What better way to prepare for the start of sectional play than have Blitz break it all down for you?
All this week, Outside the Huddle will look at every area sectional in Classes 1A through 4A and preview what is on tap beginning this Friday.
We continue with Class 2A and Sectional 35.
One year after securing its first sectional championship in program history, the Blazers are back stronger than ever in the postseason.
The experience is there, as is the talent and the drive, to make another run.
A visit to Concord in Week 7 may have been the best thing for this team, a 21-14 loss. Since then, Coach Todd Mason has been able to zero in on what the Blazers need to be better at in order to make a deep postseason run.
The defense has not been tested except against Concord and Adams Central, while the offense is scoring close to 40 points per game.
Can any defense in this field slow down Eastside?
BISHOP LUERS (3-6)
Typically, a battle-tested Knights team in a 2A sectional would be an easy pick for the title. But times have changed, as Bishop Luers is no longer the big dog in a small pond as rural programs have risen.
That said, the Knights still have athletes in bunches. Carson Clark has found his rhythm in the second half of the season at QB, while Sir Hale and Brody Glenn are problems at running back and wide receiver, respectively.
But the chances for Luers comes down to a defensive unit that is surrendering 38 points per game. Can players on that side of the ball make plays?
The record is gaudy, with the eight victories the most for the Tigers since 1982. But is Coach Brent Kunkel’s team truly sectional contenders?
Bluffton hopes to prove just that, with a challenge right out of the gate hosting Eastside.
The Tigers were shelled by 53 against South Adams, but do have a few impressive wins on their resume against Northfield and at Greensburg. That said, Bluffton’s defense has been torn up at times this year, and Eastside presents the biggest challenge outside of South Adams.
Defense, defense, defense will be needed in Week 10.
When the Falcons beat Angola 29-17 in Week 5, it officially put Coach Matt Thacker’s team on Blitz’s radar. His triple-option attack is not aesthetically pleasing, but it gets the job done and frustrates opposing defenses.
The defense has been sharp, but admittedly has not been tested against offenses the likes of Bishop Luers and Eastside.
But Blitz isn’t putting anything past Fairfield at this point.
CENTRAL NOBLE (4-5)
If there is a team to keep an eye on in this sectional outside of the contenders, it would be the Cougars. Coach Hayden Kilgore’s team limped to the finish line of the regular season with three straight losses, but showed some good things in early losses against Columbia City and Fairfield.
For Central Noble to have a shot as it opens against the Falcons, it needs running back Will Hoover to run wild.
PRAIRIE HEIGHTS (0-9)
The Panthers are actually riding a two-year streak in which they have won a postseason game. Could they make it three straight?
That is basically all Blitz has in terms of a positive spin for a team that is allowing over 40 points per game.
Former Warsaw coach Phil Jensen is leading the turnaround at Whitko, a program that hasn’t won a sectional title since 1986.
If you are Bishop Luers, look past Whitko at your own risk. The Wildcats have some offensive firepower in quarterback Ethan Schuh and Cade Berg, both of whom are juniors.
A game over a winless opponent earlier this year helped the Warriors to their only win of the regular season – a 22-20 victory over Jay County.
Can the same thing happen in the playoffs?
Woodlan opens with winless Prairie Heights before playing the winner of Eastside and Bluffton.
So hey, the Warriors could get into Week 11.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
LABAN DAVIS, JUNIOR, EASTSIDE
Over 2,100 total yards and 30 touchdowns are big reasons why the Blazers enter this sectional as the favorites. Davis is a true dual threat, with Coach Todd Mason having confidence in his junior quarterback to make the right decisions in the right situations.
The problem for opponents with Davis is that even if you are able to get pressure, he is elusive enough to escape and beat you with his running prowess.
SIR HALE, JUNIOR, BISHOP LUERS
Think Alvin Kamara. Hale has rushed for 100 or more yards three times this season, while hauling in 15 receptions for 202 yards.
A true versatile running back, Hale can line up in a variety of positions offensively, and his speed on the edge may be the best in this entire sectional.
Hale is also a standout defender as a DB.
CARSON ABRAMSON, SENIOR, FAIRFIELD
As part of its triple option attack, the Falcons’ first option is always the fullback Abramson.
The senior tore up Angola in their matchup earlier this year, as the Hornets had no answer for the interior runs of Abramson. If you cannot stop the fullback dive in the triple option, you are in for a long night.
REECE JOHNSTON, SENIOR, BLUFFTON
Yes, the Bluffton offense can be deadly, but the Tigers’ chances against Eastside will largely come down to how many defensive stops it can get.
Enter Johnston, who leads Bluffton in both tackles (57) and tackles for loss (nine). Coach Kunkel’s team doesn’t need to completely shut down the Blazers’ offensive assault, but it does need to create a few turnovers and force some miscues. That could come with havoc created behind the line of scrimmage by Johnston.