OTH FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2020: No. 1 Bishop Dwenger Saints

Bishop Dwenger’s (clockwise from top left) Devon Tippmann, Vinny Fiacable, Louie Tippmann and Brenden Lytle.

For decades, Bishop Dwenger football schematically has been all about two things – a power running game and a stifling, physical defense.

Make no mistake, those two attributes will still be paramount for the Saints in 2020, but expect to see some added wrinkles on a team that returns six to seven starters on both sides of the ball.

“I like where we are at with a lot of veterans back, and the majority of guys we have contributing saw some reps last year,” Bishop Dwenger coach Jason Garrett said. “With what we have, you will see some new wrinkles offensively. We have a much better ability to go play-action and screen, go multiple tight ends or no tight ends.

“We want to be a power team and force teams to stop us in the box, but we are going to do some things around that base.”

Senior Brenden Lytle will command the offense, coming off a 2,000-yard passing season in 2019. While running backs Patrick Finley and and Tobe Eke have graduated, a trio of Tippmanns – Devon, Louie and K.J. – combined for over 1,000 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns last season. So don’t worry, the running back stable is still stocked.

“It sounds odd, but I think we have greater depth at running back this year,” Garrett said. “We are blessed that we had some guys work their tails off in the off-season.”

The same can be said for the wide receiver spot. Michael Ledo Jr., Patrick O’Keefe, Patrick Finley and Griffin Eifert are all gone. But Garrett is high on their replacements. Hunter O’Keefe brings a talented skill set to the field after seeing action as a sophomore. Fellow junior Rocco Ciocca is a dangerous weapon on the outside. Adam Lee was banged up last year but will open some eyes at both the slot position and at cornerback.

The offensive front is anchored by Indiana University commit Vinny Fiacable, but it is as stout as usual. It is a group that likes to have fun, but also can be counted on to get the job done.

Defensively, while coordinator Casey Kolkman has moved on to Heritage as head coach, expect Bishop Dwenger to still line up in the 3-4 base with attacking principles that Kolkman utilized so well during his time there.

Both K.J. and Jack Tippmann have been difficult to contain in the defensive line role in preseason practice. Fiacable and Joe Eddy will also be big problems up front.

The linebackers, as always, will be exceptional. Devon Tippmann will lead the way, with Sam Pesa (team-high four INTs in 2019) moving in from inside to outside to replace Gage Renbarger. Matt Jimenez has bode his time for two years behind all-state linebackers and is ready to break out.

Bishop Dwenger amassed 34 sacks last season, but the top four individual sack leaders are gone. Yet Garrett is confident he has replacements.

In the secondary, junior Gavin Groves replaces Finley at strong safety and reminds Garrett a lot of Finley with his size, speed and how he can play both inside the hashes and outside. There are question marks at cornerback, but inexperienced or not, you know that position is loaded with quality talent.

Bishop Dwenger coach Jason Garrett looks down his sideline during a September 27, 2019 game at Concordia Lutheran.

WHY #1

No team in the SAC brings as much quality production on both sides of the ball as Bishop Dwenger. Considering what this program accomplished last year notching 11 wins, that’s bad news for the SAC.

It is difficult to point to a single position group that could struggle. Similar to Snider, Bishop Dwenger fills holes with new, qualified talent on a regular basis. This year is no exception.

Other teams in the SAC have holes here or there, but the Saints are solid all-around. They are at No. 1 for a reason.

Last year, Blitz crowned Homestead his No. 1 preseason team, a position it never vacated. Will the Saints make this cartoon bear look smart again? Time will tell.


Week 4 at Homestead

The only thing that stood between Bishop Dwenger and the SAC Victory Bell was Homestead, which held off a late Saints rally to earn a 17-15 victory. It was the biggest test of the season for the Spartans in the conference and should be another exciting showdown this year.

It will be odd to hear the Victory Bell ringing and not being on the sideline of Bishop Dwenger when the two teams square off. Bishop Dwenger will be looking to earn a win and take another step closer to regaining control of the longtime traveling trophy.


Brenden Lytle, senior, Bishop Dwenger

Has Lytle gotten a bad rap? He is looked upon strictly as a system guy who just fits what Bishop Dwenger does, but in his career he has made some huge throws, particularly in the run to state in 2018.

A 2,000-yard passer last season, Lytle could very well have a better crop of playmakers around him in 2020. With full confidence in their senior QB with three years starting experience, the Saints may unleash Lytle’s full complement of skills on the SAC and Class 4A.

For once, Lytle may get some credit on what is shaping up to be a sensational season for Dwenger.

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