Week 7 in the SAC has been Rivalry Week in recent years, with the Battle of the Bishops and the Totem Pole Game being some of the highlights.
But Friday, there will be no bigger rivalry game in Fort Wayne than out in Aboite as Homestead looks to continue its run to a second-consecutive Victory Bell.
Can the Spartans prevail? Or do the rival Chargers have what it takes to win on the road?
Let’s break down the Week 7 OTH Game of the Week.
1. TITLE IMPLICATIONS
Homestead controls its destiny in the SAC. If the Spartans win their final three games, they will earn the Victory Bell as league champions for the second straight season.
But Carroll is not out of the mix. A win on Friday puts the Chargers at 5-1 in the league with two games remaining. However, Carroll will need some help as Bishop Dwenger holds a win over the Chargers, giving them the tiebreaker.
So, Carroll needs to win out and for someone to beat Bishop Dwenger to hand the Victory Bell to Coach Doug Dinan’s squad.
2. STORIED RIVALRY
Homestead and Carroll have played each other at least once every year since 1989, with their first-ever meeting coming in 1971.
To say that these two teams do not like each other would be an understatement.
No week is more hyped in the fall at the respective schools than when they play each other, with Homestead even going as far as erasing the letter “C” from social media posts and on-campus signage.
The Spartans have had the last laugh recently, winning five straight in the series by an average of 24 points
3. STRENGTH V. STRENGTH
No offense in the SAC is more prolific than Carroll’s, with the team averaging a league-best 50.8 points per game.
Conversely, Homestead’s defense has been stout for most of the season, ranking third in the conference in points allowed at a little over 18 per contest.
Will Jeff Becker get the best of the Spartans defense? Or will Homestead follow in the footsteps of Bishop Dwenger and slow the QB enough to get a victory?
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
S GRAHAM KOLLEN, SENIOR, HOMESTEAD
While Jeff Becker gets the accolades, his wide receiver corps has been exceptional as well. While the cornerbacks will have the responsibility of being the first line of defense, Homestead’s safeties may play the biggest role in slowing down Carroll’s passing attack.
Enter Kollen, who leads the Spartans with three interceptions from his safety spot. It will be the play of the deep defensive backs that could be the difference between long touchdowns for Carroll and INTs, similar to what Bishop Dwenger was able to accomplish.
WR MASON ENGLERT, SENIOR, CARROLL
Piggy-backing off of the above, Englert is Becker’s most explosive target. Through six games, the senior is averaging 24 yards per reception and 158 receiving yards per game.
While some teams have outright refused to double Englert deep, others have tried but failed as he has out-jumped and out-muscled multiple defenders for catches.
If Englert has another big night, it is advantage Chargers.
QB EVAN ORMSBY, SENIOR, HOMESTEAD
There has been no more improved player in the area over the course of six weeks than Ormsby. Since a shaky start in his first two games, the senior has thrown 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions, including five TDs in each of the past two weeks.
Ormsby has emerged as a weapon for the Spartans, a typical situation for an offense has had prolific passers lead it for over a decade.
S JORGE VALDES, SOPHOMORE, CARROLL
There may be no more impressive sophomore defender in the SAC than Valdes, who plays much bigger than his 5-10, 180-pound frame.
Valdes is strong enough to mix it up close to the line of scrimmage but quick enough to give Homestead’s pass catchers like Nate Anderson, Ethan Chambers and Jared Kistler some trouble.
KEYS TO VICTORY – CARROLL
1. PROTECT JEFF BECKER
Becker was running for his life too many times against Bishop Dwenger. It forced him into some errant throws for picks and others that probably should have been without the stud abilities of one Mason Englert.
No matter what anyone says, no quarterback is better under pressure than he is when he has time. Becker can surgically pick apart a defense, but if he has to rush things and not able to go through his progressions, he can be slowed down.
Carroll’s offensive front must prevent this.
2. RESPECT THE PASS GAME
Blitz feels like there were some defenses this year that did not give Evan Ormsby the proper respect, instead selling out to slow down the Homestead rush game.
Ormsby showed those defenses exactly what happens when you give him opportunities.
Carroll must respect Ormsby and his abilities to stretch the field with his arm. If anything, the Chargers may focus on stopping the pass first and putting the onus on the run game, instead of the other way around.
KEYS TO VICTORY – HOMESTEAD
1. DEFEND MASON ENGLERT
This sounds simple enough, right? Somehow, the majority of Carroll’s opponents have failed in this endeavor, especially over the past few weeks.
Englert is not a physically-imposing wideout, but he runs excellent routes and plays the ball in the air better than any other receiver in the SAC.
Double teams are not out of the question when you are dealing with Englert.
2. WIN UP FRONT ON DEFENSE
Bishop Dwenger was able to let its linebackers run freely from hash to hash to help defend Becker because its front line was so effective at disruption.
Homestead must get a similar push in the trenches with its defensive front, allowing stud LBs like Luke Palmer and Cole Etchison to roam and make plays.