In the SAC, we won’t spend too much time outlining the teams, even as we have in other conferences. Why? because in our preseason Top 10 Power Poll that you’ve been enjoying during this prep football preview, there are 7….YES, SEVEN!…SAC teams included.
So you’ve gotten full previews on most of the teams in the city’s big conference so no reason to full repeat myself here.
While not linked here yet, you will hear plenty about Snider in their full preview so stay tuned for that.
What you need to know here in this quick hitter? The Panthers return 10, yes 10, offensive starters from a season ago. That is why Blitz has continually preached on social media that 2020 means absolutely nothing after what was, in Snider terms, a down year. Leading that charge will be Luke Haupert who took over at quarterback during the season last year and threw for 757 yards. How will targets like A’dorean Rogers and Kamari Juarez be? Time will tell on the Panther passing game, but it is great to know they can fall back on the run game when needed. Tyrese Brown ran for 1,004 yards last season and should get credit as being the SAC’s breakout player in a lot of ways. The All-Conference rusher also ran for 12 touchdowns and his speed was often next level. And obviously, three year starter and D1 commit DJ Moore helping lead that offensive line is no slouch of a return either.
Returners Markell Keal and Jacob Stetka head up a defensive front that is backed up by All-State linebacker Domanick Moon as well as fellow two-year starter Isaiah Maxwell. The linebacker group is heavy for Snider with seven guys who could immediately contribute. While Blitz doesn’t want to leaky anyone out, my sources say that sophomore Lukas Rohrbacher could be a linebacker to watch.
Bishop Dwenger Saints
The usually run heavy Saints changed some things up more than usual last year and really took to the air to showcase Brenden Lytle’s passing game perhaps better than ever before. But now Lytle, the Saints’ best passer basically ever, is gone and continuing to move the ball that way will fall into the hands of someone else. But no matter who that is, they have massive targets. Rocco Ciocca proved last season that he is perhaps the best pass catcher in the SAC and the receiving corp also returns Sam Campbell and Henry O’Keefe while both Jack and KJ Tippmann can do some damage as well while KJ will handle a lot of the handoffs again out of the backfield.
Last season, the Saints had no issue scoring in shootouts. But can they stop the scoring after losing so much on that side of the ball? Colin Vance and Adam Lee are back to lead the secondary against a pass hungry SAC.
The picture is clear with Homestead if they want to again hold on to the prized SAC Victory Bell: just be versatile, that is what has worked for them in the past. New quarterback Peyton Slaven will have a sharp learning curve but that isn’t new for quarterbacks in the Homestead system. He will have plenty to work off of when looking at Nate Anderson, who carved up their scrimmage opponent according to Blitz’s sources, and also the return of Gage Sparrow.
Can the Spartans stop big points since we know they can stop big plays, which is what helped them get that Victory Bell back in 2020. Last year, they only bookended their season with losses but in the middle there were some games where they gave up a lot of points. With a partially unproven offense, they’d like to avoid that this year. Returning six defensive starters is huge but don’t forget they lost a lot too. It has always been next man up at Homestead, that really is the case again.
Matt Miller will be huge again on the defensive line but we are really looking at a linebacker crop led by Max Schiltz to be the most stout defensively.
Copy, paste, repeat for Carroll defense from Homestead’s? The team scored big points but they sure gave up a lot in their 2020 shootout style. You’d like to leave those 42, 48 and 70 point games you gave up off the table in 2021, especially since you lost two of those games.
There is a lot to be excited about in the defensive look for Carroll though with a good solid handful of guys back including seemingly been-there-forever Liam Ottenweller who always seems to make sure and get his hands dirty defensively. There has been a ton of hype about linebacker Dylan Bennett this summer that we are excited to see play out.
The offense, well its set in the hands of Jeff Becker, who may very well be the most multi-dimensional and functional player in Northeast Indiana. He is going to find a way to cut holes in every defense any way he can. You have to be pretty happy putting the ball in the hands of a player like that. Blitz’s intrigue comes in who is the breakout weapon for Becker to throw too. Jameson Coverstone seems like the easy choice; we know Becker will get it to him consistently and for big yardage. But you always feel like someone will come out of nowhere for Carroll as a pass catcher, so who could that be?
Bishop Luers Knights
When you have so many guys back from a state runner up team, life is good. And Blitz has said it ad nauseam, this is a season that likely isn’t about breaking back through to the elite of the SAC, it is about another run to Lucas Oil. That said, the Knights have plenty of weapons and ways to beat the upper echelon of the SAC.
If only it was just Carson Clark throwing bombs to Brody Glenn, the Knights would be in great shape. But there are so many more weapons and that versatility is what shined for Bishop Luers a season ago and that carries over with a deep receiving group, that when healthy may be the deepest set in the city. Sir Hale would have a “breakout” season but I am pretty sure he already had one of those in 2020. Either way, he is going to cut some defenses up.
Luers could be exciting at linebacker with the likes of Evan Linker and leading tackler Mason Daring both back with Davon Doughty possibly lined up to be one of the conference’s real breakout players this season. Also plenty of intrigue around the arrival of transfer Aden Dennis, who is very skilled and one of the most popular players in every OTH fan vote.
North Side Legends
What do you say about North Side? We go into another season where the hype is very real and we will wait to see what the results are like. In the past, the results have been split. North Side has had a lot to be excited about for two straight seasons and have gone 9-12 in that time. They’ve competed, they’ve put up points, they’ve battled, but getting over that hump hasn’t happened yet.
Is a new coach what pushes them over? They will go to war with a new quarterback and yeah, there is a lot to wait and see with Brashawn Bassett. No knock on him, we just know what Duce Taylor was capable of in those big moments. Does Bassett have those kind of chops in heavy action? He has some great options to get the ball to, headed by his brother Brauntae Johnson but with more speedsters in veterans Jordan Turner, Rodney Woods and Ryan Collins. The options are limitless and this group at North Side has a lot of experience, both good and bad, to play off of.
Northrop is another team who gets better yearly but sits right in the middle of the road area in the SAC. Wins over Homestead, Bishop Luers and North Side last year should have this group humming at their potential this season. Look for Julante Hinton to be a household name by the end of 2021. His breakout potential is through the rough after having one of the best freshman years in recent Northrop memory because of his awareness and toughness.
This is a still a league where you have to put up big numbers to succeed in and Northrop will lose a lot in the running game but their passing game is going to be much better with CJ Davis, Dane Kilby and Jayden Schmenk all capable of big plays. If they can put the points on the board efficiently, the Bruins are a threat every night, just ask the defending SAC champs.
It has been said about other programs too, but taking over a program during the pandemic wasn’t easy in 2020 for Sherwood Haydock and Wayne. But we also know this is Haydock we are talking about and the way success follows him isn’t exactly a fluke. Is Wayne ready to compete with the top of the SAC in 2021? Still a little reserved with that one, but the Generals are likely to get there step by step with Haydock in charge.
This is a team that ran for a lot of yardage last season, even with a 2-9 record. They pounded the football and could be just as good at it this year with Shawn Collins (92 rushes, 722 yards) taking over the primary back spot. Collins is clearly one of the conference’s most underrated runners for some reason and could easily be a 1,500 yard rusher if his line holds and opens holes better this season. Everything point to the fact they should as everybody on this team gained valuable in-game experience a season ago.
Aidan Meek has also grown as a quarterback and having back your QB (especially for a third season) is a great asset in the SAC in year where a lot of teams are replacing this spot. Meek threw for 834 yards on 70 completions last year and his ability to move in and out of the pocket could be crucial for the Generals. They will have to replace four of their top five receivers from a year ago with Collins being the only guy back with more than four catches last year – he went for 221 yards on 13 catches. Lamarion Nelson could be an offensive weapon to watch.
Arthur Mhoon Jr. (91 tackles, 6 sacks) is back as a big lynchpin for the Wayne defense and he can really fly around next to fellow returner Avant Rogers (50 tackles). The duo were two of Wayne’s top three defensive players a season ago; that Wayne defense also returns Tizelle Thomas (24 tackles) in an expanded role and Collins will play on the defensive side of the ball too.
Concordia Lutheran Cadets
So much new at Concordia, it is hard to know what to expect as the Cadets take off under new head coach Mike Eshbach. He is very experienced as a a head coach but this is a whole different ball game for him as well, so there may be some growing pains as we all figure out just who Concordia is at this point.
“We have guys who are ready to step up and play a key role for our team. The key for our success will be
our ability to stay healthy through a tough SAC schedule,” Eshbach said.
Why is healthy important to Concordia? Well, it is two-fold. One, with a lack of experienced depth, the Cadets are really going to rely a lot on their top 10-12 guys so you need them to be there week in and week out. And two, like Bishop Luers, even if a Concordia team isn’t ready for the SAC, they can still have a really nice postseason run. They do it like clockwork.
Eli Mattox will take over under center where he got some snaps last year (18 of 50, 157 yards) in relief and his ability to work in the pocket and use his arm strength will be important. He will have some weapons to look to, though partially inexperienced ones. Seniors Jace Parnin and Robert Johnson will have to handle a big offensive load after catching just 16 passes between the two of them in 2020.
The real strengths of Concordia will come both on the lines and quite possibly in the secondary, where you have to be at least decent to keep pace in the SAC. Offensive linemen Chance Harris and Bubba Craig both return as does defensive lineman Grant Hayworth and two-way OL/DL guy Larry Schoenefeld. Expect some quality additions to the lines in Andre Woodard (OL) and Joe Taylor (DL). Arguably the best returning piece in Concordia’s portfolio is breakout linebacker James Rusher, who had 39 solo tackles and 37 more assists last season. The secondary will be led by returner Dontrell Johnson and senior Xander Pratt.
South Side Archers
One thing the Archers certainly have going for them this season: there is no conversations about he quarterback spot where a split duty look last year really didn’t help the Archers sustain any comfort. Under new head coach Guy Lee, things will be a bit more set in stone all around for South Side.
To expand on a rough offensive year, Quincy English is firmly set in as the Archer quarterback after being one of the guys who split time last season. English threw for 447 yards on 28 of 73 passing in 2020, but again consistency and comfort go a long way as he takes the full reigns in a new offense where he can work more out of the shotgun.
The defensive side of the football isn’t as much of a worry. That is because that Trevor Hapner and Jaylen Lattimore are two top notch guys. Hapner, who was OTH All-Area last year, his just a ball hawk. Watching him rip the ball away from guys last year was a lot of fun as he wrapped up 89 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception. Lattimore had 4.5 sacks and 44 tackles. Their one-two punch is incredibly underrated because of where South falls in the SAC.
The secondary will be experienced in spots too. Donnie Moore transfers over from Wayne and Jermaine Freemon showed some high quality flashes last year as a sophomore, as did Adrian Macon.
Domanick Moon, Snider
Ever been hit by Moon? Well, Blitz neither, but I always feel bad for the guys who do. Moon’s size, speed and athleticm are top tier, but his aggression makes him a game changer. There are a lot of great athletes in the SAC and the area, but how many of them are legit game changers?
Brauntae Johnson, North Side
If you aren’t on the Tae Tae bandwagon yet, you should probably hope there is still a seat somewhere. He is, fair to say, the best multi sport athlete in the SAC as a sophomore. He has long been the best part of any game he’s been in, even in elementary school. Now with a year of high school behind him, we know he can more than just hang on this level. Johnson’s speed is dangerous.
Jeff Becker, Carroll
As noted above, Becker can probably hurt you in more ways and worse than anyone else in the SAC. As long as he has targets down field, you never know what he is going to do with the ball. he works so well out of the pocket, he gets entire defenses scrambling.
SAC PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
2. Bishop Dwenger
5. Bishop Luers
6. North Side
10. South Side
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