As we prep for Friday’s Class 1A North Semistate in Berne between Lafayette Central Catholic (5-3) and host South Adams (12-0), Outside the Huddle thought it would be advantageous to reach out to an expert covering the other side.
Sam King is a sports writer at the Lafayette Journal & Courier, where he specializes in high school athletics as well as Purdue University sports.
We asked King to give his insight on the Knights entering Friday.
Make sure to follow King on Twitter @samueltking
OTH: How does this year’s team compare to last year’s state championship squad?
King: Last year’s Central Catholic team had several seniors who were major parts of an improbable state championship run. Those players, including two now playing at Purdue, are gone and the defensive coordinator left to take the same role at Decatur Central. This team has the potential to be on par with the 2019 squad, but instead of seniors in key spots, the team is relying on freshmen and sophomores. Last year’s team had been through a lot of wars, while this team has many players going through a varsity season for the first time.
OTH: LCC has only played eight games this season. What were the circumstances of that and how has the team handled it?
King: Central Catholic started its season in quarantine. The Knights missed a preseason scrimmage, several practices that were probably needed for a young team and their first two games.
Additionally, Central Catholic’s third game was played with 17 players dressed after another round of COVID hit the school hallways and with contact tracing linked to several players, including starters. Central Catholic learned of these instances on the Friday of the Sept. 18 game at Tipton, then was quarantined again the next two weeks before returning with a lackluster performance against Benton Central in a game that was obvious several players hadn’t been able to practice in recent weeks.
After winning a sectional semifinal against Clinton Central, the Knights had a fifth Friday off after Traders Point Christian and Clinton Prairie both withdrew from the tournament the week before, leaving a bye in the championship.
Central Catholic’s football program has handled the situation about as well as anyone could given how much time was missed. Between the scrimmage and five regular season games, Central Catholic is six weeks behind some teams in the state still competing in the tournament.
OTH: Clark Barrett is a very experienced junior quarterback who threw 35 TDs a year ago and has 18 this season. What type of player is he?
King: Clark Barrett is the prototypical pocket passer. He isn’t the most mobile quarterback, but he’s big and extremely accurate completing passes. Obviously not to the same degree, but he’s kind of like a Peyton Manning.
Barrett spreads the ball around and feasts off of timing routes. He probably won’t beat you with his feet, but if he’s given time in the pocket, he can pick defenses apart.
OTH: Has this team had trouble running the ball or does it lean more on the passing game?
King: Since Brian Nay became head coach three years ago, Central Catholic has relied almost solely on a passing attack. You’ll see passing plays that essentially serve as a running game, but CC’s best offense is getting the ball to playmakers in space and letting them work. The offensive line this year is young and inexperienced and doesn’t really have the feel of a downhill rushing attack, but the Knights have shown the ability to run the ball at times.
OTH: South Adams loves to spread out and attack downfield. How will LCC look to combat that?
King: Winamac exposed some things on CC’s defense last week by hitting big plays in the passing game, but overall, while the yardage was big, the overall production was not. Winamac was in the neighborhood of 33 percent on completions. Central Catholic plays a lot of bigger schools, including some pass-heavy teams. What CC hasn’t been great at this season is getting to the quarterback, but the secondary and linebackers have been pretty good at breaking up passes. That said, South Adams will have the best set of offensive skill players Central Catholic has played against since facing West Lafayette on Sept. 11, a game CC struggled in.
OTH: Are there any inherent weaknesses with this year’s LCC team?
King: I’d say the biggest factor in terms of weakness, especially at this stage of the tournament, is CC’s youth. This team has certainly been susceptible to giving up big plays.
Central Catholic does not play Class A teams in the regular season. The Knights have only played one Class A opponent in the regular season since 2011 (Arlington in 2017). The only Class A program that has beaten Central Catholic since the beginning of the 2009 season is Pioneer (now in 2A). The Knights do this knowing there will be some tough regular season games with unpleasant outcomes, but feel they’ll be better prepared when facing schools similar in enrollment.