Alright, time to get real.
Sectionals are behind us, meaning every potential foe from here on out is deserving to be considered a state title contender.
Which area teams have a chance to survive at least one more week? Which are facing uphill battles heading into Friday?
Outside the Huddle has you covered this week, breaking down each local regional matchup.
Next up, Class 5A.
1. PERENNIAL POWER VS. NEWBIE
Bishop Dwenger is looking to add to its record 21 regional championships, tops in the state. Meanwhile, Harrison has not won a regional title since 1992.
While those statistics can largely be thrown out when it comes to a single game, it does factor in when it comes to experience in big games. The Saints took on all takers last season while en route to a 4A state championship. This team is veteran led on the field and on the sideline.
Harrison must come ready to play from the outset.
2. STRENGTH ON STRENGTH
Harrison enters Friday night averaging just over 38 points per game, including dropping 45 points last week on a decent McCutcheon squad.
Meanwhile, the Bishop Dwenger defense has been stout most of the year under the leadership of Defensive Coordinator Casey Kolkman. The Saints have held five of their last seven opponents to seven points or less, including the shutout of Northrop in the sectional championship.
What gives on Friday?
3. FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Harrison and Bishop Dwenger will be facing off for the first time in history, and what better time to meet than with a regional championship on the line?
The fans of Harrison will get their first look at one of the top programs in the state, complete with the gold helmets, traditional pre-game calisthenics routine and the business-like approach to big games.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB OMARION DIXON, JUNIOR, HARRISON
The Raiders have rushed for over 3,100 yards this season, with Dixon having accounted for more of those yards than anyone else.
The 6-foot-1, 205 pounder has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in every game but one this season. Last week against McCutcheon, the junior amassed 263 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Dixon is a dangerous runner between the tackles and in the open field. He has the ability to make tacklers miss and to outrun them. He is as dangerous of a running back as the Saints have faced all season.
WR GRIFFIN EIFERT, SENIOR, BISHOP DWENGER
The young brother to Tyler of the Cincinnati Bengals resembled his older sibling last week, hauling in three touchdown passes against Northrop in a 42-0 rout.
The trio of scores doubled Eifert’s receiving touchdown output on the year, now giving him six entering regional week to go along with 399 yards receiving.
Bishop Dwenger spreads the ball around efficiently in its passing offense, but Eifert always seems to be the guy in the right place in the clutch. He could be that guy again against Harrison.
DE JACOB CAIN, SENIOR, HARRISON
The Raiders’ defense has given up just seven points in the postseason, with Cain being a big reason why.
The defensive end is not especially intimidating in his 6-1, 190-pound frame, but he is quick off the edge and has disrupted plenty of plays all year long. Through two postseason games, Cain has 3.5 tackles for loss, 11 tackles and one sack.
LB GAGE RENBARGER, SENIOR, BISHOP DWENGER
The linebacker has accounted for at least one tackle for loss in all but two games this season. He has 13 TFL on the year and six sacks.
It will be the Saints’ defensive front seven that will be key in slowing down Harrison on the ground, which will be a focal point of this game from the outset.
KEYS TO VICTORY – BISHOP DWENGER
1. MAKE HARRISON ONE DIMENSIONAL
The Raiders want to run the ball, plain and simple. While sophomore quarterback Tyler Knoy has thrown for 20 touchdowns this season, he completes passes at less than a 50 percent clip and much of his success has come when defenses commit to stopping the run, leaving receivers in man coverage downfield.
A season ago, Bishop Dwenger took on a run-heavy Mishawaka team in semistate and completely shut down the rushing attack. Mishawaka was done for in a 24-6 Saints victory.
That will be the same goal on Friday, stop the run.
2. LIMIT TURNOVERS
This one is obvious, but with Bishop Dwenger on the road against a competent opponent yet one in which they will be favored, it is important not to give the home team any extra opportunities.
The Saints have turned the ball over 14 times this year, not necessarily a great number when you consider how often we say how sound Dwenger is and how they don’t make mistakes.
KEYS TO VICTORY – HARRISON
1. ESTABLISH THE RUN GAME
The Raiders have scored 37 touchdowns on the ground this season, an impressive number. Dixon is the leading rusher, but junior Marcel Atisso is just 29 yards away from 1,000 yards on the ground. However, Atisso suffered a leg injury last week and is out for the remainder of the season.
Harrison must win the battle up front and open up holes for its talented runners to get into the second and third levels of the Dwenger defense.
2. GROW UP FAST
Many of Harrison’s top players, including the majority of its offense at the skill positions, are underclassmen. Bishop Dwenger brings in a veteran squad with plenty of experience, while a regional showdown will be new for some of the Raiders’ starters despite the team winning a sectional title last year as well.
The juniors and sophomores of Harrison must play like seniors – with confidence, poise and making minimal mistakes.