The final week of the regular season is here and this is the second to last chance to see several area players this season. With momentum and even a title possibly on the line in some of these scenarios, here are five guys that you need to keep an eye on in week 9.
ARIEON MCCARTER, NORTH SIDE (vs. Concordia Lutheran)
McCarter (pictured) has one interception on the year. Surface analysis says that one of the area’s best defensive backfielders should have more picks. But here is a fact: nobody wants to throw the ball near McCarter. It is hard to intercept a ball when opposing quarterbacks want to throw the ball anywhere but near you. Yet, McCarter is a constant for the North Side defense; he is second on the team in tackles and has a nose for the ball. McCarter is going to get in on every play he possibly can and his speed is a real problem for anybody trying to get away from him.
TEGAN IRK, DEKALB (at Leo)
A week ago, there was a good sect of people in the area who didn’t know who Tegan Irk was. The sophomore quarterback altered that quickly with his 269 yard, four-touchdown effort against Bellmont last Friday that earned him the FAN VOTE as the Outside the Huddle Player of the Night. It was a heck of a way to break onto the varsity level and now his follow-up act will be to try and be the first local team to stop Leo, which seems to be cruising to a solo Northeast 8 title. It is a big swing from the bottom team in the conference to the top team, but is there anyone who has more momentum and confidence individually than Irk right now? It will be a fun test tonight to say the least.
FINLEY HASSELMAN, ANGOLA (vs. Eastside)
Tonight will see arguably the best/most fun NECC game of the season. It is possible we have not even seen Angola at its peak yet this season. While everyone is aware of quarterback Tucker Hasselman’s work this season, a big part of this game is going to be determined on if brother Finley can control the ground game. Last week, Eastside stifled Central Noble’s running game and forced it to the air. Angola can go to the air fine, but Finley Hasselman is still going to want to break through Eastside’s tough defense and open up for his brother more too. Angola’s success tonight starts and ends on the ground, with other offensive pushes set in the center.
LUKE GRAFT, NORWELL (vs. Columbia City)
The Knights are a win away from a second-place finish in the NE8 (or a co-champion spot with some help) and they’ve climbed the ladder this year because their resources have grown since a year ago. That means that instead of being so run heavy, Norwell has been able to sling the ball, due in large part to the sophomore Graft. He is a big yardage receiver, including a a Week 7 win where he caught six passes for 143 yards. There is proof lately that putting the ball in the air intelligently against Columbia City can be successful, so Graft has to be “Option A” for the Knights as they try to secure second place.
BOBBY MALCOLM, BLUFFTON (vs. Lakeland)
With all the hoopla surrounding Hayden Nern’s record-breaking quarterback performance last week, it almost got lost that Malcolm broke the school’s single-game receiving mark as well. This should be no surprise as Malcolm averages over 25 yards per catch with 602 yards on 24 receptions. Last week’s numbers helped his stats, but Malcolm is consistently a top target and his ability to fly down the field and have good hands opens up a lot for Bluffton offensively. There aren’t many games in the ACAC tonight, but the Tigers have the chance to repeat last week’s big success as they host the Lakers.