We have reached the end of the regular season officially. There were plenty of times in the preseason and even along the way where Blitz didn’t know if we’d get here. The Sectionals start next Friday – watch for those previews coming soon – and I couldn’t be more excited.
But before we get there, Blitz has one last look back at week 9 action and facts.
• You may have heard: Northrop’s Damarius Cowen is now the best player to ever run the ball for the Bruins. It wasn’t a great night for the Bruins in a shutout loss to Bishop Dwenger, but Northrop can’t be too upset about a season that sees them tie for fifth place in the SAC.
And for Cowen, he wants some respect on his name. Cowen was the best back in the SAC this season far more often than he wasn’t.
Cowen broke the Northrop season rushing yardage record previously held by Larry Kennedy since 1972. Cowen has now run for 1,527 yards this season. In his career, he sits at 2,477 yards which broke the Bruin record held by Terrence Shepherd who played at Northrop from 1991-1993.
A continually impressive thing about Cowen is that he puts up the yardage he does even though everyone knows exactly what Northrop is going to do on Friday nights. Cowen has run for over 200 yards four times which all ended in Northrop wins. Yet, even in losses he has run for under triple digits just three times and never lower than 71 yards. Damarius Cowen is the real deal.
• Speaking of running the ball, is Tyrese Brown the next Damarius Cowen? The Snider junior is further along in his high school years to hit his stride on the ground but wow has he ever hit that stride. His 289 yard night against Luers was no fluke. Brown has been building up week after week. The question for him will be can he do what Cowen does for Northrop? Everyone knows that Brown is a major player or on the cusp of becoming one; can he break through their defenses anyway?
It is all good news for Snider, who despite a struggling start, did actually finish the regular season in fourth place in the SAC. It may not be the placement that Snider wants or accustomed to, but at the end of the day it is still the power four of the Panthers, Homestead, Bishop Dwenger and Carroll that finish the season 1 through 4.
As many Homestead supporters and players pointed out on Twitter, there was no reason for the SAC Victory Bell to get a fresh coat of paint this season. After some worries late in the week about Homestead’s status for Friday with several players out of the lineup, especially along the offensive line, the Spartans surged through South Side just fine to clinch their second ever and second straight conference title.
The image posted by Sean Rice of him dragging the ball across the field after the win is going to be one of the best lasting images of the season of any player for any team.
The Spartans saw eight different guys run the ball and eight different guys catch the ball with three different quarterbacks taking snaps. It was a true team effort spread out in the name of safety and preparation that lead Homestead. Nate Anderson continued to separate himself as one the better receivers in the area with his 177 yard, three touchdown, eight reception night. And many others stepped up too in the absence of 10 starters. Among them too was Carter Dixon, the kicker who scored 11 points with 32 and 42 yard field goals and also racked up kickoff yardage of 399 yards; talk about using that leg.
• Norwell was big on the yardage front in Friday’s 45-34 win over Columbia City. While the Eagles relied on the air, Norwell picked up 390 of their 480 total offensive yards running the ball and the Eagles had little to no answer for Eli Riley and Max Ringger carving up the ground game. It also helped that Norwell went 5-of-7 on third down in wrapping up an 8-1 regular season that has to be one of the most talked about turnarounds in the area.
This is a Norwell team that is going to test opposing defenses in the postseason. Columbia City was big and powerful on their front line but Riley (178 yards), Ringger (166 yards) and Isaiah Brege found ways to manipulate their way around those big guys. This isn’t a run game that relies solely on power and it makes Norwell very unpredictable. On top of that, Riley may have elevated himself on Friday to the upper tier of athletes in the area for small classes because he was an absolute stud when it mattered on both sides of the ball Friday.
• Jakar Williams continued his dominant two-attack offense in New Haven‘s win over Huntington North. As the Bulldogs guaranteed an above .500 season going into the postseason, Williams has been a consistent breath of fresh air.
Over the course of the past two seasons, Williams has become so much better at reading assignments and gaps. He threw for 142 yards on Friday and ran for 120 more, cutting up the Vikings.
Defensively, the Bulldogs bottled up Huntington North‘s offense despite a good game from Aden Dennis running the ball. Jamareon Hagler had 12 tackles and an interceptions while Dre Wright also picked up double digit tackles with 10.
• Is this the time we are going to see the real East Noble? A down year filled with some injuries and illness saw the Knights still finish 6-3 with wins in their last three games. Is it possible that a now surging Knights are on a collision course with NE8 champion Leo?
Neither have an easy road through their Sectional – which you will read more about soon – but the way that both teams are playing has Blitz thinking. East Noble hasn’t lost since Norwell beat them and Leo hasn’t lost to anyone in the area this season, so it is almost like role reversal from a year ago.
With Cole Schupbach settling in to the passing game, Rowan Zolman back in full impressive form, Justin Marcellus running for triple digits a game again and then Jacob VanGorder, Kainen Carico and Schupbach smashing things defensively, this is not the same East Noble team that lost those three early season games.
Would Leo coast into a potential meeting in the Sectional? Most people would say they are just running repetitiously. It isn’t bold but what Leo does works and they certainly aren’t just falling in line. The strong diversity in the guys who can run the ball for Leo is impressive and their offensive line creates holes that nobody in Northeast Indiana has been able to counter so far. The NE8 to Class 4A Sectional build may be more fun this season than it was last season.
• It was a quiet night in the ACAC with Week 9 seeing just three teams in action. Adams Central made the most of the week, healing up and throttling Woodlan. The Flying Jets showed the Warriors what they have shown everyone else: speed can kill. That isn’t usual when you think of the Adams Central. They win in the trenches, they pound it out and they can do it with the best of them.
Then there are the times Nick Neuenschwander gets loose. And then, the speed kills. He has burned defensive backs all season when Adams Central goes to the air and he caught two passes for 47 yards on Friday. But giving him the ball on the run is a fun, fresh option. While Blake Heyerly played power back, Neuenschwander rambled around for 115 yards rushing.
• The rest of the ACAC will be back in action for Sectional time. South Adams missed week 9 after choosing to never schedule a new opponent to replace the Southern Wells game lost before the season. Heritage will be back on Saturday (not Friday) for a Sectional game with Norwell after missing two weeks due to COVID-19 situations.
• When a game is on the line down at the wire, you want your best and brightest with the ball in their hands. But you also want the most experienced, right? Garrett said nah on Friday night in a 28-21 win over Central Noble.
Despite ridiculous running efforts from Kolin Cope and Seth VanWagner, the Railroaders put the ball in the hands of freshman Aaden Lytle with eight seconds left and took their chances. See the final score above and you know how this went down; Lytle pushed in from two yards out to give Garrett the win. It should say a lot about Lytle’s future to know he was trusted with this much of Friday’s game and the final play. He ended with 66 passing yards and 57 rushing yards.
• Does Blitz underestimate Eastside? A few people in the Twittersphere would like to think so because of the ‘upset watch’ I hint at often for the Blazers. It says more about the quality of their opponents than it does what I may think of Eastside. Nevertheless, they continue to outdo themselves.
The Blazers had little to prove going to Angola on Friday. They have a run in Class 2A in front of them, they have their NECC Small Division title and beating Angola wasn’t going to mean too much to the overall season. Yet, they beat the Hornets and they beat them bad. Tucker Hasselman was held to 23 rushing yards and negative three passing yards. Kyler Bibbee led this stellar Eastside defense with 6 tackles but everyone chipped in. Eastside’s offense gets credit but their defense gets stops consistently.
Their offense? Well maybe Laban Davis deserves his name in Player of the Year talk. 156 passing yards, 139 rushing yards, five touchdowns…not so shabby.
• Warsaw are NLC champions for the first time since 2001. How’d they do it? They ran of course. 267 of their 346 yards came on the ground. Again led by Aaron Greene and his 102 yards. While Blitz has been hard on Warsaw a few times with his predictions this season, they were near perfect in their execution. Maybe I shouldn’t downplay Bart Ball in my postseason predictions? Time will tell.
Not a Friday night thing, but this weekend two Bishop Luers football alums took big professional sports steps. On Saturday, Kevin Kiermaier punched the ticket to his first World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays. On Sunday, Austin Mack made his first NFL catch for the New York Giants…In the closing minutes of Friday’s game, Bishop Luers lost junior Eli Gernhardt to an unfortunate injury. Thoughts are with him as he recovers for a hopeful comeback next season…Duce Taylor became the first North Side player to ever throw for 30 touchdowns in a season on Friday; along the way he has thrown just four interceptions…TJ Bedwell broke the Columbia City program record for yards in a game (241 receiving) and longest touchdown reception (96 yards) against Norwell on Friday.
Don’t forget to vote in the weekly FAN CHOICE PLAYER OF THE NIGHT vote, sponsored by Craigville Appliance. This week’s vote is open through Noon on Tuesday, October 13 for you to view some of the top individual performances of the week and let your voice be heard on which one you think is the best.
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