Rivalry week in the SAC with title implications in one of the biggest rivalries of them all? Yes please.
First-place Bishop Luers heads to Shields Field to take on the rival Saints with hopes of inching closer to a SAC title. Bishop Dwenger, however, would love to play spoiler and hold up the Knights’ hopes even if the Saints themselves are out of the title hunt.
Dwenger handled this meeting a year ago against a Luers team that went on to the state finals. In fact, Dwenger has not lost the Battle of the Bishops since 2015 and has won 25 of the last 35 meetings.
Things could get really fun on Friday. Of course Luers, which has done away with every challenge this season, is the favorite. But this is a rivalry game so, in some respects, you have to throw a whole lot out the window.
THE MAJOR PLAYERS
EVAN LINKER, BISHOP LUERS
The lynchpin of the Luers defense, Linker (and the defense as a whole) probably doesn’t get enough recognition. This group has been mighty and multifaceted in blowouts and close showdowns alike. Linker is kind of the poster boy for that. He has hit hard and made big plays when they matter the most. He is going to be a real problem for any offense the rest of the way, but could become increasingly menacing for a Dwenger ‘O’ that really is still trying to find itself.
Linker leads Bishop Luers with 45 tackles at a 7.5 per game rate. He gets in, makes contact and lets opponents know he is there. Don’t expect that to change this week as the Saints will try to march up the field with their run game.
BOHDE DICKERSON, BISHOP DWENGER
All eyes will be on the quarterbacks in this one and for two different reasons. Read more about Bishop Luers’ QB next, but lets give Dickerson his due.
This has been a weird year at the QB spot for the Saints, which makes sense; there usually isn’t a natural move from one of the best quarterbacks in your program’s history in Brenden Lytle. So the Saints and Dickerson have gone through some growing pains.
Dickerson hasn’t even thrown the most balls for Dwenger this year, but his work in last Friday’s win almost certainly secures that he is the man at QB going forward, at least in the short term. More than half of his completions and attempts and a third of his passing yardage from this season occurred when Dwenger beat Concordia last Friday. Coming off that 16-of-21, three touchdown, 178 yard passing effort from last week, could Dickerson be starting to click? The Bishop Dwenger offense sorely needs him to.
CARSON CLARK, BISHOP LUERS
The record that shall not be named is close. And so of course, there are a lot of eyes of Clark, who sits 279 yards away from the SAC’s top passing mark ever. But ‘the all eyes on Clark’ approach is not new. Luers starts with his throwing arm and while the Knights have other very valuable offensive weapons, the continued composure of Clark is alluring for fans who have watched him throw a football this season and have seen his development over the past several years.
This is a bit of a showcase for him whether he reaches the 5,983 yard mark for his career this Friday or next. Clark doesn’t have a Battle of the Bishops win yet, so getting one on Friday night could be another nice piece to his resume
With 257 yards per game and a TD/interception ratio of 18 to 2, there is a lot of confidence in just letting Clark do his thing in what is right now the best throwing year of his career.
ADAM LEE, BISHOP DWENGER
Lee is an all-over-the-field type of player and a tremendous leader for this Saints team because he has kind of seen it all. He has stepped up significantly in his senior year and has 20 tackles from his defensive back spot. He has picked off one pass, deflected 11 and blocked some punts along the way. Needless to say, the Saints want to slow down a high-powered Luers offense. Lee will be one of the primary guys responsible in making that happen.
The critical one is the passing game though. Potential records aside, we’ve noted that Luers gets things going for its entire offense by airing the ball out. Bishop Dwenger just happens to have a core group of guys in Lee, Sam Campbell and Colin Vance that are pretty good at cutting down on passing success for foes. So why is Lee a focus this week? Because he is just always there, always a pest when teams try to test Bishop Dwenger vertically. Make a sneaky play or two as that pest and it gets the whole team fired up. Guys like Lee have high potential to be momentum changers.
HOW BISHOP LUERS WINS
The Knights win by being themselves. Is that a cop out? Of course not.
Look, Luers has been a problem for every single team it has faced and it makes zero sense for it to do anything unique or special in this game. Stay the course, forget this is a rivalry game and that every game is critical for a SAC title. Let all of that go and just play with enthusiasm and passion. Those are the things that have made Bishop Luers’ run this season special.
The Knights have seen nine guys run the ball, 10 catch passes and they have over 3,300 all purpose yards (to about 2,400 from Dwenger) by just doing things the natural way and being multi-faceted with their attack. All of that lends itself to success against Bishop Dwenger as they never want the Saints to get comfortable on their home field. Dominance early is the key, not as in “first team to score wins,” but whoever takes the reins in the first quarter and rolls with it will win this game. In that regard, you can say all of the pressure is on the Knights because if they let Dwenger hang around, the Saints will do just that. So how does Luers win? Bury its rival early.
HOW BISHOP DWENGER WINS
Ground and pound. It’s an area that has always been reliable for Dwenger. The passing game looked improved last week against a lesser opponent and you always have big targets downfield like Rocco Ciocca that are worth a couple big plays a game. But, grinding it out will really test that Luers front line..
There is another key component to that; running the ball inherently takes time off the clock. Less time means less opportunities for that go, go, go Luers offense to get going. The Saints want to keep Bishop Luers’ offense off the field and this is the best way to do it. Pick up 3-6 yards every carry, be grinders and make Luers’ offense stop you.
So far this season, Dwenger is averaging just under 5.9 yards per carry and that is the perfect number if you can do it consistently against Bishop Luers. Give the ball to KJ Tippmann, Teddy Steele, Aziz Dixon and a couple of others and just put in that blue-collar work.
Check back in later today for Blitz’s weekly picks!