The Victory Bell, the reward for a SAC title, certainly isn’t going to be won in Week 3. But it could very well be lost this Friday night. You never know in this conference with how things could shake out, but you certainly do not want to be on the side trying of needing help in the standings from other teams.
With 2-0 starts, Bishop Luers and Homestead clearly have a game of the week on their hands. Big hitters, high yardage offenses, they will have it all on the turf this Friday.
THE MAJOR PLAYERS
CARSON CLARK, BISHOP LUERS
Big yardage has become something to expect out of Clark, but that doesn’t make what he does on Fridays any less spectacular. While Homestead quarterback Peyton Slaven is matching Clark in completion percentage and is kind of coming up the way that Clark did, there is no mistaking how seasoned Carson is and how well that leads the Knights each week. Despite one of the area’s better running games, the Knights rely heavily on the air and Clark has become so accurate in that realm.
In just two games, Clark has thrown for 596 yards, which has him on pace for nearly 3,000 yards on the season if he can keep it up. He has connected on just under 64 percent of this passes. Clark has a bevy of receivers that makes him a threat going deep or nitpicking first downs up the field. It will take a stout defense to get him off his game.
NATE ANDERSON, HOMESTEAD
Social media has taught us this: Homestead people want you to know that Nate Anderson’s impressive five catch, two touchdown, 129 yard night in Week 2 against Concordia Lutheran came in just a half. Just wanted to get that out of the way to make the Spartan faithful happy.
It really doesn’t matter though if it was a half, a full game or a quarter, Anderson makes plays and his speed and underestimated length aid him in leaving defenders in the dust. While he can snatch the ball away and out maneuver and out physical opponents, highlights of Anderson often show that he can also be left alone while jogging to the end zone with a ball, a sizable miscue by defenses.
Eight of the 25 passes completed by Homestead this year have gone to Anderson and he has scored three of those times, averaging a staggering 20.3 yards per reception. The team co-leader in points scored this season, Anderson also averages 30 yards per kick return and leads the Spartans in all-purpose yards.
NICK THOMPSON, BISHOP LUERS
We’ve seen more of the big, athletic, skilled and potentially dominant Nick Thompson on defense so far in 2021 than we have seen on offense. His eight tackles ranks fourth among all Knights and he has one of the team’s two interceptions so far. Thompson is rangy and that really helps him thrive no matter who he is guarding. He will need to continue to be assertive after the Knights took a hit by losing Aden Dennis for most of the rest of the regular season to injury following last week’s win over Wayne.
That too means Thompson may be called upon more on offense. While Dennis wasn’t used heavily on that side of the ball, he did out haul in one more pass than Thompson did in the first two games and his 22.3 yards per catch leads Luers so far. Thompson could be a major player in filling in for Dennis long-term, but also this week because the Knights need more depth against a tough Spartans team.
JACKSON CHRISTMON, HOMESTEAD
Christmon has kept things tight on the defensive side of the ball for Homestead, which has given up 28 points in the first two weeks; though zero points have been scored against the Spartans in the opening quarter. Along the way, the junior defensive tackle has led the team with 12 tackles, with five of those for a loss and 4.5 sacks in just two weeks.
We knew that Christmon is going to be tough along the defensive line for the Spartans, but he has already outperformed initial expectations. His is hard charging off the line and by bunching up opposing running backs, Christmon has helped force teams to pass, which has worked well against less experienced quarterbacks in weeks one and two. Friday night opposite Bishop Luers and Carson Clark will go a long way in proving just how big Christmon can come be up front.
HOW BISHOP LUERS WINS
Keep Homestead’s offense off the field for as long as it can.
The Bishop Luers offense, as diverse and deep as it can be, has to find a good balance between big plays that the Homestead playmakers can make while also extending their own possessions to make sure that the Spartans don’t have the chance to make a big offensive splash on their own home field.
That should be something clearly in the Knights’ wheelhouse. Save for a 63-yard Brody Glenn reception and a 52-yard pass to Aden Dennis, the Knights have had a way of grinding out drives so far this season. The longest run for Luers has been 28 yards coming out of RJ Hogue despite the team rushing for more than 200 yards per game. This is no disrespect to the defense anchored by Evan Linker, Jackson McCullough and Da’von Doughty because they can handle themselves too. It just comes down to a matter of intelligence. Can the Knights outwit the Spartans?
That patience could prove a valuable point: can the small-school Knights outplay and outsmart the 5A and 6A schools in the area? A Week 1 win over Carroll made it seem so, but beating the two-time defending champions in the SAC should slam the door on any questions still out there.
HOW HOMESTEAD WINS
There has been a chip on Homestead’s shoulder for years. In other sports, the “Homestead versus Everybody” mentality has always been prevalent. But in football, it feels different even though it is still there.
On the gridiron, the Spartans seem to feel some disrespect and it may be justified. The two-time defending SAC champions still seem to be underdogs when it comes to winning the Victory Bell a third time. Playing with a chip on their shoulder has worked because they do have that bell and they are the champions until someone else wheels it away at a season’s end…maybe
So Homestead, in a lot of ways, has learned to play like its back is against the wall, even if only figuratively. The Spartans thrive in that setting, playing like there is no tomorrow, playing like they have to prove a point that has long been loud.
Peyton Slaven has been a great leader under center so far, completing 63.6 percent of his passes while being really diverse with his targets. But the quarterback spot isn’t the only new look for Homestead’s offense with Desmond Smith Jr. and Brett Fuchs finding success in the running game. These are guys who have done well playing with that chip on their shoulder, showing it is the team’s burden, not just that of the few.
The Spartans have to keep spreading the ball out to a lot of options, but also find comfort in their go-to playmakers like Nate Anderson and Gage Sparrow.
Check back in later today for Blitz’s weekly picks!