We crossed the mid-way point of the regular season over the weekend, and with it several storylines coming out of Week 5
Let’s put a bow on the week with your favorite weekend highlight – Bear Necessities.
• We have given a lot of pub to sophomore Jimmy Sullivan for Carroll, and for good reason. but another sophomore continues to emerge offensively.
Nate Starks rushed for a career-high 115 yards and a touchdown in Friday’s rout of Bishop Dwenger. He has now equaled or surpassed his rushing yardage from the week before in every game this season.
Starks is shifty and quick and is exceptional at getting through the hole then kicking it to the outside to evade defenders and turn on the afterburners.
The duo of Sullivan-Starks is going to be deadly for the Chargers over the next several seasons.
• One of the best things about high school football is how guys can seemingly come out of nowhere to make an impact – even in their senior seasons.
Concordia Lutheran‘s Tim Okeowo fits that description. The senior had just three total carries in 2021, his only varsity touches prior to this year. Elevated to lead back status in 2022, he has rushed for 379 yards and a score, including a season-high 142 yards in Friday’s OT victory over Northrop.
As much as Blitz likes to think he knows about area football, it’s still cool to be surprised by guys who weren’t on the bear’s radar in the preseason.
• All credit to Brauntae Johnson, who is the top college prospect on the North Side roster.
But the biggest playmaker on the Legends isn’t the four-star recruit – it’s Jontae Lambert.
The senior’s 283-yard, three-touchdown effort against Bishop Luers was the latest in a series of eye-popping performances out of the running back.
Lambert has eclipsed 200-plus yards three different times already this year, and went for 133 yards against Snider in Week 1. He was “held” to 80 yards by Carroll in Week 3, the only time that the senior has not reached triple digits in yardage.
The senior is also a threat in the passing game. He still finished with over 140 yards of total offense against the Chargers as he caught three balls for 68 yards.
A lot of credit goes to the North Side offensive front. The difference between this North Side team and squads of the recent past is the run game and the ability to move the ball on the ground. Lambert is the centerpiece of that but that offensive line of Jordan King, Mitch Vargovich, Khristion Stalling, Jeremiah Adams and Jago Espinosa have been huge.
• Fresh off his 427 yards and seven touchdowns against South Side, Lamarion Nelson has vaulted over the 1,000-yard mark on the season already through five weeks for Wayne.
Blitz is unsure of the Fort Wayne record for yards and touchdowns in a game, but Nelson’s 427 yards was still over 150 yards short of the all-time Indiana rushing record of 581 yards by Chase Van Schoyck of North Central (Farmersburg) in 2013. Chris Thomas and Devonair Kelsaw both ran for over 300 yards semi-recently for Wayne and Deion Powers scored 7 touchdowns for the Generals against Concordia in 2014.
Nelson is one of three running backs in the state who have already surpassed the thousand-yard mark this season. Roncalli’s Luke Hansen sits at 1,319 yards on the ground while Clarksville’s Robert Lamar has 1,231 yards.
Nelson is an absolute beast for the Generals. He is in rarified air in terms of the yardage he has been able to pile up so far in 2022.
• When Columbia City takes the field against New Haven in Week 6, it will have been a full month since the Eagles last punted.
Over the last three games, Coach Brett Fox‘s team has outscored opponents 132-7 in victories over Bellmont, Huntington North and DeKalb.
However, the schedule has recently laid out to where the final four games of the regular season are telling for Columbia City. But with how this team has played, Blitz gives the Eagles a shot at proving it is the second-best team in the Northeast Eight.
Norwell is in a league of its own. But are the Eagles better than East Noble and Leo?
If the offense continues to rush for 275 yards a game, Colten Pieper protects the ball at QB and the defense keeps owning opponents, Columbia City could keep rolling even as it enter the difficult portion of its regular-season slate.
• It seems to Blitz as if the Leo roster and Coach Jason Doerffler are figuring out each other.
Over the last two weeks, we have seen a pronounced focus on the run game out of the Lions. Since the 27-0 blanking at the hands of Norwell in Week 3, the Lions have been able to win the battle in the trenches against both New Haven and East Noble.
On Friday, Leo had 33 rushing attempts against just nine passes by quarterback Kylar Decker. While this isn’t a monumental shift to the rushing attack necessarily, it is an identification by the coaching staff that at this point, it has a running game that should be more of an onus than it was at the start of the year.
That goes back to Coach Doerffler taking game night lessons and changing what the offensive priorities are – a sign of a veteran coach.
• Close to 60 points on just 243 yards of total offense?
It looks puzzling for Norwell until you realize that the Knights scored on three turnovers – a pair of pick-sixes and a fumble recovered for a score.
It was another week in which Norwell showcased just how good the defense is. Last year in the regional round, Brebeuf pushed around the Knights defense for four quarters. You can bet that had been a point of emphasis for Coach Josh Gerber in the offseason. Get stronger, more physical, quicker. Norwell leads the state in defensive average, giving up just 2.8 points per game through the first five games.
On Friday, Drew Graft intercepted two passes and returned them both for touchdowns against New Haven. Drew Ringger scored on a fumble recovery; the loose ball forced by Trey Bodenheimer.
Entering the year, Blitz knew Norwell was good, but felt that other teams in the north such as Chatard and West Lafayette were better.
Now, Blitz is not so sure.
• The absurdity that is Adams Central‘s domination of the ACAC only gets more pronounced with each passing week.
The Flying Jets averaged eight yards per play in their 42-7 win over Heritage. Ryan Black had three completions all game, two of which went for touchdowns.
It’s just getting hard trying to make a case for any other team in the league to be within 30 points of Coach Michael Mosser‘s squad.
• In Week 1, 16 of Bluffton’s 22 starters were making their first-ever career varsity start. It showed as the Tigers were shut out by Northfield.
But the youngsters have grown up quickly as Coach Brent Kunkel‘s squad has won three of four since, including a 34-7 drubbing of Jay County on Friday.
The rushing game has led the way and it is a mix of young and old. Senior Anthony Cruz went for 133 yards against Jay County and leads the Tigers in rushing on the season. But freshman Khamel Moore had his breakout game against the Pats as well, going for 122 yards and a score.
Kunkel’s team has looked good and is prepping well for a final three games of Heritage, Adams Central and Lakeland.
• Kudos to sophomore Brody Morgan, who set a program record with 296 yards passing for Central Noble in its 42-0 blanking of Fremont.
Over half of those yards went to junior Taylor Deck, who hauled in four catches for 153 yards and a score.
• Tyler Call only threw for 42 yards and six completions for Angola on Friday, a sub-par night for a passing quarterback.
But as a rusher, Call went for 167 yards and two scores as the Hornets rolled. His touchdowns went for 26 and 38 yards, both coming in the first half when Angola built a 27-0 lead by halftime.
With wins now over West Noble and Lakeland, Angola could effectively put the NECC Big Division away with a victory over Fairfield in Week 6.
• Warsaw was forced into throwing the ball when it got behind NorthWood on Friday and it took the Tigers completely out of their comfort zone.
Warsaw completed just 2-of-10 passes for 37 yards. Despite rushing for 244 yards, the Tigers were unable to keep pace with a NorthWood team that tripled the amount of points (42) that Coach Bart Curtis‘s team had given up through the first four games combined (14).
Snider was 4-of-5 on fourth down against Homestead on Friday…Bellmont has been shut out in four of its first five games…Jake Snyder completed four passes for Woodlan against Southern Wells, all went for touchdowns…Columbia City has outscored NE8 opponents 132-7 in three games while Norwell has outscored NE8 opponents 134-7.
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