We are officially more than halfway through the regular season and Friday actually provided some clarity in the two major area conferences with just one unbeaten team left in each. We learned quite a bit in Week 5, so here are some of the key things that Blitz is taking away from an offensively overwhelming night.
• Homestead secured their spot as the top team in the area and the SAC on Friday night. But that isn’t anything you don’t already know after it went full throttle with its offense. The Spartans were 8-of-13 on third down and a perfect 4-of-4 on fourth down in the win. Those numbers turned into big points with Snider giving up the most points (49) it had since 2015’s state championship where it gave up 61 and still beat New Palenstine.
While a win over Bishop Dwenger was defensive focused, the overwhelming Homestead offense has to leave you in awe now. It knew it had to put up big yards to beat Snider and the Spartans did so. We know by now that Braeden Hardwick will argue his place as the best rusher in the conference, but the diversity in the receiving game was top notch. Griffin Little had his best game of the year while Jared Kistler has put himself in the bullseye of opposing scouting reports going forward.
• Snider found itself on the losing end of the score Friday, but I want to emphasize this: Jon Barnes Jr. (main image, by Gary Hale) cemented his place as a top area quarterback by showing a high level of versatility. Barnes had rushed for 17 yards in the first four games and then took off for a team-high 131 against Homestead. Against a defense as quick and active as Homestead, you can’t help but be impressed by Barnes’ movement.
• Despite warnings from coach Jason Doerffler, we still look at Northrop as an offensive group that isn’t as defined on the defensive side of the ball. Maybe we should change that tune. A huge catalyst early in Friday’s overtime win over Concordia was Antoine Scott‘s touchdown just before halftime. That score came off a well-executed interception that he ran back 36 yards to extend the Bruins’ lead to 12 at the break.
Tenoah Ridley added an interception, Nigel Robertson had two sacks and a host of Bruins chipped in for big stops down the stretch to force overtime. Dustin Busbey‘s overtime sack helped seal the 40-33 win and Northrop, at 3-2, has its best start since 2006 and its first overtime win since 2013.
• Need a big win? Make a big decision. Bishop Dwenger and Carroll both stifled each other with defense on Friday night, bringing the game right down to the end, tied at 3-3 with 1:42 left. Facing fourth and goal from the 2 yard line, the Saints didn’t want to leave anything to chance. So they didn’t go for three, they went for the spirit crusher.
Hayden Ellinger turned out to be that guy on his only rush of the night. He carried the ball in from two yards out for the only touchdown for either team. The score came after Bishop Dwenger burned over 11 minutes of game clock on a 90-yard drive. That is grind-it-out football with some big…decision making at the end.
The chance to win came thanks to a blocked Carroll field goal attempt with a minute left in the third quarter. Howie Steele was the guy for the Saints on the block, giving them the ball for the long fourth quarter drive. A week after their first loss, the Saints proved they can still beat you in a lot of ways.
• Feels like I am mentioning every single SAC game this week, but it is critical to note the South Side Archers ending a 17-game losing streak with a win over Wayne. Dating back to September 29, 2017 the streak had a lot of down times, but Coach Roosevelt Noorfleet and company came through this week. The 46 points the Archers put up is the most since Noorfleet’s first season in 2014.
• This is weird to say, but does North Side own Bishop Luers on the football field now? After a 0-3 start to the season with exactly zero points, the Legends are now 2-3 and have beaten the Knights two straight years for the first time since they won three straight from 2006-2008 under Coach Casey Kolkman. Just like 2018, a big push for North Side came on the ground from Alex Holliday-Robinson, who was just looking for a breakout performance this year after an early slump. Not only did he get it, the Legends were impressive in their ability to hold off a Luers comeback attempt after Legend starting quarterback Duce Taylor went down injured early in the game.
• Columbia City may have fallen short in a back-and-forth game with DeKalb, but it certainly has proven through the first five weeks that it is no joke. And Friday night, it added a school record to boot in the final year on its current field. The Eagles took a 10-7 year in the first half when Garrett Klefeker nailed a 42 yard field goal. The new school record for distance is another nice feather in the cap for this team.
• This isn’t the time of the year that you want to see anyone go down injured, but Leo leading rusher Peyton Wall did so in the fourth quarter of the Lions’ first loss of the year at East Noble. The non-contact injury on a kickoff return didn’t look good on first sight and Wall, one of the area’s top rushers, did not return to the game. Here is to hoping nothing was too serious for Wall.
• How do you even begin to quantify what Bailey Parker does or means to East Noble? As noted in our coverage of East Noble’s 35-7 win over Leo, everyone is feeling like a broken record when talking about the Knights and Parker. You can only say it so many times and have so many expectations for a kid to meet. But Parker continues to be the most multi-dimensional signal caller in the area after a 183-yard passing, 139-yard rushing, four touchdown performance to hand Leo their first loss of the season.
Plus, his cleat game was on point and that only adds to the myth of Parker.
East Noble’s win over Leo on Friday was the first time in the short history of the series that the home team had won. East Noble picked up its second win in a row in the series and the Knights are 5-0 for the first time since they started 10-0 in 2004 when they ran through teams in the defunct Northeast Hoosier Conference, including wins at Carroll and Homestead. Now people are starting to talk about the Knights being a state contender with their consistent scoring; they’ve scored 34, 34, 36, 35 and 35 in their wins.
• DeKalb playing angry meant good things on Friday. A week after their run game being stifled, the Barons got their groove back on the legs of Tanner Jack, who had his break-out game of the season. The NE8 title is not out of reach; DeKalb needs some help that they may never get, but it is certainly making itself postseason ready at the very least. There are a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball right now for the Barons, with guys like Nate Williams inserting themselves at the right time. Bounce-back wins impress Blitz and DeKalb passed that test with flying colors in the back and forth war with Columbia City.
• We didn’t even know if Hayden Nern would play or be 100 percent against Jay County after an injury against South Adams in Week 3 put him on the injured list. Not only did he come back to push Bluffton to 4-1, he just went ahead and threw for 320 yards, the third-best single game in Bluffton history. His partner in crime, Kain Thornton, did break the school record by hauling in 210 yards worth of catches. His 10 receptions is the second best mark in Bluffton history.
• James Arnold got to play a full game for South Adams as the Starfires got tested, at least as much as they’ve been tested. 987 passing yards and 17 touchdowns is a heck of a total to have when you’ve played less than a dozen quarters all season. With Week 5 performance, Arnold has become the program’s all-time passing leader as a junior, breaking Nick Teeter’s record. Blitz mentioned recently that Aidan Wanner may be the ACAC MVP so far, but Arnold is making his argument very loudly and the Starfires are getting better weekly as they prepare for next Friday’s rivalry game at Adams Central
Bet you can guess who will be in Monroe for that one.
Another note while we talk breaking records, another South Adams junior in Nick Miller became the school’s all-time sack leader, breaking assistant coach Heath Moser’s record.
• Fremont isn’t known as a football power, but there has to be some joy after a 20-17 win over Central Noble. The Eagles are 3-2 for the first time in 21 seasons and have three total wins for the first time since 2012. The next couple of weeks won’t be easy with Churubusco and Eastside, but Coach Todd Herndon has given Fremont some kind of unprecedented momentum.
• Speaking of relief, it had to be palpable on the field for Angola on Friday against Lakeland. After their first 0-4 start since the first half of Bill Clinton’s tenure in office, the Hornets needed a little sunshine to break through the rainstorm that has been their season. Of course, leave it to Ryan Brandt to flex his muscles..his large, scary muscles. He was all over the field on offense and defense in the 35-12 win. Finley Hasselman also had a break-out game, running for 141 yards. Now Angola has righted the ship and this is your friendly reminder that it is still dangerous every single week, so don’t be surprised if there aren’t many losses left in 2019.
• A pair of NECC traveling trophies are staying put for the fourth straight year. Eastside‘s 28-8 win over Garrett keeps the Big Train Trophy in Butler for the time being.
While their “trophy” isn’t near as cool as the Big Train, West Noble retained their Battle on Highway 33 crown too, beating Fairfield for the fourth straight season. What does Blitz really want out of the Chargers though? An in-game boot from Julio Macias like he had in the pregame when he nailed a 60-yard field goal. It was certainly Twitter worthy, but I want to see a big boot like this in game. Let’s make it happen Julio!
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