Outside the Huddle is breaking down every area regional matchup scheduled for this Friday.
We continue in Class 2A as Eastbrook (11-0) travels to Butler to take on Eastside (12-0).
1. AN ENCORE?
After last week’s emotional victory over Bishop Luers, Eastside celebrated in post-game as if it had won a state title. That’s not criticism, as it was a monumental win over a squad many thought would be a runaway Class 2A champion.
But the Blazers have to move past last Friday, because Eastbrook brings a lot of postseason success and a lot of power to this matchup.
Where is Eastside mentally? Are they as locked in as they were last week? Do they get caught basking in the glow of downing Bishop Luers? Or are they completely focused on the Panthers?
2. LABAN THE MAGNIFICENT
It was another Herculean effort out of Eastside quarterback Laban Davis last Friday. The senior has now amassed nearly 3,500 yards of total offense on the season to go with 49 touchdowns.
No defense this year has been able to slow him down. No number of spies, stunts or players using brute force have rattled Davis and effectively taken him out of the game.
Now it is Eastbrook’s turn to try and figure out what works against Davis. The Panthers’ defense is surrendering just over eight points per game, and was incredibly effective limiting Mississinewa’s rushing attack in Week 3, holding the 9-2 Indians to just seven points.
Eastbrook’s bread and butter remains its rushing attack, with 3,334 yards rushing and 59(!) touchdowns on the ground so far this year.
The Panthers traditionally have not been a huge passing team, yet senior Jett Engle has amassed 1,124 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air with just a pair of INTs.
And Engle can run, evidenced by his 470 yards and 13 scores toting the rock.
This is by no means an Eastbrook team in which you can say, ‘stop the run and you win.’
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
LABAN DAVIS, EASTSIDE
How could you not? Everything the Blazers do on offense goes through the senior quarterback. Bishop Luers attempted to use two spies on him last week and it still didn’t help as he rushed for 177 yards and threw for 54.
What makes Davis so dangerous? Pick your poison. He reads defenses extremely well. He evades tacklers with ease and he refuses to go down on first contact, always finding a way to eke out a few more yards after defenders get ahold of him.
ISAIAH DALTON, EASTBROOK
The senior is one of a plethora of backs the Panthers have that can rush the ball with effectiveness, but it is Dalton’s performances in the pass game that truly make him a top offensive weapon
From his split back position, Dalton can easily receive some end-around handoffs or other rush plays to get him in space, but he can also get lost and leak out into the flat or downfield for Engle to find him for big plays.
Dalton leads all Eastbrook receivers with 20 catches for 438 yards and eight scores. He has a receiving touchdown in each of the first three playoff games for the Panthers.
KYLER BIBBEE, EASTSIDE
There aren’t many more sound tacklers on the Blazers’ defense than Bibbee, who enters this week with 68 of them this season to go with eight tackles for loss.
Bibbee doesn’t get a lot of the pub others do, but he is a sound tackler who can wrap and finish anywwhere on the field.
As Eastbrook looks to befuddle the Eastside defense with stunts and counters, the experience of Bibbee and other seniors will be pivotal to staying true to assignments and preventing the Panthers from moving the chains.
JASON HALE, EASTBROOK
A technically sound middle linebacker, Hale is a physical player who can run sideline to sideline to make plays and also can disrupt plays in the backfield, evidenced by his 13.5 tackles for loss.
It very well could be the assignment of Hale to go where Laban Davis goes. Easier said than done, but Hale has proven to be adept at whatever job the Panthers thrust upon him.
KEY TO VICTORY – EASTBROOK
GROUND AND POUND
Eastbrook’s approach to winning, which it has done 300 times in 31 years under Coach Jeff Adamson, isn’t overly complicated. It loves to to take it to opponents on the ground and beat them up over the course of four quarters.
Their scheme not only gets results, but it can limit possessions for other teams and force them to maximize the limited touches they get.
Hey, sounds familiar. It’s exactly what Eastside did to Bishop Luers last week.
KEY TO VICTORY – EASTSIDE
TAKE EASTBROOK OFF SCHEDULE
The Panthers’ offense relies on being able to pick up yards – three, four or five yards at a time. It sustains drives and wears down opponents before a run gets sprung and a TD results.
What Eastside must do defensively is take Eastbrook off schedule. Limiting the early down runs and taking it off schedule will force Engle to the pass game more than he would like. He averages 19 yards per completion, but has only thrown 83 times all year.
If Engle’s pass attempts goes higher than 12 in this game, it bodes well for Eastside’s chances, as it means Eastbrook is having trouble moving the ball on the ground.
Coming Thursday when Blitz makes his regional picks