The Week 8 clash between Snider and Bishop Dwenger has traditionally been one that helps decide the SAC championship. After all, one or the other has notched at least a share of the league title in 13 of the last 15 seasons.
So when the two prep powerhouses in Allen County meet again this Friday, it will be a bit weird without much in the way of conference championship implications. But make no mistake, this is a big one as both look for some momentum heading into the postseason in a few weeks.
1. A COMMON ENEMY
Both Bishop Dwenger and Snider enter Friday with 6-1 records, with both having suffered their loss at the hands of Homestead.
The Saints and Panthers would both need a lot of help from other teams to climb back into the SAC Victory Bell conversation,
Snider is eyeing a rematch with Homestead that could potentially come to fruition in sectional play. Bishop Dwenger will have to settle for trying to return to Lucas Oil Stadium for a shot at a state title, this year in 5A.
2. STORIED PROGRAMS
These two programs represent arguably the two most storied football teams in northeast Indiana. Decades of success and championships have stamped the Saints and Panthers as household names across the state when it comes to judging the football elite.
Most seasons, this is the biggest barometer game for each program considering how evenly matched they are (most years). The Saints admire what Snider does and vice versa. There is respect there, but also a competitive angst that isn’t brought out against too many other squads.
3. BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES
Neither of these teams were able to get the better of Homestead up front, particularly that Spartan offensive line. On Friday, the big boys on both sides of the ball will do battle as they try to gain a push up front, either to open holes for running backs and protect the quarterback or disrupt those things.
Deep runs in the postseason for both of these teams will hinge on just how good the offensive and defensive lines are. As the weather turns cold, running the ball consistently becomes more and more important. Who can do it better on Friday on a night that could be both cold AND wet?
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
WR MICHAEL LEDO JR., SENIOR, BISHOP DWENGER
The Saints’ leading receiver is set to take on his former team, which is always an interesting proposition.
Ledo Jr. has accounted for 29 receptions for 357 yards and three touchdowns on the season and has become one of quarterback Brenden Lytle’s most sure-handed options.
Can Ledo Jr. break off a big play or two in a game that is expected to be low scoring?
QB JON BARNES JR., SENIOR, SNIDER
Homestead’s Luke Goode has had well-deserved praise for his ability to protect the football, throwing just a single INT all year. However, Barnes Jr. is in the same boat, having thrown just the one pick against 13 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards.
Barnes Jr. was on point in Snider’s game against Homestead earlier this year. Knowing that the Spartans were likely going to keep scoring, the offense knew it had to try and match Homestead score for score. Barnes Jr. was able to lead the charge.
Don’t expect a combined 85 points like the Snider and Homestead game had, but Barnes Jr. should be able to find some plays downfield and open up the run attack.
OLB LUCAS KROHN, SENIOR, BISHOP DWENGER
The second level of the defense becomes pivotal in these matchups that can swing on just a single play. No team in the area has a linebacker corps as good and as unknown as the Saints.
Krohn is one of those unsung heroes for Dwenger, able to seal holes in the run game while also a big factor in defending the screen game and short passing attack.
The senior has 31 tackles, five TFL and a trio of sacks on the year.
S TAVIAN RUCKLOS, SENIOR, SNIDER
The leading tackler for the Panthers isn’t mentioned a lot when it comes to premier players on the defense, but as the last line of defense, his ability to wrap and bring down ball carriers is of paramount importance.
Rucklos will be key in slowing down a Bishop Dwenger running game that will try and set the tone on the turf early. While the defensive front seven hold the majority of the responsibility, Rucklos could be utilized in a shallow safety spot as reinforcements and attempt to push the Saints into 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations.
KEYS TO VICTORY – BISHOP DWENGER
1. LIMIT BIG PLAYS
The Saints have been successful on defense all year, with the 17 points by Homestead tops allowed in a game.
Snider’s offense is not as dynamic as Homestead, but it does have some serious big-play ability. Bishop Dwenger must keep everything in front of them, put pressure on Barnes Jr. and not allowing the Panthers to get yards in big chunks.
2. GET A PUSH UP FRONT
This is actually a key for both teams in terms of winning the line of scrimmage. Both teams have the capability of doing it, with some big dudes on both sides.
These teams love to compete against each other, mainly because there is a bit of dislike between the players. That makes for good battles up front, and will go a long way towards deciding this one.
KEYS TO VICTORY – SNIDER
1. TURN SMALL PLAYS INTO BIG ONES
The Panthers don’t necessary have to throw vertically downfield and attack Bishop Dwenger deep. Snider could be just as successful turning short throws into big gains.
Lenny Bennett and Kameron Trotter in the running game will be big and could break loose for a key gain here or there.
2. WIN SPECIAL TEAMS
This is an often-forgotten aspect of the game and one that Snider consistently wins in big games. It could be a return or a blocked kick or a big punt that flips field position. One of these could be just as important in a rivalry game against a quality opponent like the Saints.