There are a ton of really fun matchups for Week 2 of the season that will keep major momentum going as the season keeps pushing on.
So narrowing that list down drew some questions, but when you have two preseason favorites for conference titles clashing this early, it is a huge measuring stick and a game to not ignore. Therefore, OTH’s preseason favorites in the ACAC and NECC Small Division will be our highlighted game of the week as Adams Central visits Eastside.
THE MAJOR PLAYERS
KEEGAN BLUHM, ADAMS CENTRAL
The Flying Jets linebacker group is not one to be messed with. Keegan Bluhm is a name that may not get the notoriety of others in that group but he can hit hard. He registered 4.5 tackles last Friday night in the win over Bellmont, but those numbers don’t do justice to just how hounding he can be.
LABAN DAVIS, EASTSIDE
Davis has been one of the area’s most consistent offensive threats for years now. There was a time last season he was clearly in consideration for the area’s top player honor. He had 180 yards and three touchdowns in this game last year between throwing and running and last week in the season opening win at Heritage, Davis went for 121 in the air and 188 on the ground with five touchdowns. He is arguably the biggest weapon on the field Friday night and will be the focus of Eastside’s offense and AC’s defense.
NICK NEUENSCHWANDER, ADAMS CENTRAL
Neuenschwander was extremely hard to handle last fall in this game. Sure, last year isn’t this year, but the AC speedster knows that he has been able to fly by the Eastside defense, averaging 22.5 yards per catch in that game. He has been one of the more underrated Flying Jets going into this season but he can put up big yardage. He led Adams Central in rushing (70 yards) and receiving (40 yards) last Friday in the win over Bellmont.
DAX HOLMAN, EASTSIDE
In a game full of guys who go on both sides of the football, Holman may be able to change the game the most on both sides. He is comfortable in the run and passing game even when not Option A. That gives Eastside real hope if defenses can clamp down on other options. Defensively, he had 5.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks last week in a win over Heritage, helping lead a Blazer defense that held Heritage to 184 yards of offense and zero scores.
HOW ADAMS CENTRAL WINS
The Flying Jets need to keep Eastside’s defense off guard. A year ago in the meeting between the two, even in an Eastside win, Adams Central was able to work the ball through the air and on the ground. Their speed was unmatched in getting out for long aerial plays. Last week against Bellmont, the Jets went to the air just three times, with quarterback Ryan Black completing one of those passes, but it was for 40 yards to Neuenschwander for a touchdown. Is there any proof yet that Eastside can keep up with Eastside’s speed consistently? It may be in Adams Central’s best interest to test the likes of Briar Munsey and Johnny Eck in the air and see if those guys can defend receivers on a consistent basis on both long and short routes.
The ground attack works well too and that balance is huge. AC ran for 270 yards last week against Bellmont and used 10 guys for that heavy run game. If AC can be balanced and never let the Eastside defense get comfortable, that is huge for them.
HOW EASTSIDE WINS
The Blazers need to continue to work at a higher level when it comes to conversions. That is a place that few would look at in their win over Heritage but it was huge. Eastside converted on 2 of 6 third down attempts; sure that isn’t a great number but it is important to note that they only went to third down six times versus Heritage’s 11. Being successful in late down conversions is always helpful, especially in close games like we expect Friday night to be, but never getting those situations is even better. If Eastside can move the sticks on first and second down consistently again, then Adams Central will receive the pressure while they keep backing up. Eastside registered 18 first downs last Friday with 12 coming on the run and six through the air.
Moving the ball into AC territory also helps control the field against an AC team you don’t want to have to battle in short yardage situations. The further you can constantly push AC’s defense backwards means that their grind it out run game will have to work harder to get that yardage back. It also helps that you have a punter – have you heard of Laban Davis? – who is averaging 45.5 yards per punt this season.
Check back in later today for Blitz’s weekly picks!