Sectional play continues tonight with semifinal games throughout the area in all six classes.
As we examine the keys of victory for teams, which individuals need to have big nights? OTH names five players who you should keep an eye on…
DJ ALLEN, LEO (vs. NorthWood)
Allen was sidelined for a portion of the regular season due to injury, but back in action, the edge defender will likely play a big role against NorthWood tonight.
The Panthers’ chances against Leo is somehow finding a way to move the ball on the ground, where they average over six yards per carry on the year. Unfortunately for NorthWood, the Lions are tremendously stingy defensively, particularly against the rush.
If the Panthers are going to threaten to pull the upset, they must find some running room on the edges. If Allen is able to seal the edge and pile up tackles for loss, NorthWood won’t have a chance.
CRAIG MCGINNIS JR, CARROLL (at Warsaw)
With the Chargers expected to be without a major asset defensively, look for others to step up as Coach Doug Dinan’s squad looks to defend the triple option of Warsaw.
McGinnis has had some big games from his middle linebacker spot, including a 14-tackle, one INT effort against North Side.
Linebacker play is pivotal to defending the option. They must react quickly to where the ball goes, but also not guess or anticipate, as that can result in being out of position. McGinnis will need to be responsible enough to clog up the middle along with the d-linemen and not give the Tigers running lanes.
JACOB LAMBERT, NORTH SIDE (vs. Northrop)
Three weeks ago, Damarius Cowen carved up the Legends defense to the tune of 257 yards and three touchdowns.
For North Side to move on, it must not allow a repeat of that performance.
Lambert mans the middle of the Legends defensive front and, while not posting eye-popping numbers, has been a steady presence in the trenches with 22 tackles, six TFL and four sacks.
Cowen must not be able to break loose on between-the-tackle runs. North Side needs to string out the stud running back and wrap up outside of the hashes. Lambert will be pivotal in keeping Cowen from speedily bursting through the line and into the second and third levels of the D, where he did most of his damage in the first meeting.
Lambert doesn’t need to accumulate a ton of tackles, he just needs to clog the middle, force Cowen to hesitate and wait for defensive reinforcements to arrive.
JAMES RUSHER, CONCORDIA LUTHERAN (at Oak Hill)
The Golden Eagles want to run the football, and run with 1,000-yard rusher Kyle Turanchick.
That is no secret.
So how do the Cadets defend that? Well, Concordia has shown itself capable of bottling up running backs, like holding Damarius Cowen of Northrop to 76 yards and 3.3 yards per carry in Week 5.
But Ja’suan Lambert of North and Chris Thomas of Wayne each surpassed 125 yards rushing against the Cadets, causing some concern entering Friday night.
Rusher is one of the keys here. While just a sophomore, he has amassed 57 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. With a depleted linebacker corps missing the likes of Matt Goeglein, who saw his season end due to a torn ACL, Rusher must play an increased role in stepping up and shutting down the Golden Eagles on the ground.
Force Oak Hill into passing situations and make it beat you through the air. Goeglein can help facilitate that.
NATHAN KLINEDINST, FAIRFIELD (vs. Bishop Luers)
While Fairfield enters Friday with a 9-0 record, its biggest test for the defense against the pass will come against Bishop Luers.
Brody Glenn (40 teceptions, 665 yards, six TDs) can take the top off of a defense, while Sir Hale (17-242-4) is no joke out of the backfield or in the slot as a pass catcher.
Enter Klinedinst, arguably Fairfield’s best defense back. He secured multiple interceptions this season and scored on a pick-six against West Noble earlier this year. He is a tad undersized at corner at 5-foot-7, but the Knights’ pass catchers aren’t exactly huge, so he should be fine in being able to play the ball.
Bishop Luers has the capability to be a real problem for Fairfield’s defense. Front-line pressure will be big, but the secondary must be on its game, including Klinedinst, who will likely get the assignment on Glenn.