At this time of the year, every football program across the country feels they have the capability of being better than they were a season ago.
For some area teams, 2021 saw some goals not met or the foundation laid for better seasons in the future.
Here are five that OTH believes should surpass last year’s win total:
Angola (Two wins in 2021)
The Hornets are coming off a season in which they finished with their lowest victory total since going winless in 1995.
Interestingly, Angola jumped to five wins in 1996 following that campaign. Can Coach Andy Thomas’ squad see a similar boost?
For the Hornets, it has to come from the defensive side of the ball, the unit that allowed 20 or more points in nine of the team’s 10 games last season.
Amidst the team’s six-game losing streak that ended the season, Lakeland put up 30 points, Mishawaka Marian 42, Eastside 49 and Columbia City 48.
With the schedule laying out about the same in 2022, Angola has a chance to make amends and show it can be a tougher and more physical football team on defense than it displayed a year ago.
DeKalb (Two wins in 2021)
The first two years of Coach Seth Wilcox’s tenure with the Barons have been about growth. Now in Year 3, it is time to up the expectations.
Talent helps, and DeKalb has some, particularly offensively. Tegan Irk is back at quarterback and he has some playmakers around him in senior wideouts Donnie Wiley and Logan Montoya as well as tight end Derek Overbay.
The Barons were held to seven points or less in four different games last year. That shouldn’t happen this season.
“Offensively, we bring back a lot of talent that was really starting to hit its stride towards the end of the season,” Wilcox said.
Defensively, DeKalb brings back six starters, including all four linemen up front.
Heritage (Four wins in 2021)
Another program that is entering the pivotal Year 3 under the current regime, Coach Casey Kolkman – known for his revitalization of struggling programs – is expecting another step forward.
The Patriots have not eclipsed four wins in a campaign since Dean Lehrman’s final season in 2015, but this year’s squad brings back eight starters on offense and nine on defense.
Kobe Meyer is back after suffering an injury last season and he is in line to be QB1. Ibrahim Williams will emerge as a threat at wide receiver and there are a host of underclassmen that look poised to move the rock at running back with Eric Rogers gone.
Rylan Whitacre has been the cornerstone of the defense now for a few years, and leads a unit was able to push around the lesser teams on the schedule, but struggled against mighty offenses in and out of the conference.
Much like DeKalb, Heritage must show consistency and growth on defense as it looks to up its victory output.
Homestead (Six wins in 2021)
Six victories in a season is a number many programs wish they could achieve on a regular basis. But for Homestead, which eyes deep postseason runs annually, that is a disappointment, especially coming off back-to-back SAC crowns.
Three of the Spartans’ four defeats last year came by seven points or less, including a pair of three-point defeats to Snider and Bishop Luers. Half of the last season’s defeats came to rival Carroll, including a 21-0 shutout to open sectional play.
There are some big holes to fill. Leading receiver Nate Anderson is gone, as is defensive front seven studs Matt Miller, Max Schlitz and Ebon Person. Jackson Christmon may be the most dominant interior defensive lineman in the area and his return is huge.
What Homestead needs to find is that ability to make the plays in close games to put them over the top. It’s what the SAC title teams were able to do in wins over Bishop Dwenger in 2018 and 2019 and an OT victory at Noblesville in sectional play in 2019.
North Side (Two wins in 2021)
It seems as if North always comes up in conversation. Whether it is folks excited about the hype or wanting to tear the Legends down, Coach Ben Johnson’s team never ceases to be at the forefront of SAC conversation.
There was hype in 2021, but the wins didn’t materialize as the team finished 2-7. Close losses to Snider in Week 1 and Bishop Dwenger in sectional action showed that the Legends can compete with the top of the league when they play a complete four quarters.
Now with a deeper roster that allows Coach Johnson to not have to play some players both ways, especially linemen, the hope for North is that the fatigue that set in last year in the second half of games won’t be nearly as prevalent. Couple that with the dangerous playmakers across the board for the Legends and this team should easily eclipse its win total from 2021.