It is sectional semifinal week, also known as the opening of the postseason for local 5A and 6A teams.
A pair of four-team sectionals will kick off this week in the area.
We conclude our sectional previews today with Class 6A Sectional 3.
The Spartans enter the playoffs ranked the No. 2 team in the state by the Associated Press, trailing only fellow undefeated Avon in the polls.
Is Homestead better than teams like Carmel, Warren Central and Merrillville?
That question could potentially be answered in the coming weeks, but first things first.
The Spartans get a bit of a trap game on Friday at one-win Noblesville, but Blitz does not believe they are in any danger of getting beat. The big challenge will come next week if Homestead does indeed match up with Snider. Yes, the first time around was an offensive clinic by the Spartans, but the Panthers’ offense did a lot of good things and there is no doubt the defense will have some tricks up its sleeve for Luke Goode and company.
It is true that the Panthers allowed 49 points to Homestead when the two met earlier this year, but Snider also put up 36, the most points put up on the Spartans defense all year.
But before Snider can worry about the SAC champion, it has to hold off Carroll for a second time. The Chargers fell a PAT short of tying the Panthers late, falling 21-20 in Week 2.
The play of the defense will be pivotal for Snider to win the next two weeks. It is a unit that has looked overmatched at times throughout the year, particularly against Homestead. The coaching staff is second to none in making adjustments when facing an opponent the second time around.
It is not that Blitz doesn’t think Carroll can knock off Snider, it is that he doesn’t believe the Chargers can contend with Homestead in a potential sectional championship game.
The first time around, Carroll was dominated at the point of attack in a 42-15 loss in Week 7. How much has changed in the last month?
But first things first. If Carroll can beat Snider at Spuller Stadium on Friday, it sets up a rivalry game for the sectional title, where anything can happen.
Look past Noblesville at your own risk. The Millers have just one victory, but eight of their nine opponents were 6A squads. Their lone win was over Franklin Central, a team that beat Hamilton Southeastern on the road in Week 8.
Noblesville is not a team that Homestead can take for granted. A long bus trip coupled with the potential underestimation of the Millers could make for a closer than anticipated game on Friday night.
That said, it is tough to envision a path where Noblesville is able to win twice against superior teams to win a sectional for the first time since 2000.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
LUKE GOODE, JUNIOR, HOMESTEAD
Goode has been so good we have almost taken him for granted. He has thrown for over 2,100 yards and 23 touchdowns with just a single interception in leading the Spartans offense in averaging over 40 points per game.
The play of the quarterback is huge in the playoffs at any level. As the weather turns, avoiding mistakes inside and outside the pocket in the wind or rain (or snow, YES) becomes ever more important.
Goode has exceptional poise and confidence. Will that continue through the sectional and beyond?
JALEN WIGGINS, SENIOR, SNIDER
So much is made about Gianini Belizaire up front for the Panthers that we tend to forget about Wiggins on the edge.
Wiggins was recently named First Team All-SAC and for good reason, being one of the more disruptive defensive linemen in the area all season long.
In facing quarterbacks that can make plays like Jeffrey Becker and perhaps Goode, Wiggins will need to be on his game.
LARRY SIBLE, SENIOR, CARROLL
The Chargers held their own against Snider up front in the teams’ regular-season meeting. That has actually been the case in the regular season the last two years.
However, Snider had the edge in the postseason last year and Carroll cannot allow the same thing to happen this season.
Sible is key to winning the point of attack when the Chargers are on defense. The defensive tackle has 14 tackles for loss, six sacks and 44 tackles. He will need to lead the charge for the defense in the trenches.
AIDAN RICHARDSON, SENIOR, NOBLESVILLE
If the Millers are going to have any hope against Homestead, they will need a Herculean effort from the defense.
Noblesville have several solid defenders, but perhaps none as dynamic as Richardson. He is adept at both slowing down the run game (61 tackles) while at outside linebacker. He can also drop in coverage, evidenced by his trio of interceptions.
Noblesville needs Richardson to be a monster on Friday.