It all comes down to the last week of the regular season. The SAC title and the Victory Bell that goes with it are on the line. The championship will be decided this week with Carroll still in the mix for a three-way tie while both Bishop Luers and Snider are looking at ways to try and win it outright.
Snider won this matchup last season and have won 25 of the 29 all-time meetings between these two. The Panthers have won straight in the series and Luers coach Kyle Lindsay has never beaten them as a coach.
That said, this is a completely different Bishop Luers team, so things should be interesting.
A Bishop Luers win = it is the outright SAC champion.
A Snider win + a Carroll loss = Snider wins outright.
A Snider win + a Carroll win = A three-way tie for the title with Snider, Carroll and Bishop Luers.
THE MAJOR PLAYERS
Kamari Juarez, Snider
Juarez proved almost untouchable in last week’s win over Bishop Dwenger. The speedy receiver burned defenders and consistently gave quarterback Luke Haupert a comfortable target. When we talk of Snider’s offense, a lot of rightful credit goes to Tyrese Brown running the ball, but as Juarez has settled in and gotten quicker and more explosive, he has become a highly dangerous option.
Having 21 catches for 197 yards going into last week, Suarez wrecked that total with eight more receptions and 167 yards. This is the right time for Juarez to peak. With him doing just that, it will make the Luers defensive backfield work harder than they’ve had to in several weeks.
The Receivers, Bishop Luers
No cop-out here, everybody is crucial. It was a knock on Snider early this season that its secondary couldn’t keep up. That narrative has changed, but there is no reason why Luers shouldn’t still try to stretch out the defense with its sizable core of capable pass catchers. Yes, Brody Glenn’s 44 catches for 840 yards makes him option A, but it doesn’t stop anywhere close to there. Antwian Lake and Jayden Hill have been just as important to this offense and they are going to factor significantly into this game as Luers uses these three guys to really test Snider’s defense.
But there are plenty more options for the Knights if they want to really dig deep. Seven other guys have caught at least one pass, with Brayden McInturf emerging as a solid fourth option, Sir Hale capable out of the backfield and the return of Aden Dennis to the lineup being a real intangible factor for this game.
Markell Keal, Snider
His 24 tackles on the year may not be the biggest number when you look at fellow defensive stud Domanick Moon with 56. But Keal has been critical in disrupting passing games all season. Yes, he leads Snider with five sacks, but the way he busts off his blocker and makes a hard-nosed b-line for the opposing QB has been scary. Keal is a hard charger who hits even harder and it has forced a lot of area quarterbacks to rush their throws. With the SAC’s most prolific passer ever on the other side of the line Friday night, Keal is going to put in maximum effort to try and rattle Carson Clark.
Da’von Doughty, Bishop Luers
Here is a theme: the passing game battle is important on Friday. While Snider’s receiving is getting better inch by inch, so too is the Knights’ pass defense. Doughty is a name not mentioned enough in the depth of this group even though he leads undefeated Bishop Luers with four interceptions and is averaging 4.1 tackles per contest. Doughty has the speed to contend with Snider receivers and the hands to alter their catch attempts.
The junior can be frustrating as he has his own way of doing things at times, which can be a positive and a negative. Yet if the Panthers consistently challenge through the air, Doughty is the guy they will consistently have to worry about.
HOW SNIDER WINS
This becomes about defense for Snider. We’ve seen that the Panthers have no issue putting up points, but can they stop a high-powered offense? The best one they have seen this year is Carroll and the Chargers took home a one-point win. In that game, Carroll scored early and made Snider fight out of a hole as a relatively novice quarterback picked apart the Panthers defense. But that was Week 2 and Snider is much better in Week 9.
The point though remains that Carroll is a multifaceted offense that plays hard and fast in ways very similar to what Bishop Luers is going to do. In that game, Snider managed to limit Carroll to 1.9 yards per carry over 21 touches and forced the Chargers to turn one dimensional. The likes of Domanick Moon, Markell Keal, Lukas Rohrbacher, Quincy Myatt, Santiago Ortiz and Kent Burkhead can do the same thing against Bishop Luers. That leaves the defensive backfield that we have previously mentioned and they are vastly improved. Make this game about the air and try not to give an inch to Luers receivers. Yes, the Knights will make some plays like Rocco Ciocca of Bishop Dwenger did in Week 8, but limiting those and not letting them bury you is huge. It truly does feel like a game where Snider’s defensive back contribution is critical.
HOW BISHOP LUERS WINS
Don’t change a thing. The Knights have built such a diversity in their offense and defense for moments like this. In big games, they have a comfort that other teams couldn’t even dream of having at this point in their seasons.
It is critical for Bishop Luers that it keeps plugging away with those options until a time where Snider may poke holes in them. Good thing for Luers, it has also worked on options B, C and D. The Knights are ready for big games and have proven to not get too rattled, even when things get close or tough down the stretch. Luers simply has won games every way they needed to all year, so don’t lose sight of simply what you’ve been doing.
A wrinkle is the return this week of Aden Dennis. How much he factors into this game we still don’t know, nor what percent of healthy he is. But if healthy enough, Dennis can be a game changer because he can run the ball, catch passes and factor in as a defensive end. Adding a player of that diversity and explosion into your already top-notch lineup is a fun factor. With lineman Nelson Knapke also set to return, the Knights are getting healthy at the right time.
Check back in later today for Blitz’s weekly picks!