Week 9 is not without its big matchups, with arguably the biggest one happening in DeKalb County in a battle of one-loss teams.
Leo and DeKalb reside in the same conference and the same sectional, meaning this may not be the only meeting between the two this year.
But first things first, with both teams wanting to capture a marquee victory entering the postseason.
1. BATTLE FOR SECOND PLACE
It isn’t as sexy as a fight for the NE8 championship, but Leo and DeKalb are the only other teams in the league currently over .500 outside of East Noble.
DeKalb in particular is in the midst of a special season. A win on Friday would give the Barons eight victories for the first time since 2002.
Meanwhile, a young group of Leo Lions have progressed through the season by getting better each week. Some sophomores have stepped up to be key contributors and have been led by a stout group of seniors.
Bragging rights are on the line on Friday.
2. DEKALB’S RUSHING ATTACK
The Barons had three 100-yard rushers last week in a lopsided victory at Bellmont. Senior Landon Miller and junior Tanner Jack are both capable of finishing the year as 1,000-yard rushers, which would be a significant achievement for the Barons.
Overall, DeKalb rushes for over 263 yards per game. It is up to the Leo defense to slow that attack down.
3. THE DEKALB ENVIRONMENT
This season’s success has turned DeKalb home games into raucous affairs. Similar to what happened at Angola a few years ago, fans are now coming out in droves to support the Barons.
Expect a great atmosphere for Friday Night Lights on both sides of the field this week.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB LANDON MILLER, SENIOR, DEKALB
The senior running back is just 15 yards shy of 1,000 yards for the season to go with a team-high 12 touchdowns. Miller has gone over 120 yards in each of the last three games, including a 212-yard, two-touchdown effort in a win over Huntington North.
Leo must account for Miller and slow him down.
LB GT BAKER, SENIOR, LEO
The general in the middle of the Lions defense will be relied upon to help shut down the DeKalb rushing attack. Leo is limiting teams to just 10 points a game, with four opponents being held to three points or less.
Baker is a big dude and will be tough to deal with, especially if the Barons cannot get a body on him consistently.
DL JASE GRIFFITH, SENIOR, DEKALB
Just as Leo will try to slow down DeKalb’s running game, the Barons will try to do the same thing against Peyton Wall. Griffith has been a menace in opposing backfields this year, rolling up nine tackles for loss to go with three sacks.
Keep an eye on Griffith when Leo looks to pass as well.
QB JACKSON BARBOUR, SOPHOMORE, LEO
The quarterback position has solidified at Leo as the season has progressed, with Barbour gaining the trust and confidence of Coach Jared Sauder.
Barbour has made plays in the pass game in the second half of the season and has looked much more comfortable in the pocket and with his reads. DeKalb is going to throw a lot of looks at him on Friday. We will see how the sophomore handles it.
KEYS TO VICTORY – LEO
Norwell’s physical defense was able to stifle the DeKalb offense in the first half of their matchup a few weeks ago. The Barons were held scoreless until the third quarter, eventually scoring twice to win 13-9.
That same physicality can be used by Leo to frustrate DeKalb.
2. FORCE TURNOVERS
This is an obvious one in every game, but will be key for Leo on the road against a quality opponent. A few short fields will work wonders for the Lions, especially in the first half in trying to steal the momentum early.
KEYS TO VICTORY – DEKALB
1. POUND THE GROUND GAME
Getting Landon Miller and Tanner Day going is important not just in moving the chains on the ground, but also opening up opportunities for quarterback Evan Eshbach in the pass game.
Wide receiver Easton Rhodes could end up having a big night through the air.
2. PRESSURE BARBOUR
A sophomore quarterback is still a sophomore, even in Week 9. Consistent pressure on the quarterback could force Barbour into some mistakes. In a game expected to hinge on a few key plays, a big turnover here or there could make the difference.