While Classes 1A through 4A got the postseason started last week, 5A and 6A start the road to Lucas Oil Stadium this Friday throughout the area.
Blitz is here to break down down Sectional 11.
BISHOP DWENGER (8-1)
The Saints have not lost to an SAC team in the playoffs since 2005. Since then, Bishop Dwenger has gone 9-0 against league foes when it comes.
So when we consider Northrop or North Side’s chances against the Saints in the sectional championship, put Blitz in the category of “take the Saints.”
It has been another “typical” season for Bishop Dwenger, with an efficient offense and a stingy defenses combining to make the team a tough opponent come the playoffs.
Quarterback Brenden Lytle is a third-year starter with a state championship ring, he is not going to make many mistakes when it counts. He is surrounded by talent, although the offensive line has had issues here and there with keeping pressure away from the backfield.
Defensively, there are veteran playmakers on all three levels, led by the likes of underrated senior John Michael Fabini at outside linebacker.
The Bruins surprised more than a few people when they were able to take down North Side in Week 8 by a single point. In that game, senior running back Damarius Cowen rushed for 257 yards and three touchdowns, while the defense came up big in the fourth quarter to hold off the Legends.
Freshman Julante Hinton (10 TFL, seven sacks) and senior Jose Reducindo (nine TFL, four sacks) bookend a defensive front that is more problematic than people give it credit for.
Sophomore C.J. Davis is a ball hawk on the back end as one of the SAC’s leading defensive backs with four INTs.
Success for the Bruins comes down to Cowen and his ability to move the chains. He had success against North Side, but was held to 4.3 yards per rush against Bishop Dwenger in a 41-0 loss.
NORTH SIDE (4-5)
The conversation starts with quarterback Duce Taylor, but it does not end there when it comes to offensive threats.
Fellow senior Ja’suan Lambert has rushed for 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns, while junior Jordan Turner and freshman Tae Tae Johnson have combined for close to 1,300 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns.
However, while the defense has some individual talent, as a unit it has struggled mightily, particularly against the elite of the SAC. Bishop Dwenger scored “only” 27, but Homestead dropped 56 and Carroll 76 in losses for the Legends.
North has an ax to grind with both Northrop and Bishop Dwenger, two teams it lost to in the regular season. While it has the ability to repay the Bruins, Blitz is having a harder time buying in to the Legends taking down the Saints and winning their first sectional title in 30 years.
The Indians have won two of their last three entering the postseason, giving them some momentum. But they are going to need much more than that to compete with Bishop Dwenger in the semifinal.
Coach Ron Qualls’ team has had all sorts of issues offensively. The team has thrown for just two touchdowns, while the rushing attack averages just 3.3 yards per touch.
The defense isn’t much better, having allowed over 35 points in six of nine games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Rocco Ciocca, junior, Bishop Dwenger
Ciocca has been Lytle’s favorite receiver from the start of the season. The long, fluid receiver looks almost effortless in getting in and out of his breaks, and he does a phenomenal job in coming back towards the ball when Lyle is in trouble outside of the pocket.
The junior hauled in six balls for 127 yards against North Side the first time around. He caught just three balls for 44 yards against Northrop, but had a touchdown and the passing game wasn’t much needed.
Ciocca averages 20 yards per catch and can be a problem if not respected.
Damarius Cowen, senior, Northrop
Come on, who else is there?
Week after week, opposing defenses have game planned to take Cowen away and forcing the Bruins to move the football through the air. Yet time and again, Cowen breaks loose for big nights.
Now, Blitz wants to make sure we are giving credit to an underappreciated offensive line, but Cowen takes things to another level with the abilities to make defenders miss and shrug off tacklers.
Northrop has a chance to win when Cowen goes big on Friday nights. When he doesn’t, the Bruins are lost offensively.
Lah-shon Miller, senior, North Side
The top linebacker for the Legends carries a large load, mainly to be a catalyst for an offense that has had its fair share of troubles.
Miller leads North with 12 TFL and 82 total tackles, showcasing frequently the ability to blow up plays in the backfield.
The Legends were not able to contain the running game in big spots against either Northrop or Bishop Dwenger. It must find a way to do so in order to have a shot to advance.
Conner Stephenson, junior, Anderson
If Anderson is going to have any chance of pulling the colossal upset of Bishop Dwenger, Stephenson has to go nuts behind center.
The quarterback has thrown for just over 600 yards on the year, but big plays in bunches will be needed in a first-round matchup with the Saints.
Not to put pressure on the kid, but Blitz believes Stephenson will have to have the game of his life to give the Indians any shot.
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