One wants to overcome its last true challenge before capturing the Victory Bell, while the other is looking to take another step in erasing the disappointment of 2018.
In the SAC’s rivalry week, no game is more important on the schedule than this one – Homestead at Carroll.
These teams don’t like each other and neither do the student bodies.
Homestead goes the entire week without using the letter “C” for Carroll, instead inserting an X.
Meanwhile, Neon Nation will be as hostile as it is all season long on Friday night as it welcomes to the Spartans.
Expect hard hits, maybe some extracurriculars after some plays and some witty chants from the student sections in this one.
2. HOMESTEAD ON A STREAK
The Spartans have won three straight in the series, with none of those being decided by less than 17 points. Last year, a 38-17 loss to Homestead began a four-game losing streak for Carroll to end the season.
The Chargers are entering this game with some confidence having won three of four, with the lone loss a closely-contested affair at Bishop Dwenger. Even the loss to Snider was respectable as it came by a single point in Week 2.
Carroll will not be intimidated by its rival like it may have been the last few years.
3. HOMESTEAD’S PERFECTION
At 6-0, the Spartans are in the driver’s seat for the SAC title, at least two games ahead (with tiebreakers) of everyone else in the league.
Homestead has Wayne and South Side left after this one, so there is a solid chance if the Spartans win Friday that they will secure their first undefeated regular season since 2012.
Of course, that year Homestead lost to Snider in sectional play. Blitz is already anticipating that rematch.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB BRAEDEN HARDWICK, HOMESTEAD
He is a player to watch in every game the Spartans play. Why? Because he averages 143 yards per game on the ground. To beat Homestead, you must shut down the running game. So far, no one has been able to in the SAC, with Hardwick adding 14 touchdowns on the year to his rushing total.
Hardwick is deceptively quick and athletic. He can lull you into a sense of security with inside runs, but break a tackle, kick the play to the outside and make a small gain into a big one. Carroll must account for No. 26.
WR LAYTON MITCHELL, CARROLL
If the Chargers are to have any chance of beating Homestead, they will likely have to outscore them. That’s where Mitchell comes in. Arguably the most complete receiver in the SAC, Mitchell is averaging 17 yards per catch and has eight touchdowns through six games.
Mitchell is not physically imposing nor is he overly fast. But he has perfected the nuances of the position, running crisp routes with solid hands and the ability to judge the ball in the air better than defenders.
DT MATT MILLER, HOMESTEAD
Miller does not get much in the way of publicity, but he is a mainstay along the defensive front of the Spartans that has held teams to 14 points per game. He is a space eater as much as he is an attacking d-lineman. He has a team-high four sacks and also several tackles for loss.
Winning the point of attack will be paramount, and it is something that Homestead had trouble with against Snider in Week 5. The sophomore Miller will be the spearhead of that effort.
DB CADE DINAN, CARROLL
Homestead averages 265 yards passing per game and has converted 17 passing touchdowns overall. The pressure will be on the Chargers secondary to account for the plethora of Spartan receivers who can make plays.
Dinan is tied for the team lead with three interceptions. He and guys like sophomore Tucker Steely and senior Ray Vollmer will have to stay true to their assignments, not bite on play action and close on receivers quickly.
KEYS TO VICTORY – HOMESTEAD
1. BE YOU
Homestead does not to be cute in any way to win this game. It just needs to enter the game and do exactly what it has done for the last six games, particularly offensively.
Think about it, the Spartans scored on their first seven possessions against Snider, arguably the most physical team in the SAC. Carroll will try to match that intensity, but Homestead still has the personnel to execute well, particularly if the offensive line play remains good.
2. PRESSURE JEFFREY BECKER
The sophomore quarterback for Carroll has been good this year, but can be rattled. Becker has thrown six interceptions over the last three games and eight overall this season.
Becker is still learning and growing into the quarterback position. The Spartans need to play off that learning curve, pressure him up front and disguise coverages to shake him.
KEYS TO VICTORY – CARROLL
1. CREATE TURNOVERS
Homestead quarterback Luke Goode has thrown just one interception all year. It came last week at North Side. The Chargers’ defense not only needs to stop Homestead drives and force punts, it also needs to end some drives with a couple of turnovers, potentially leading to short fields for the offense.
This goes back to that secondary, which has shown the ability to make plays with 10 interceptions in six games.
2. SLOW DOWN HARDWICK
This was referenced above, but it needs reinforcing again. Carroll’s defensive front must get a push to slow down Hardwick in the run game. It doesn’t need to completely shut him down, but the Chargers cannot commit seven players to stopping the run game and leaving their secondary on islands if the Spartans are lining up in three- and four-wide formations.
The Chargers need a big-time effort from its defensive front.