OTH FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2020: Blitz’s ACAC breakdown

South Adams’ James Arnold takes off to run the ball during a September 6, 2019 game at Bluffton.

The battle at the top of the ACAC is unlikely to change, but the landscape of the conference is interesting due to a high content of schedule changes and conflicts.

With teams not playing certain weeks or at all, there has been some shuffling of games, but things seem to be stable now.

Speaking of not playing, Southern Wells recently dropped out of the season on the varsity level. That slims the ACAC down even more, now with just six teams competing for a title.

Who is the favorite entering 2020? Blitz takes a look…


South Adams

After a perfect regular season made way for an ACAC and sectional sweep, South Adams is craving much more this time around. The senior class has played significant minutes for two and three seasons and there isn’t any team with qhat much experience in the area, let alone the ACAC.

James Arnold is back under center yet again after throwing for 3,168 yards last year and his three top targets, each gaining more than 700 yards, are all back as well. The Starfires shouldn’t have a problem putting up yards and points again.

The question will remain – Can they perform in crunch time? Sack leader Nick Miller, who also had 66 tackles, is back. The Starfires also return two of their top three defenders from a year ago in Jacob Plattner and Austin Gorney.


Adams Central

Far be it for Blitz to put another chip on Adams Central’s shoulder, but at this point I really think it prefers that I pick against it. The Flying Jets will be right at the top as a possible co-favorite in the eyes of many and that has a lot to do with the run game of Alex Currie and Blake Heyerly.

It was a pleasant surprise how the seniors stepped up so big last season to get the Jets a regional title with an upset win over South Adams, so this year’s lead group will need to be the same in their play and mental prowess.



The Tigers follow up a 7-3 campaign by returning quarterback Hayden Nern and a lot of offensive skill position players. That is good news for Bluffton, which scored 40-plus points on four occasions last season. Those high-powered games went south in the final three games where they went 1-2 and scored just seven points in each contest.

Cody Mittlestedt comes back as the leading rusher and returning receiver with over 1,500 all purpose yards in 2019. Nern will need another primary target but Mittlestedt, Bobby Malcolm and Lukas Hunt all are viable options. Defensively, Kaine Moore and Reece Johnston return as leaders.


Many think a turnaround is in store for the Patriots as new coach Casey Kolkman has been able to do that at previous stops and has organized a solid collective for a coaching staff. Quickly being a top team in the ACAC won’t be easy, but things will be a bit easier with a guy like Kiel Eldridge at the forefront. Eldridge has a lot of attention right now on both sides of the ball. Gage Pritchard will return after a season that saw him run for 100-plus yards on four occasions.


Nathan Bradtmueller will be forced into being a steady hand at quarterback after playing five games last season in Ben Reidy’s absence. Jake Roemer will be his best hope for offensive success after running for a team-best 598 yards last season as a freshman. The top four receivers from last year’s team are all gone with three graduated and Joe Reidy not returning to the gridiron. It opens a lot of spots for first-year coach Mike Smith to fill.

Jay County

Bailey Cox will return after running for 827 yards and there is no doubt that the Patriots will keep the ball on the ground as much as possible to avoid finishing on the bottom of the ACAC. The key for the Patriots is limiting turnovers. Last season, they had 33 fumbles, losing 11 of them while throwing 11 interceptions. Nearly everyone of consequence is back though, including two-way standout Sheldon Eley.

Southern Wells

As previously mentioned, the Raiders will not participate on the varsity level this season. Southern Wells will play junior varsity football.


Aidan Wanner, junior, South Adams: We saw Wanner do a lot of everything last season and is going to continue to be a difference maker on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. Wanner was a 1,000-yard receiver a year ago and will remain a speedster target. The definition of the term, Wanner is likely to be one the best all-purpose players in the conference.

Hayden Nern, senior, Bluffton: A year ago, Nern had some stellar games when the offensive line provided him time to work through his targets and get some air under the ball. He was a yard short of 1,600 passing yards and has only gotten stronger and tougher in the time since.

Kiel Eldridge, junior, Heritage: If Heritage can find a way to get the massive Eldridge involved in the passing game, he is going to be a hard target to pull down. He didn’t catch any passes last season, but things change. What won’t change is his importance to the Patriot defense. If they are going to stop some of the more high-powered offenses, Eldridge will need to be on his game every Friday.


  1. South Adams
  2. Adams Central
  3. Bluffton
  4. Heritage
  5. Woodlan
  6. Jay County

These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH

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