rush for over 400 yards and seven touchdowns through the first three weeks.
What gives here? Hardwick rushed just six times for 29 yards last year against the Saints. He must have a better night on Friday.
WR MICHAEL LEDO JR., SENIOR, BISHOP DWENGER
Nothing can sway a close game quite like a long passing play for a touchdown, and the biggest threat in that department for the Saints is Ledo Jr.
While he is surrounded by solid wide receivers, Ledo Jr. is the one dynamic pass catcher that can stretch a defense with his speed. He will challenge Homestead’s secondary while his cohorts do the same underneath. He is averaging 18 yards a reception and has a pair of touchdowns. The Spartans must not lose sight of him over the top.
LB LUKE PALMER, JUNIOR, HOMESTEAD
With Cam Rogers limited, Palmer has had to step up in a bigger role than anticipated. He and the rest of the Spartans linebacker corps will be challenged not just with Devon and Louie Tippmann in the running game, but also the short passing routes that Bishop Dwenger loves to employ.
Palmer must be disciplined and set the tone for the middle level of the defense that will have to be on its game all night.
LB LUCAS KROHN, SENIOR, BISHOP DWENGER
Krohn’s 10 tackles and a sack against North Side was a wake-up call for offenses that they need to account for the upperclassman.
Much like Palmer, Krohn will be thrust into the forefront, only the Homestead senior will line up more on the outside and seal the edge or put pressure on Lytle.
KEYS TO VICTORY – HOMESTEAD
1. SCORE POINTS
This sounds obvious, right? Well, yes and no. The Spartans are 1-3 against Bishop Dwenger since joining the SAC. In those three losses, Homestead has averaged just 12 points per game, including last year’s 23-10 defeat.
Coach Chad Zolman’s team does not have to reach the 43 points per game average it has put up through three games, but it needs to get into the 20s or even above 30 to have a shot.
2. CONTROL THE ENVIRONMENT
Shields Field will be rocking on Friday night on the turf, with a large crowd expected.
Homestead can neutralize some of that home field advantage with its fans showing up en masse in support. North Side stayed composed and competitive through the first quarter in Week 2 despite all of the excitement surrounding the first home game at Bishop Dwenger.
It won’t be that atmosphere, but for a premier SAC clash, there will be a lot of noise in the ears of Homestead. If the players can handle that, and perform on the field, they will be in good shape.
KEYS TO VICTORY – BISHOP DWENGER
1. THE MUSCLE UP FRONT
Vinny Fiacable, Joe Henry and Luke Wiginton will have no equal in terms of size on the other side of the ball in the trenches on Friday.
We hear so much about the Saints “instilling their will” on opponents as games wear on, especially when they can rotate bodies in to stay fresh.
If the Saints can win the point of attack, Homestead is in trouble.
2. FEED THE TIPPMANNS
Just pick one and go with it. Seriously.
OK, while there are a ton of Tippmann’s on Bishop Dwenger, we are referring to Louie and Devon. The duo have combined for 350 yards and seven touchdowns, although Louie has just the single score.
Wearing down Homestead with a two-headed rushing attack not only is demoralizing, it also keeps the ball away from Goode and that offense.
Check out Blitz’s pick for what he feel will happen at Shields Field on Friday.