The high school football season is just around the corner, and June has become a great month to get a preview of teams as scrimmages and one-day events litter the schedule.
Blitz shook off the rust last Wednesday by attending the OPS 7v7 Shootout at Columbia City High School, where he watched 16 teams compete for small and large school division titles.
What caught Blitz’s eye through the day? Let’s take a look.
The final of the large school division saw a massive amount of talent on the field with the Knights taking on North Side.
We will get to the Legends later, but Bishop Luers looked stout throughout the day on both sides of the ball.
Despite throwing for over 3,500 yards last season, Carson Clark still feels like a kid who is not getting respect. He isn’t as flashy other signalcallers and he isn’t going to beat you with his legs very much, but he throws a great ball and has the confidence to find playmakers in space.
The benefit for Clark of course, is that he has a lot of playmakers to choose from. Brody Glenn tore up defensive backs all day, while Antwian Lake deserves attention not just at wideout, but as a lock-down defensive back as well. Add fellow seniors Sir Hale and Krashaun Menson and you have the makings of a stellar offensive attack.
Bishop Luers is Blitz’s pick right now to have the best chance to win a state title among area teams, but where will it slot in in the SAC?
The Knights won the league as recently as 2014, but that was without Homestead and Carroll in the league. Adding a pair of Class 6A teams to the mix makes it even more difficult for a 2A team like Bishop Luers to navigate the rigors of the conference and win it.
But that doesn’t mean Bishop Luers CAN’T do it. Road games at Carroll and Homestead in the first three weeks of the season will tell us a lot.
Blitz was questioned several times on Wednesday about his hierarchy of the SAC entering 2021 and got some skeptical looks when he left Carroll off of his top tier.
The Chargers were a fascinating yet frustrating team in 2020. They scored in bunches, evidenced by the seven games in which they scored 40 or more points.
But it was a tale of two seasons for the defense, which allowed 16 points per game in victories and 47.6 points in losses.
It is always tough to make sweeping judgments in 7v7, but Blitz saw an improved defense out of Carroll. Can it consistently make plays against the best playmakers in the league? That is more likely than what we saw a year ago.
And if you’re wondering who steps up for the departed Mason Englert at wideout, look no further than senior Jameson Coverstone and sophomore Hansen Haffner. What they lack in size they more and make up for in speed, precision route running and great hands.
After touching on a few teams with talent back, let’s talk about the Eagles, who could be missing two guys many people didn’t hear much about.
Garrett Geiger and Ryan Sheets were two-way guys for Columbia City a year ago – playing both wide receiver and defensive back. One-third of Geiger’s 21 receptions went for touchdowns, and both were named All-NE8 Second Team Defense.
While Greg Bolt returns at quarterback, the loss of Geiger and Sheets loomed large on Wednesday. Receivers had trouble hauling in Bolt’s throws at times, while others saw the senior make the wrong read.
But defensively showcased some real holes. The safeties gave up big plays over the top time and again, seemingly out of position on every play. With Hunter Herron still sidelined with an injury, there was not a single starter from last year lining up in the defensive backfield.
While the NE8 does not have as many high-powered aerial offenses as say the SAC, sketchy safety play can hurt you in the pass and run game. Coach Brett Fox will use Wednesday as a learning tool for his young secondary.
Getting Herron back will help and sophomore Colten Pieper and freshman Stratton Fuller have shown promise, but experience is lacking on the outside of the offense and the back end of the D.
Last year, Coach Chris DePew jumped into the deep end (so to speak) when he thrust freshman Aaden Lytle into the starting quarterback spot. It was rough at times, but also was a valuable learning experience as he finished with 540 passing yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions.
Now a sophomore, Lytle looked bigger and more confident on Wednesday as he helped the Railroaders to the small school division title.
But perhaps the biggest eye opener for Garrett was senior Trey Richards. Last year, Richards was named All-NECC Big School as a defensive back while also being the team’s third-leading receiver. If Wednesday is any indication, Richards is going to be a force in 2021. He hauled in six touchdowns and five interceptions over the course of the day and easily was the day’s MVP among the small school teams.
If Garrett can identify some running backs to replace the production lost with the graduation of 1,000-yard rusher Kolin Cope, it can be a factor in the NECC after a few down years.
COMING IN PART II: North Side, Homestead, South Adams and more
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