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 3A.
1. A NORMAL OCCURENCE
As late as 2002, Concordia Lutheran had not won a single postseason championship. In a 17-year span, the Cadets have now won five sectional crowns, a trio of regionals and a state championship in 2016.
The struggles that were three wins in Coach Tim Mannigel’s first three years have given way to competitive teams year after year who are in the thick of the sectional title conversation annually.
That it isn’t a huge story that Concordia is in this position says a lot about where Mannigel has taken the program.
2. HERE COMES NO. 1
Concordia’s foe this week just happens to be the top-ranked team in Class 3A.
They are No. 1 for a reason.
Bishop Chatard has rolled to wins over Brebeuf (twice), NorthWood (seven wins), Southport (seven wins) and West Lafayette (nine wins) by an average of 29 points.
So in short, the hill is quite steep for the Cadets to climb as they look to knock out the 13-time state champions.
3. DEFENSIVE PRESSURE
Concordia’s defense owned Peru last week, allowing the Tigers to score just a single touchdown in junk time. It was just the second time this year that the Cadets have held a team in single digits.
The defense has a whole allows over 21 points per game. That is trouble against an offense as dynamic as Chatard’s unit. Concordia must find ways to slow down the Trojans to have a shot.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
WR ANDREW SOWINSKI, SENIOR, BISHOP CHATARD
Of quarterback Kyle Cheeks’ top targets, Sowinski is the most dangerous and capable. Just 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, the upperclassmen has hauled in 51 passes, 20 of which have gone for touchdowns. He averages 17 yards per reception and needs to be blanketed with a corner and a safety over the top on most plays.
RB AMIR DREW, JUNIOR, CONCORDIA LUTHERAN
The junior Drew has rushed for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, but has found running room in short supply in a few matchups, including a few weeks ago against Norwell.
Chatard will be keying on the running back, with Concordia’s offensive front needing to hold their blocks and open some running lanes for Drew.
RB DAYLEN TAYLOR, SENIOR, BISHOP CHATARD
Last week against a very good West Lafayette team, Taylor went for 31-324-3 in a 28-point victory.
It was Taylor’s biggest game of the season to date, but the senior is primed to go off on any and all Fridays, having rushed for 1,786 yards and 23 touchdowns on the year.
DL ISAIAH RUSHER, JUNIOR, CONCORDIA LUTHERAN
The point of attack will be pivotal on Friday, and Rusher will be at the center of it for the Cadets.
Chatard is going to attempt to maul Concordia up front, opening up holes for Taylor and protecting the quarterback so he can make plays downfield. Rusher needs to win some individual battles and make a play or two, but more importantly free up the linebackers to slow down the Trojans and force punts.
KEYS TO VICTORY – BISHOP CHATARD
1. BE YOU
Chatard does not need to do anything fancy in this one. It needs to go in to Zollner Stadium, play the way it is capable of playing and it should have no problem advancing to semistate.
Nothing flashy, nothing outside the box. Just execute.
2. EXTENDED DRIVES
Concordia Lutheran is going to try and slow down the Bishop Chatard offense with some attacking stunts. It is believed that the Cadets cannot just sit back and react to the Trojans. It must take the fight to the Trojans at the point of attack and try to seal the edges.
If Bishop Chatard can move the chains effectively and put up some big numbers on the scoreboard, Concordia is going to have trouble keeping up.
KEYS TO VICTORY – CONCORDIA LUTHERAN
Chatard has only turned the ball over five times in the entire season, with four interceptions and a fumble.
Concordia needs to buck the trend and force some Trojans turnovers. Some short fields off of turnovers will go a long way into the Cadets sticking around in this game.
2. BIG NIGHT OFFENSIVELY
The running game has had its moments. Brandon Davis at QB has had his moments. The offense as a whole has had its moments.
The Cadets need all of it and more on Friday.
Last week, Concordia was firing on all cylinders against Peru. It proved from the opening kickoff that it was substantially more talented than the Tigers were. The Cadets need to come out with that same confidence on Friday and stay upbeat even if Chatard jumps out early.