Week 4: Five area players to watch tonight on the gridiron

North Side’s Brauntae Johnson hauls in the ball over Carroll’s Max Wiard (43) and Braden Steely (5) during September 3’s game. (Photo by Leverage Photography)

Week 4 is headed your way tonight and as always, we talk about five players that you should keep an eye on. Maybe they did well last week? Maybe they have a favorable or intriguing matchup?

Here are the players to keep on watch:


Three weeks in and North Side sits at 0-3. Is it surprising because of the teams they have played? Is it not surprising? That is a discussion for another forum.

One thing that is known is that the Legends want to get in the win column in the worst way, especially knowing the loser of Friday’s outing will be the last winless team in the SAC. The reality is that Johnson is the one that needs to pull North Side up by the boot straps and get it firing on all cylinders to avoid that fate.

It doesn’t matter that he is a sophomore, Johnson has been North Side’s most feared player all season and he has the numbers to back up any and all hype. Now, the focus has to shift into a leadership role too. North has leaders but Johnson’s on-field work speaks volumes louder than any voice can for a team at 0-3. Even in last week’s blowout loss to Carroll, he still pulled in fivecatches for 51 yards and had an interception on the other side of the ball. He is just a workhorse who can do a bit of everything.

The Legends aren’t trying to go 0-4, and they have the personnel to avoid it, but Johnson is the biggest fire starter in this game.


No one is getting more buzz in the ACAC than Eric Rogers after a monster five-touchdown outing against Woodlan to get the Patriots into the win column last week. The senior didn’t just score here and there, he earned those points by rushing for 318 yards on 39 carries. Those big rush numbers more than doubled what he had done in the first two weeks. Well, the cat is out of the bag now and while expectations both internally and externally will be raised for Rogers tonight, so will the focus on him, so things aren’t going to come easy.

It is always interesting to see how a player responds after a breakout game. Now that people know that Rogers can churn out quality yardage, South Adams is going to throw everything at him to prevent that from happening again. What got lost last week in his big running game was that Rogers is a multipurpose threat, catching five passes for 46 yards as well. Can he be a playmaker against the defending conference champions? A lot of eyes will be on him this week to find out.

TEGAN IRK, DEKALB vs. East Noble

Irk has gotten the green light to throw the ball a lot in DeKalb’s offense and it shows that there is a lot of comfort in him taking chances. He has already thrown 113 passes versus the team’s 85 carries in three games and save for last week’s contest with New Haven, he was finding pretty good success with 4 touchdowns to 1 interception. Last week, those numbers were flipped as Irk found the end zone just once in 34 pass attempts while throwing four picks. With confidence high in the junior, he has to roll with it if DeKalb hopes to pull off a monumental upset at home against one of the NE8 favorites.

Irk stays diverse in his options, targeting up to six different receivers weekly. That makes it hard for opposing teams to focus their DB playmakers on any given target. Irk will need to be a precision passer to get by East Noble’s defensive backfield but he has shown that prowess in the past. On the year, he is completing just over 40 percent of his passes for over 170 yards per game.


The Railroaders are sitting in a really good place as they open NECC Big Division play against 1-2 Lakeland. Yes, Garrett needs to bounce back from a tough loss last week, but a statement here to open divisional play would be key. Hess is a name that doesn’t get enough credit in what has become a growingly diverse Railroader offense. He is the leading receiver target and is third on the team in both total and all-purpose yards. So far this year, he has caught 17 passes for a team that totals just 34 receptions. Hess has gone for 148 yards and two touchdowns.

Hess isn’t a deep threat, but the 5-foot-10 senior has helped Garrett grind out things in short yardage situations. Last week in the loss to Churubusco, he averaged 7,6 yards per catch, but his consistent hands have helped bring balance to the offense. With a team that likes to work the ground game and has fellow receiver Trey Richards often receiving the bulk of attention from the secondary, Hess has stepped up for the Railroaders and could be a key component as they look to start 1-0 in a wide-open division.

ISAAC CARSWELL, New Haven at Leo

The Bulldogs haven’t really had the chance to show consistency yet. They were upset in Week 1, faced a tough out-of-area opponent in Week 2 and had to go to their second OT game of the season last week while shorthanded to get a win. One name that is helping them build that consistency is Isaac Carswell, who had a team-high 12 tackles last Friday in that win over Dekalb. Four of those tackles came for a loss and that is critical because of the team that New Haven faces tonight.

Everyone in the NE8 wants to upset one of the favorites and you have to play big against Leo to do that. Carswell is a very heady player, so the amount of tackles he gets and how hard he can hit are both positives, but his relevance against Leo will come down to how well he can read its misdirection. If the Bulldogs want to maintain their positive momentum, Carswell is key in trying to slow Leo’s running game, which nobody has been able to do yet.

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