Reminiscing on Bishop Dwenger’s 2021 season brings one of two primary memories to mind
One, the highly-anticipated matchup between the Saints and Snider in the sectional final – the first time ever that the two area powers clashed in the playoffs. After suffering defeat in the regular season, Bishop Dwenger bounced back, controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football and owned the Panthers in a 42-20 rout. The victory was not only sweet because of the opponent, but also because it earned the program its fifth-straight sectional crown.
The second memory is less pleasant – that of the five defeats on the year, culminating in a loss to Zionsville for the second straight campaign. It was not only the most losses in Coach Jason Garrett’s tenure, but the most since 2014.
But back to the positive. The year after Bishop Dwenger went 4-6 in 2014? The Saints won a state championship.
So, which way do things go for the Saints in 2022?
For one, the defense has to be better. In its five losses, Dwenger surrendered an average of 37 points. The old adage that the Saints are always powerful up front just wasn’t the case in 2021. More teams in the SAC were able to win at the point of attack last year against Dwenger than any in recent memory. That must change.
There is turnover on defense. The top five tacklers are all gone, as are all but two of the interceptions and the top three leaders in sacks. Just four starters return, but the good thing is those four cover all three levels on D.
Senior Ethan Pflueger returns up front after amassing 20 tackles, six TFL and 2.5 sacks in 2021. Lining up alongside will be the likes of senior Preston Ross and junior Caleb Lehrman. Two-way junior linemen Wyatt Tippmann, Joseph Schenkel and John Paul Henry will also see time in the D-line rotation. Another junior, Trent Tippmann, will look to be an immovable object at nose guard when he isn’t bowling over people out of the offensive backfield.
Junior Christian Lozada returns for a second season of being a starter after accumulating 48 tackles, nine TFL and 3.5 sacks – solid numbers for a sophomore starting for the Saints. While not returning starters, seniors Sam Trabel-Weir and Robert Pelkington both saw playing time at linebacker last season. Tobias Tippmann, a junior, will see action at the second level as well as senior AJ Ley.
The defensive backfield may be the strength of the unit, headlined by Northrop transfer CJ Davis. One of the top strong safeties in the entire state and a verbal commit to Marshall, Davis can cover the entire field with his speed and instincts and not many DBs around can play the ball in the air like he does.
Joining Davis in the secondary are a few more seniors – Teddy Steele and Sam Campbell.
On the offensive side, more of the same questions abound. Few four starters are back – guard Ashton Skarie and tackle Elijah Douge along the line of scrimmage and junior Carter Minix (22 receptions, 181 yards, TD) at wideout. Senior Nate Reith will be up front as well as handle the long snapping duties. Two youngsters to keep an eye on are sophomore Pete Thiel and freshman Andrew Trahin, both two-way linemen.
At quarterback, Bishop Dwenger replaces the transferred Bohde Dickerson (to North Side) with Sam Campbell. The senior is a veteran and knows what’s expected within the program, but can he carry the offensive load after throwing just one pass in 2021? Campbell is confident he can, but keep an eye on sophomore Braxton Bermes if the Saints look to take advantage of Campbell’s athleticism in a spot or two elsewhere on the field.
At receiver, trusty veterans Henry O’Keefe and Rocco Ciocca have moved on. Who emerges to haul in receptions from Campbell?
The same goes for the offensive backfield with four of the top five rushers gone. Teddy Steele will be RB1, but we will surely see others emerge from the cadre of backs the Saints have in the pipeline.
While Bishop Dwenger may be short on actual starting experience, it does not lack for leaders in Class of 2023 – of which there are 28 of them. This is a program that grooms its players to hone their skills for multiple years before busting out when the time comes – even if they have to wait til they are in 12th grade. That’s what Coach Garrett is counting on.
Despite five defeats in 2021, Bishop Dwenger still beat North Side twice and pushed around Snider in the playoffs. Now, much of that talent has departed, but since when do the Saints not replace productive football players with more productive football players?
This may not be a well-oiled machine to begin the season, and some scores in the first few weeks may catch you second-guessing this team. But with leadership in bunches and some talent at key spots, the Saints won’t be a team to take lightly.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
The lack of proven production hurts. The most reliable player in terms of ability on the entire roster hasn’t even played a meaningful down with this program yet – CJ Davis.
This team needs playmakers. Maybe it has them and we haven’t yet seen them perform on Friday nights. It sure has been the case for Bishop Dwenger squads for decades.
This year’s team moniker is “trust, unity and toughness.” Will the Saints be able to showcase all three on a regular basis?
Week 1 vs. Wayne & Week 2 at North Side
Last year, Bishop Dwenger beat the Legends twice, including a back-and-forth game in the playoffs that saw the Saints win by three.
Both teams will enter this one with something to prove. For Bishop Dwenger, it is all about showing that whispers of the 2022 season being a down campaign are exaggerated.
In fact, the first two weeks will go a long way towards silencing the doubters. Both Wayne and North Side have some buzz around em and some want to believe both will finish above the Saints in the SAC.
Start 2-0 and the haters will be singing a different tune.
SAM CAMPBELL, SENIOR
A year ago, Campbell was running routes and hauling in passes from Bohde Dickerson. The expectation was that combo would continue this fall.
Instead, Dickerson is gone and Campbell is QB1. There are unknowns offensively, of which Campbell is one. But if he can take the reins and set the tone as the leader of the offense, the rest of the unit will follow along. Confidence is key, and Campbell definitely has that. He is a playmaker on defense, if he can do it on the other side as well, the Saints will be in good hands.