CARROLL AT HOMESTEAD
The game is bigger this season than it has been for many years. Why? It’s two-fold.
Fold one: The perceived last stepping stone for Carroll to make the Victory Bell all its own. The Chargers sit 6-0 in the conference and even with a loss are in the drivers seat for a title, owning the tie breaker over one-loss Snider. A win Friday doesn’t “clinch” the conference, but it does in our mind. Meanwhile, Homestead could need a win to finish in the top half of the conference; a concept that is just wild to think about.
Fold two: The mostly (and surprisingly) unmentioned fact that Carroll QB Jimmy Sullivan was a Homestead Spartan as recently as late this past summer. Why he moved isn’t a conversation that will be held here, but he did and now he faces his old team. If there is any chip left on the shoulder of the Charger pass slinger, he’s going to work to remove it Friday in the biggest game of his young career. And you can bet the Spartans would like to send a message as well.
Homestead has dominated this rivalry game over the years, winning 30 of the last 40 meetings. Two years ago was an offensive shootout with Homestead winning 70-41, but last season it was Carroll that took both the regular season and sectional wins.
Players to Watch: Cam Herschberger of Carroll and Grant Leeper of Homestead
Let’s key in on the receivers..
As much love as Sullivan has rightfully gotten all season, it is fair to give plenty of credit to a receiving corps of Carroll that may be a bit under the radar. Herschberger leads that group with 19 receptions for 276 yards. He leads the Chargers in receiving yards and is a big-time weapon that has made timely plays.
For Homestead, Leeper ranks third in in receptions on the team, but Friday could be an impactful game. There is no secret that Carroll’s tough defense with key on Brett Fuchs, forcing the Spartans to make some other reads. Leeper has just 14 receptions compared to Fuchs’ 37 or Mason Auxier’s 21, but three of them are for touchdowns. Leeper’s ability to get up and play the ball is huge, so toss it up to Grant and see what he can do.
SOUTH SIDE AT NORTH SIDE
Is it the best overall rivalry in the area? There will be fiery debate on that one, but the reality is that by being the oldest rivalry in the conference, with games dating back to 1927, it certainly has withstood the test of time.
There is a lot of source material to suggest that it shouldn’t be close in 2022 as North Side is thriving while South Side is in the midst of a winless season. It also shouldn’t have been close last fall and it was; one of those “throw out the record” kind of games.
Both want the trophy, as simple and old school as it is. The Totem Pole is the second-best prize in the SAC behind the Victory Bell because of its history, uniqueness and still stunning visual effect. South Side won the first meeting in 1927 by a score of 34-0 and despite a tie in 1929, North Side didn’t beat South Side until a 26-7 win in 1935. North Side has won the totem pole 54 times to South Side’s 39 according to history provided by the schools.
North Side has won 25 of the last 35 matchups between the duo. South Side has not held the Totem Pole since it walked into Chambers Field with it in 2018 after winning it in 2016 and 2017.
The Archers will need to find some playmakers if they want to make any waves, like last year when they fell in a close one 29-26 to North. Larrenz Tabron will need some support, as he has been forced to make a lot of plays from the QB spot the first six weeks. More importantly, the South Side defense needs to be stronger than the 41 points per game the unit is surrendering. They have only registered five sacks, but will need to get into the backfield against North Side.
The Legends have no shortage of playmakers with Jontae Lambert one of the best running backs in the state, rushing for 1,242 yards (207 per game) and eclipsing the 100-yard mark five times. Bohde Dickerson has slung the ball well to the tune of 1,142 yards and Brauntae Johnson is anything but a decoy at receiver, leading the SAC in yards/game (106.8) and also in total receptions despite missing a week.
Players to Watch: Jayden Morris of South Side and Brashawn Bassett of North Side
Morris has been the biggest bright spot for winless South Side, ranking seventh in the conference in receiving yards through the first six weeks at 360 on 25 receptions. He has the ability to make plays if he can get some open field to work with. Bassett is a name we haven’t heard much this season despite the fact that he is second on the Legends in tackles with 32 and has a pair of sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Bassett is a disruptor and the last thing the Archers can afford is to be disrupted.
BISHOP DWENGER AT BISHOP LUERS
Two of the squads in the upper half of the SAC as things currently stand, the ‘Battle of the Bishops’ presents two squads who are prepping for the postseason in completely different ways.
The Knights of Luers seem to be churning along. A bit of an afterthought in the preseason, Luers has been trading wins and losses but look strong in its wins and battled Homestead close.
Meanwhile, Dwenger has been forced to adjust with the loss of quarterback Sam Campbell. You never want to lose your QB and you certainly don’t want to lose a leader like he is on the field.
Charlie Stanski is the second leading passer in the conference in yardage and ranked 20th in the state of those who report stats to MaxPreps. That is a huge deal for a kid who was overlooked when talking about the best passers in the SAC in the preseason. Stanski throws for 213.3 yards per game for the Knights and has a bevy of high quality and athletic receivers with Nick Thompson, Brayden McInturf and Isaac Zay.
Dwenger on the other hand is back at the drawing board with sophomore Braxton Bermes under center, but he performed well last week in a win over Concordia. How will he handle a better defense in a bigger game? We all are interested in seeing how that plays out. With Bermes as more of pocket presence than the mobile Campbell, it will rely on CJ Davis, Carter Minix and Stellan Ruston to get open against an underrated Luers defensive backfield.
Dwenger has dominated this rivalry recently, but did catch the L in a 41-38 game last season.
Players to Watch: Tobias Tippmann of Dwenger and Cadell Wallace of Luers
With Campbell out, the Saints may need to really win this battle in the trenches with a run game that has been solid, but not as stellar as we are used to. At the forefront has been Tobias Tippmann, but he is only averaging 34.4 yards per game. While the Saints have been running back by committee much of the year, someone will need to take the lead soon. Cadell Wallace represents that underrated Luers defensive backfield that has tallied nine interceptions this season, including two from Wallace. He is a bit undersized, but has good athleticism and has shown he can really make plays, with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to his stat line.
NORTHROP AT SNIDER
Rivalries usually don’t get as lopsided historically as this one is, but it also serves as a credit to the programs that people are still highly invested in Northrop and Snider.
One of those reasons is that on Friday night, Snider will take the field as the home team. Yet, there will still be a Bruin in the middle of the field and Spuller Stadium is still smack dab in the middle of Northrop High School’s campus. So playing for bragging rights of a stadium that is shared makes this one fun. That said, Snider has won 40 of the last 44 meetings while Northrop hasn’t had a winning record since 2003 and last beat the Panthers in 1999 with 24-14 sectional win.
Snider has gone about business as usual all season, lost perhaps in the minds of some because of Carroll’s unbeaten season at the top. But the Panthers are a touchdown away from being that top team themselves. When Luke Haupert has been able to stay in the pocket for Snider, he has been dangerous passing the ball, but the emergence of a deep line of running backs has really helped the Panthers shine. Langston Leavell and Uriah Buchanan have led that, but De’Jeur Johnson has made some plays, as has De’Alcapon Veazy. With over 169 rushing yards per game, the Snider backs have been stout.
If anyone knows that Snider offense though, it is first-year Northrop coach Quentin Bowen, a long-time assistant with the Panthers. That doesn’t guarantee success for the Bruins, but it’s not a bad thing to have on your side. Can that run game knowledge of Snider help? Julante Hinton and Micah Cowherd are both solid on the ends, but can Northrop clog up the middle?
Players to Watch: Kamari Juarez of Snider and Josh Taylor of Northrop
Juarez is a no-brainer because he just turns on the jets. He has been the top target of Haupert this season, hauling in 15 catches for 317 yards; that is over 20 yards per catch. But Juarez has also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, making him one of the most dangerous guys in the area once he has the ball in his hands. Taylor has been a solid light for Northrop defensively with two of the team’s five interceptions, along with 22 tackles and a forced fumble. He can try to help Northrop alter the game in a variety of ways in both run and pass defense.
WAYNE AT CONCORDIA LUTHERAN
The non-rivalry game on the night. There aren’t what anyone would consider hard feelings between these two teams, but with natural rivalries with the rest of the SAC, this game could be considered the ‘Leftover Rivalry.” With Wayne leading the series 20-17 over the last 35 seasons, this may be the most even of any of the rivalry games in Fort Wayne.
What helps is both teams are sitting at 2-4, away from the top of the SAC but also not at the bottom. They are actually playing for conference positioning, even if it isn’t a position that matters a lot. They too, like most teams in the SAC, are now prepping for the playoffs and a chance to see just how much the tough SAC schedule has prepped them for potential runs later. Wayne took last year’s battle 28-26, with Concordia winning the two seasons in a row prior. Wayne last won back-to-back games in the series in 2009 and 2010.
There isn’t as much of a sell for this game because there isn’t a “true” rivalry, but the game could sell itself. There is a high likelihood that this is the most competitive game in the SAC this week. If the rest of rivalry week is a dud, you would be happy to be at Zollner stadium on Friday.
Both teams are looking to get back into the win column after Week 5 wins turned into Week 6 losses. Expect this game to be pretty fun.
Players to Watch: Lamarion Nelson of Wayne and Ajani Washington of Concordia Lutheran
These are two of the most athletic and best skill position players in the conference. The fact that Friday’s game is for 7th place in the SAC means that neither probably gets the attention they deserve despite some really breakout performances by Nelson this season. Nelson is hard to take down despite everyone knowing he is getting a lot of carries. He is averaging 192.3 yards per game (1,154 total yards) and is just a Mack truck in the punishment he doles out.
Washington has made a smooth transition from the basketball court and has hauled in 30 receptions for 576 yards and seven touchdowns, making him the top receiver in the SAC in total receiving yards and touchdowns so far.
Check back for Blitz’s picks to find out!