We have officially reached the midway point of the regular season (or will have around halftime tonight), and the time sure has flown. For the second straight week, conference title implications are huge in several key meetings.
Here are the five players that we at Outside the Huddle feel like you should be keeping an extra eye on tonight.
DALLAS SCHWALLER, ADAMS CENTRAL
There has been a lot of pressure on Schwaller’s shoulders the first half of the season. He had big shoes to fill and the town of Monroe expects a lot out of their Flying Jet team leaders. So far, Schwaller (main image) has passed with flying colors, including last week’s 3-of-5 passing game for 160 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Jay County. This week’s ACAC opponent, Heritage, is coming off a huge loss and not that Schwaller wants to pile on but Heritage is an opponent he can take time to get comfortable against.
With South Adams looming next week, Schwaller needs another big game to sharpen himself and tonight will see him going all out on both sides of the ball. While Schwaller has made some strong passes to open up his team’s running game, he is equally important on the defensive side.
SETH VAN WAGNER, GARRETT
Lakeland all but had its game with Garrett won last week, but the Railroaders went full steam ahead on the ground with Van Wagner and Clayton Fielden, who combined for 300 yards and four touchdowns rushing. Fielden, the team’s leading rusher, is expected to take big chunks out of NECC defenses. Van Wagner, a junior, had run for just 34 yards in the first three weeks before his 153 in the win over Lakeland.
Tonight’s opponent, Eastside, is the buzz team in the area after its upset of Churubusco in which it limited Jake Fulk on the ground far, far better than any other team had. Knowing Eastside’s current run defense prowess and Garrett getting three-fourths of its offense on the ground makes this game intriguing. Van Wagner also is equally important on defense where he leads the Railroaders with 32 tackles, including 15 solo efforts. If the Railroaders are to upset Eastside, they will need Week 4’s Van Wagner to show up in Week 5.
CAM ROGERS, HOMESTEAD
Homestead’s win last Friday at Bishop Dwenger made a poignant statement about its defense. Rogers has been the constant in that, playing injured but at a high level all season long with 2.5 sacks and 23 tackles, including six for a loss. While we are talking about numbers, he is also fourth on the team in receptions with seven for 136 yards. Homestead has some speciality position players thriving, but it is making major waves with all-purpose players like Rogers.
On top of that, his effort, enthusiasm and heart are relatively unmatched and it has made him a major senior leader for the unbeaten Spartans. Tonight’s game with Snider has a lot of important pieces, none more so though Rogers.
LOUIE TIPPMANN, BISHOP DWENGER
Coming off his second-lowest rushing output of the season, the Saints’ leading rusher is going to need to bounce back in a big way to keep Bishop Dwenger from losing two straight. Tippmann is a powerful back and arguably the most important cog in Bishop Dwenger’s offense. Last week he ran for just 23 yards on four carries in the loss to Homestead. He ran for similar numbers Week 1 against Wayne and turned it around the next week to run for 97 yards of 12 carries in a win over North Side. Tippmann will be looking for a similar turnaround this week.
The numbers are on Bishop Dwenger and Tippmann’s side. The two teams who have been able to run the ball 30 or more times against Carroll have churned out triple-digit yardage, including 242 from Snider when it beat Carroll. That means that Tippmann, who has a team-high 29 carries, is likely to get the ball in his hands quite a bit tonight.
JACKSON BARBOUR, LEO
To nobody’s surprise, Leo is a run-oriented team and it has made a breakout star of Peyton Wall as the Lions rushed to 4-0, setting up a Northeast 8 battle of unbeatens at East Noble tonight. But going into a battle with run stop heavy East Noble, being able to spread out the field through the passing game is critical, as DeKalb learned last Friday.
That means Leo will need to turn to the consistent hand of the sophomore Barbour, trying to make that hand more steady. Barbour is 13-of-19 throwing the football this season for 224 yards. He doesn’t throw very much but when he does, he has a high success rate with perfect passing two of the four weeks, including last Friday. Barbour is coming off a 3-of-3 game against New Haven with two touchdowns, his only two touchdowns this season. Barbour has stepped in admirably as the Lion quarterback this season and tonight will be his biggest test to date.