For the second time in as many weeks, an undefeated showdown in the Summit Athletic Conference highlights the schedule, with Snider heading to southwest Allen County to take on Homestead.
The Spartans are riding momentum after a victory at Bishop Dwenger last week, while Snider has been very businesslike in starting 4-0. What gives on Friday?
1. SLAYING A PAIR OF POWERS
The last team to beat both Snider and Bishop Dwenger in the same season was the 2014 Wayne Generals coached by Scot Shaw. That team went 6-1 in the SAC with a lone loss to Bishop Luers.
You have to go back a little further to find the last time a team beat both Snider and Bishop Dwenger in back-to-back weeks. That was accomplished by the 2010 Bishop Luers Knights, who knocked off Dwenger 35-14 and followed it up one week later with a 14-0 shutout of Snider.
Homestead will look to accomplish both of those feats on Friday, and put itself in prime position to capture its first-ever Victory Bell.
2. A LOPSIDED SERIES
Snider has won nine-straight games over Homestead, including beating the Spartans twice last year, both times by double digits.
Some say this Spartans team is different, with an effective run game balancing out a superb pass game and a defense that won the trenches against Bishop Dwenger last week, never an easy feat.
But it feels to Blitz as if Snider is the team being overlooked by prep football fans heading into Friday, which is a dangerous thing.
3. BRAEDEN HARDWICK V. SNIDER RUSH D
Homestead has rushed for nine touchdowns through four weeks of the season, all by junior Braeden Hardwick.
Meanwhile, Snider has not allowed a single touchdown on the ground thus far.
Something has to give on Friday night. Hardwick torched Bishop Dwenger for 215 yards and two touchdowns last week. A similar performance against the Panthers could be the key to victory for Homestead.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB LUKE GOODE, JUNIOR, HOMESTEAD
Blitz is betting that Hardwick will not be able to run wild on the Snider D as much as he did against Dwenger. Even if he does, Goode will still have to make some plays with his arm for Homestead to knock off the Panthers for the first time since 2006.
Goode has torched the pass defenses of Northrop, Concordia and Bishop Luers, but was held without a touchdown pass against Dwenger. That said, the junior did make some big throws in key spots in the win.
Can Snider put pressure on the junior? Can they corral him before he makes plays downfield out of the pocket?
WR ALONZO DERRICK, SENIOR, SNIDER
Derrick is the do-everything offensive weapon for the Panthers. His primary role is at wideout, where he is tops in catches (14) and second in yards behind only Dillon Duff. But Snider will also utilize Derrick as a rusher when attempting to spread the field and get Derrick around the edge in space.
Perhaps most importantly, Derrick is Snider’s primary return man. He already has a punt return for a score this year. In a game where field position is likely to play a big role, Derrick is key.
LB CAM ROGERS, SENIOR, HOMESTEAD
Rogers was a machine against Bishop Dwenger in Week 4, amassing a total of 17 tackles and two sacks against the Saints.
While still nursing an injury to his hand, the linebacker has continued to affect play after play for the Spartans and only seems to be getting better with each passing week.
Homestead utilizes Rogers in a variety of roles, and he will be a big part in slowing down Snider RBs Lenny Bennett and Kameron Trotter.
DB JAYSHAWN UNDERWOOD, SENIOR, SNIDER
Underwood leads the Panthers with a pair of interceptions and is on the short list of the SAC’s best cornerbacks. Just 5-foot-9, Underwood plays physical with receivers and is quick enough to stay with receivers across the middle and downfield.
Goode is going to take some shots vertically for Homestead. Underwood will be one of the primary defensive backs looking to disrupt that.
KEYS TO VICTORY – SNIDER
1. MAKE HOMESTEAD ONE DIMENSIONAL
The Spartans controlled the line of scrimmage against Bishop Dwenger, getting a push up front and allowing Hardwick to slice his way through the defense to the tune of 215 yards.
Goode is good enough to beat a team like Snider on his own, but things are made immeasurably easier if Hardwick can move the chains on the ground.
The Snider defense is allowing just 81 yards per game on the ground. Homestead is averaging close to 180 yards rushing each week.
2. WIN SPECIAL TEAMS
It is rare when a team gets the best of Snider in the special teams game. The Panthers spend as much practice time as anyone around on the third, sometimes forgotten, facet of the game.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big kick return or a blocked punt that makes the difference on Friday, it could be a long punt that flips field position or a solid return.
But just ask Carroll how important something as simple as an extra point can be against Snider.
KEYS TO VICTORY – HOMESTEAD
1. KEEP IT ROLLING UP FRONT
We saw last week what a tough, physical Bishop Dwenger defensive line had to contend with when it went up against Homestead’s offensive front, and it didn’t end well.
The momentum from last week, and all season for that matter, must carry into Snider week. The Panthers aren’t as physically imposing up front as they have been in recent years, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have some seriously good linemen, led by Gianini Belizaire.
Can Homestead open holes and get its running backs to the second level of the defense consistently?
2. RATTLE JON BARNES JR.
Snider quarterback Jon Barnes Jr. has been able to make plays this year, throwing for close to 600 yards and seven touchdowns without a single interception. The junior hasn’t been electrifying, but he hasn’t had to be in a balanced offense.
All told, the Panthers have turned the ball over just once and allowed only a single sack through four games. Homestead must disrupt the Panthers’ offense, and in particular Barnes Jr., with pressure in the backfield. Forcing a turnover or two and getting some sacks is going to but Snider in some situations (short field for defense, long-yardage downs for offense) that it has not had to contend with much so far this year.