A spot in the Class 2A state championship game is on the line as the Fighting 59ers of Andrean (10-3) head to Butler to challenge the undefeated Blazers of Eastside (13-0).
OTH breaks down the matchup.
- 1. FIRST TIMERS
Eastside captured its first-ever regional championship with a home win over Eastbrook, continuing what has been a magical run for the Blazers in 2021. The next step is qualifying for state, a place that Andrean has been six times, although not since 2014.
So while Eastside’s players are inexperienced in a game of this magnitude, so too are the Fighting 59ers, with no member of the team having appeared in a state title game. However, this is a group that two years ago fell to Eastbrook in semistate play and the current seniors who played in that one do not want to fall short again.
2. FAMILIAR LOOK
With a quarterback that has thrown for over 2,600 yards, numerous dangerous pass catchers on the outside and a solid running attack, Andrean brings an offense that looks very much like Bishop Luers.
Eastside did a tremendous job in defending the Knights a few weeks ago, holding them without a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. How much of what the Blazers did in that one defensively translates to Friday’s matchup?
3. DEFENDING LABAN
No team has been able to solve the riddle that is Laban Davis so far this year. The Eastside quarterback has been held below 230 total yards in a game just once this year – 147 in the close victory over Adams Central in Week 2.
Can Andrean find a way to do what others cannot? Can it win the line of scrimmage and stymie Davis before he and his backfield compatriots can make plays and move downfield?
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
LABAN DAVIS, EASTSIDE
He is the MVP and player of the year in northeast Indiana for a reason. He commands everything that the Blazers do offensively. He has thrown for over 1,500 yards and rushed for 2,100 more, accounting for 52 touchdowns on the season.
Davis is extremely difficult to bring down on first contact. He is slippery and much more athletic than foes give him credit for. And when you think you have him contained, he hands off or goes vrrtical to allow teammates to beat you.
SCOTT BALLENTINE, ANDREAN
Davis’s counterpart on the other side, the sophomore Ballentine has acclimated himself well to the starting role.
Ballentine has completed 68 percent of his passes heading into this week, a very good mark at any level. While e has not been asked to do a lot through the passing game over the last three weeks, he is still capable of hitting receivers downfield at any time. He is not a threat to take off and run, but with the wealth of weapons around him, he hasn’t rreally needed to do so.
DYLAN BREDEMEYER, EASTSIDE
Andrean is going to test the back end of the Eastside defense, of that there is no doubt. Oft overlooked in the win over Bishop Luers is how well the secondary was in coverage against some top-notch pass catchers out of the SAC.
Bredemeyer will be a part of the defense that will see a lot of action again on Friday. The senior has five INTs on the year, with three coming in the sectional opener against Bluffton.
JADEN MARSH, ANDREAN
A lot is made of junior five-star Notre Dame commit Drayk Bowen at linebacker, but the senior Marsh is Andrean’s most dangerous weapon on defense.
Marsh is exceptional on the edge at sealing down and taking away the perimeter in the run game. He has a team-high 11 sacks and 18 TFL on the year, with his 6-foot-5 frame allowing him the length to shed blocks and attack in the backfield.
KEY TO VICTORY – ANDREAN
It is easier said than done, but on paper, the Andrean defense has the personnel to give Eastside its toughest test of the season.
The key has been winning the point of attack for the Blazers, with their offensive line a great example of continuity and physicality all year. But with guys like Marsh, Bowen and others, the Andrean front seven is going to be a stiff challenge for the Blazers.
If the Fighting 59ers can bottle up Eastside on the early downs and force the Blazers into some obvious passing situations, it will take Coach Todd Mason’s team away from what it likes to do.
KEY TO VICTORY – EASTSIDE
STAY THE COURSE
Over the past two weeks, Eastside has knocked off the top two teams in Class 2A in terms of the human polls in Bishop Luers and Eastbrook. The Blazers have not been sucked into worrying about the moment but instead have come out, executed the game plan and down a foe many thought superior.
COach Mason’s team has a chance to do that again. Andrean is an established power with a proud history. This is not new territory for the fan base, unlike those in Butler.
If Eastside can shake off all the pressure and execute its game, something that it has done throughout the course of this run, it will advance to state.
Coming Friday when Blitz announces his semistate picks