Many coaches will tell you that the regular season is merely the tune up for when it counts – playoff football. Sure, leagues titles and rivalry game wins are nice, but there’s just something about postseason hardware that hits different and creates a longer-lasting legacy.
OTH looks at five teams aiming to end significant skids in the playoffs.
CHURUBUSCO (12 years without a sectional)
It is kind of amazing when you think about it. When we think ‘Busco we think solid football teams year in and year out. But the program only has four sectional titles dating back to 1983, and none since 2010.
The challenge this year is for Coach Paul Sade and the Eagles to end the long run without some postseason hardware. It won’t be easy, as Churubusco finds itself bumped up to Class 2A in the most recent IHSAA realignments. Gone is the challenge of Adams Central in the sectional field. In are the likes of Eastside and Bishop Luers.
Yet there is a lot to like, with quarterback Riley Buroff back to run the pack-it-in, misdirection offense that can give defenses fits. Also back is top rusher Wyatt Marks, while juniors Cullen Blake and Weston Rinker lead what is a very good junior class in terms of talent, with each having made 94 tackles a year ago.
The task is much more difficult in the 2A Sectional 35 field, but ‘Busco has the talent to surprise.
CARROLL (no regional titles ever)
Yes, we know the narrative – no area Class 6A team has won a regional title since the inception of the class over a decade ago.
But the new IHSAA realignments gave Carroll an advantage – its Sectional 2 will feed into a regional with teams from “The Region” in northwest Indiana instead of south into the 317.
That isn’t to marginalize The Region, but area 6A teams have had zero luck knocking off an Indy-area school in the regional round.
While the offense is still looking to lock down a quarterback, there are playmakers such as Gabe Starks and Cooper Rudolph who will elevate whoever gets the job.
On paper, Carroll has the fastest defense in the SAC. Players like Dylan Bennett, Braden Steely and Jorge Valdes are some of the top at their respective positions in the area.
The combination of good fortune and a talented roster gives the Chargers a shot to achieve something that’s never been done before – a regional crown.
LEO (11 years without a sectional)
Could Coach Jason Doerffler lead the Lions to a postseason title in Year 1 with the Lions?
That is what Leo Nation is hoping for as the former Northrop coach has come in and changed dramatically what we are used to seeing on the offensive end.
While there was some attrition due to graduation, the roster still has plenty of talent with the likes of seniors Drew Baker and Ethan Crawford, juniors Kam Zeisloft and Kylar Decker and sophomore Brock Schott.
Might the opening up of the offense help when the Lions inevitably run up against a team that can contain the rushing attack?
Sectional realignment has also helped Leo’s chances, with NorthWood and Northridge no longer a pesky presence in the opening rounds of the postseason, the biggest threats now being rival East Noble along with South Side and Wayne of the SAC.
NORWELL (16 years without a semistate)
There are some lofty expectations in Ossian entering this fall, with the Knights coming off another double-digit win season and a sectional title.
The majority of the production from last year’s 11-2 squad is back, and while the immediate goal is to content for the NE8 championship, the Knights will be setting their sights on bigger things – namely a trip to the 3A state championship.
Consider that Sectional 27 looks highly manageable for Norwell, which beat its three sectional foes last year by a combined score of 107-13. Add to that the fact that Brebeuf, which beat Norwell by 29 in the regional is now in 4A, and odds are in the Knights’ favor to make a run.
Coach Josh Gerber is going to preach one week and one game at a time, but this could be a special year that could culminate with a trip to Lucas Oil Stadium.
WAYNE (26 years without a sectional)
Along with the scuttlebutt about the traditional powers in the SAC, much is being made about North Side’s talent. But don’t overlook another FWCS squad – Wayne.
In Coach Sherwood Haydock’s third season, the groundwork has been laid the first two years for success as Wayne doubled its win total last year from the season prior.
Gone is Shawn Collins, who was a huge asset all over the field, but Lamarion Nelson is an absolute beast in the backfield, capable of carrying the ball 30 times a game after averaging 24 carries a contest last year.
Christian Trimble at quarterback is a kid who has been learning the system for two years and his decision making has vastly improved.
But this team’s success or failure is in the hands of a defense that allowed way too many points in 2021. The unit has players. Nehemiah Young is a dog on the edge, and Haydock employed a lot of underclassmen on that side of the ball to get some much-needed experience a year ago.
Sectional 19 is NE8 dominated with five of the league’s eight teams residing in the field. But Wayne is a team to watch.