With a pair of area teams competing in state championship games this weekend, Outside the Huddle is breaking down the chances of a northeast Indiana team or two bringing home titles from Indianapolis.
Today, we look at South Adams (13-0) taking on Covenant Christian (14-0).
1. FIRST TIMERS
Of the 12 teams that are playing for state titles this weekend, just two are making their first-ever appearance in Indianapolis over Thanksgiving weekend.
And both are in 1A.
Both South Adams and Covenant Christian are in unfamiliar territory, with the Warriors having won their first postseason titles of any kind this year.
There are plenty of unknowns for both teams in surviving this week, from the chaotic media attention to the balancing act of practice between school and Lucas Oil, not to mention the nerves and anticipation of game day itself.
Which team will handle the pressure on Saturday morning better?
2. FAST ON FAST
What has separated South Adams from many of its opponents this season has been its ability to stretch the field and attack with its playmakers downfield. No team has been able to keep up with the Starfires’ speed and athleticism.
But Covenant Christian may be that team. South Adams will face the fastest opponent it has played in 2020 when it takes the field against the Warriors.
Not only that, but Covenant Christian is a spread offense that can match South Adams scheme-wise. It also is very athletic and fast on defense, particularly its defensive ends and linebackers, who could be as problematic as anyone has been this year for an offensive front that has been solid all year.
3. PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE
The stories are completely different for these two teams.
South Adams has been playing football since 1966, but has reached the pinnacle of the prep season for the first time backed by an exceptional group of seniors, supplemented by some stud underclassmen.
Put simply, the Starfires have never had this amount of community-grown talent together on a roster in over 50 years.
Meanwhile, Covenant Christian is in just its seventh season of competitive football. Its quick rise into a 1A contender has been helped by the fact that the school and program is a viable option for those looking for private schooling in the Indianapolis area.
Make no mistake, CC plays by different rules than South Adams. Does that make it unfair? Not necessarily. But it adds an interesting dynamic to this game.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
MICAH WILSON, SENIOR, COVENANT CHRISTIAN
The Warriors enter Saturday averaging over 53 points per game, and Wilson is the most explosive weapon for a superb offense.
Wilson displays visions of former Bluffton and current Western Michigan standout D’Wayne Eskridge. He is a danger anytime he touches the ball, both in the run and passing game. He can spring a big play at any moment, and can run away from defenders in the open field.
The senior is averaging 11 yards PER CARRY on the season, with 1,106 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Add a 30.5 yards per reception average and five more scores and you can understand why South Adams has made defending Wilson a top priority.
DREW STUTZMAN, SENIOR, SOUTH ADAMS
Semistate was a very quiet night for “Stu” on the gridiron, where the senior hauled in just two receptions for 11 yards on offense. But he did have five tackles and a pair of passes defensed on the opposite side.
Expect Stutzman to have a bigger impact for the Starfires this weekend. Prior to last week, he had hauled in at least one touchdown in six straight games.
In what could be a shootout, “Stutz” will be a prime target.
TREY FLATT, SENIOR, COVENANT CHRISTIAN
One of a pair of very fast and physical defensive ends, Flatt enters the state game with 15.5 sacks, 25 QB hurries and 31 TFL.
The Warriors are going to cut loose Flatt and fellow d-end Alex Coleman (13.5 sacks) in an effort to pressure South Adams QB James Arnold into mistakes. The Starfires’ offensive success is predicated on a front line that has been able to hold back defensive fronts with regularity. Flatt is an entirely different challenge for that unit.
South Adams must contain Flatt and keep Arnold upright.
DOMINIC KAHN, SENIOR, SOUTH ADAMS
Often lost in the discussion when talking South Adams defensively is “Dom” Kahn, the middle linebacker of the Starfires.
Kahn loves to shoot the gap and make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, but he also can be that guy underneath in coverage who can break up a pass, or pursue around the edge.
With how fast Covenant Christian is at the skill positions, Kahn will have to be on his game to diagnose and disrupt from his Mike linebacker spot, both in the running game and the passing attack.
KEYS TO VICTORY – COVENANT CHRISTIAN
1. PRESSURE ARNOLD
While James Arnold is comfortable moving outside the pocket or running the ball (just check out his Southwood tape), he is not a true dual-threat quarterback that can skirt away from pressure on a consistent basis.
If Arnold is put under pressure, it not only forces him to make quick decisions, but also prevents his wide receivers from getting downfield where they thrive.
The Warriors will look to use its fast d-ends as disruptors to the passing game by collapsing the pocket.
2. BE RELENTLESS OFFENSIVELY
There may be no 1A opponent more capable of putting the pressure on the South Adams defense than Covenant Christian. The athletes are plentiful, and the speed they exhibit is scary.
The Starfires thrive on quick strikes and big plays that carve up large amounts of yardage. The Warriors can do that very same thing.
Covenant Christian will be aggressive on offense and will make South Adams make the plays to slow it down. Can the Starfires deliver?
KEYS TO VICTORY – SOUTH ADAMS
1. DON’T BE SATISFIED
Beating perennial 1A power Lafayette Central Catholic and advancing to the program’s first-ever state championship game are quite the accomplishments.
But the job is not done.
South Adams must flip the page and prepare for its most difficult challenge of the year. Pummeling LCC means nothing now. Do not be satisfied with MAKING it to Lucas Oil Stadium.
2. PROTECT ARNOLD
Seriously, this may make or break South Adams’ chances at a victory. Covenant Christian fields some dangerous pass rushers, guys who can disrupt the stellar pass game of the Starfires.
By giving Arnold protection, you allow the QB with the most passing yards in the state to sling it all over the field. He has the ability to shred a good defense, South Adams must allow him to try and do so.