Coach’s Corner is a weekly feature at Outside the Huddle written by Kevin Merz, former Bishop Dwenger quarterback and North Side offensive coordinator.
The SAC has eight teams going to battle this Friday as sectional play continues. Four of the eight teams will play each other as Snider hosts Carroll and Bishop Dwenger travels to Chambers Field to take on the Legends of North Side.
I see the SAC having six schools vying for a sectional title next week. But before we get there, let’s take a look at one key each team needs to be victorious this Friday!
CARROLL (6A Sectional 3 vs Snider)
The Chargers have produced the conference’s second-stingiest defense, allowing only 98 total points on the season. A 21-20 loss to Snider back in Week 2 shows that Carroll is more than capable of playing a close game against the Panthers this Friday.
The key for Carroll will come on special teams, where all close games tend to be decided with a special teams momentum swing. However, Snider is historically excellent in the kicking game. Most important for Carroll will be not giving up that big return or allowing a kick to be blocked late in the game. This will be paramount in keeping this game within one possession where a dynamic playmaker like Jeffrey Becker can turn a little sophomore magic into a game-winning drive late if given the opportunity.
Close game, but not quite enough from the Chargers.
Result: Snider 28 Carroll 21
SNIDER (6A Sectional 3 vs Carroll)
As eluded to above, Carroll nearly pulled off the win against the Panthers back in August, proving to itself and to Snider that Carroll is more than capable of winning this game.
The key to me is for Snider to stay “clean” during this game. Too often (especially in sectional play) the Panthers shoot themselves in the foot with costly procedure penalties and early turnovers, letting other teams hang around longer than they should. A clean and mistake free football game from Snider will let it exude its muscle as the better football team.
This game will be close and won mostly on the ground, but come sectional time, I trust the Panthers.
Result: See above.
HOMESTEAD (6A Sectional 3 vs Noblesville)
The one and only key for Homestead needs to be complete focus on Noblesville. The Millers are anemic on offense, averaging less than 10 ppg, leading to their 1-8 record.
All checkmarks on paper point to Homestead rolling in this game, but be careful about looking ahead to that potential rematch with Snider next week. Noblesville may not look stout, but an hour and a half bus trip, an unfamiliar setting and foe and glancing ahead could prove disastrous for the Spartans if they aren’t careful.
Focus must be present from the get go or Homestead could find itself on the wrong end of the state’s biggest sectional shocker.
Result: Homestead 41 Noblesville 10
NORTHROP (5A Sectional 11 vs Goshen)
Northrop lays an egg against the Legends in Week 8 and follows that up by nearly shocking Bishop Dwenger. Football is a funny game isn’t it?
Either way, no surprises here this Friday for Northrop as they take on another 1-8 squad in the Goshen RedHawks. One win, less than 9 ppg average scoring and giving up over 37 a night should be enough for the Bruins to roll easily in this one, but Northrop also likes to give up points in chunks at times.
The key for Northrop will be to simply make tackles when tackles need to be made. The Bruins coaching staff puts them in great position time after time, but missed tackles seem to be more frequent from Northrop than any other team I watch on a consistent basis.
Goshen doesn’t have the offensive firepower to sustain drives and put up multiple scores against Northrop, but missed easy tackles could lead to big plays and quick scores from if Northrop isn’t careful.
The Bruins should be able to control this game start to finish, but be weary of the potential for big plays against them if they don’t wrap up and take their man to the ground with the fundamentals they have been taught.
Result: Northrop 34 Goshen 13
BISHOP DWENGER (5A Sectional 11 vs North Side)
The Saints blanked the Legends 36-0 back in August. That score will be enough for some people to write this game off before it starts, but Dwenger will not allow that to creep into their minds as a program.
The one game at a time mentality is drilled into the heads of the Saints players on a consistent basis. Where Dwenger will need to be at its best Friday is in the run game, as keeping North Side’s athletes (particularly Duce Taylor) off the field for as long as possible will be key No. 1 for Dwenger’s success. Taylor has the ability to turn nothing into a big play at any moment.
Coach Chris Svarczkopf used to constantly say “we are one big play away from getting beat here.” By establishing the dominance on the ground and limiting the possessions that Taylor has the football in his hands, Dwenger slowly suffocates you and leads 21-0 late in the third before you really know why it feels like you’ve only gotten the ball four times all night.
If the Saints can effectively run the football and establish a lead, they’ll be able to turn it over to their elite defense to do their job in preserving a comfortable win.
Result: Dwenger 29 North Side 6
NORTH SIDE (5A Sectional 11 vs Bishop Dwenger)
The Legends know they are a different team with Duce Taylor pulling the trigger for them. Showing that, however, will be the challenge.
It will be an uphill battle for North to beat the Saints Friday, but it cannot add to the hill being climbed with self-inflicted wounds. The thing that sticks out to me the most will be in the kicking game, specifically when North punts. Dwenger’s defense is elite, so North will most likely have to punt quite a few times on the evening. North Side cannot have its typical bad snaps, procedure penalties and shanked punts. Giving the Saints a short field because of special teams blunders will be the final nail in the Legends’ coffin if not corrected.
North needs to make extra sure its punt team is functioning at maximum effort and performance, possibly flipping the field position on the Saints and allowing it to hang around longer than fans think. When a team hangs around in sectionals, anything can happen…
Result: Dwenger 29 North Side 6
CONCORDIA (3A Sectional 27 vs Norwell)
Concordia sits squarely in the driver’s seat in Sectional 27 after its impressive win last week at Maconaquah. I thought the Braves were really the only team in the sectional that could give Concordia a true test, a test the Cadets passed with flying colors.
Norwell sits at 5-5 with a surprisingly stingy defense allowing slightly less than 13 points per game. The key to the Cadets’ success Friday will be being smart with the football in the passing game. Norwell doesn’t have the athletes or the firepower on the offensive side of the football to do much damage to Concordia, but careless throws and decisions could lead to short fields for the Knights if the Cadets aren’t careful.
Concordia has been my pick from the get go to win Sectional 27 and nothing has changed in that mindset, but turnovers are the great equalizer in football. When it comes to turnovers Friday, the less Concordia makes, the more it wins by.
Result: Concordia 35 Norwell 14
BISHOP LUERS (2A Sectional 35 vs Eastside)
According to the Sagarin Ratings, Eastside plays the 217th ranked schedule in the state of Indiana. Bishop Luers’ schedule ranks 35th in that same formula.
I bring that tidbit up to illustrate my key to the game for the Knights. While Eastside sits at 8-2 and are certainly a formidable foe, the Blazers just don’t see the athletes Bishop Luers will put on the field Friday very much. For the Knights, getting the ball onto the perimeter quickly and efficiently will be priority No. 1 for Coach Kyle Lindsay and his offense.
Eastside is used to playing defense against its opponents between the hashes and in the box. If Bishop Luers wants to pull off the win, getting the ball outside the hashes and letting its superior athletes be free in space must be the game plan. Eastside may make the tackle the first few times, but the more one-on-one athletic matchups Luers can put its kids in against Eastside, the more matchups Luers will eventually win in space.
I think Eastside is good, but I know Luers is faster and in games in 1 and 2A, speed tends to kill.
Result: Bishop Luers 28 Eastside 23
Coach’s Corner appears every Monday during the prep football season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers.