It was a busy weekend for Blitz in his non-OTH duties (that winter den isn’t going to construct itself), but before we focus on regional week, wanted to put a cap on what we saw last Friday.
Onto the Necessities…
• Playing Warsaw is incredibly frustrating. If the Tigers are able to run the ball effectively, they take away time and possessions from the opponent, putting considerable pressure on the offense to maximize their opportunities.
Carroll struggled to slow down Warsaw on the ground on Friday, allowing 367 yards. The Tigers were in good shape, if they could finish off all of their drives and get a few stops.
They really weren’t able to do either.
Warsaw lost two fumbles in the third quarter, both in Carroll territory.
Meanwhile, after a three-and-out on their first possession of the game, the Chargers scored points on each of their next six drives before running out the clock on drive No. 8 late in the fourth quarter.
Coach Bart Curtis’s team executed its game plan, but it did not finish drives and it was unable to consistently slow down Carroll offensively.
• Blitz is the sentimental type, but it still hits different seeing the late Owen Scheele being recognized and revered by the Carroll program. He meant so much to so many people, and there is no doubt in Blitz’s mind he has had a hand in this run by the Chargers this season. (More on Owen later)
• So many people point to Jimmy Sullivan as the reason the Carroll offense has been so good this season, and for good reason.
But do not discount the impact the rushing game has on a team that in recent years has struggled to move the ball on the ground.
As recently as 2020, Carroll was a one-dimensional offense. The Chargers went 7-3 that year, but lost in the first round of sectionals to Warsaw. Arguably the top runner on that team was the quarterback – Jeff Becker.
Fast-forward to 2022 and the offense is balanced with a solid rushing attack let by 1,000-yard rusher Nate Starks, who went for 176 yards and a score against the Tigers. Braden Steely scored twice on the ground against the Tigers, putting him into double-digit rushing scores this year.
Sullivan’s success is partly due to teams not being able to key just on the passing attack. Starks, Steely and company are delivering.
• When talking to North Side coach Ben Johnson last week, he mentioned how his team had to play smarter and not commit as many penalties as it did in the Week 1 game against Snider.
Well, Friday was better in that regard, but the Legends were still burned by 11 penalties for 71 yards. Perhaps none were bigger than the procedure penalty in the fourth quarter with North up three trying to add to its lead. The penalty pushed the Legends outside the five and they were unable to score, eventually turning the ball over on downs.
Snider made its fair share of mistakes, including a pair of turnovers and sub-par (at best) placekicking. But while the Panthers cleaned up their miscues late, North couldn’t get away from theirs.
• In a game of inches, field possession is paramount. Kamari Juarez did his part throughout the game in that regard.
His 37-yard touchdown on a short hitch route that he turned into a huge play earned the highlights, but it was Juarez’s consistency in the return game that was huge.
Juarez returned his lone punt back 42 yards and averaged 31 yards on his trio of kickoff returns. The senior never went down at first contact seemingly all night and was impactful throughout.
On a night when star players needed to step up big, Juarez did just that.
• Credit to Coach Kurt Tippmann for sticking with his top running back even after a costly fumble in the first half.
Langston Leavell put the ball on the ground and North Side recovered in a sequence that set the tone early on. But Tippmann continued to feed the senior to the tune of 19 carries for 137 yards. No one else ran the ball more than once.
Coaches are known to have short hooks when guys turn the ball over. Credit to Tippmann for having faith in Leavell and the senior in delivering.
• Stratton Fuller made two of the biggest plays of his career in the closing moments of Columbia City’s win over Leo.
The one that earned all the highlights was his block of the game-winning field goal try in the final seconds of regulation. Coming off the edge, the sophomore looked as if he was shot out of a cannon and blocked the try with ease.
But perhaps the most impressive play was in overtime.
On fourth-and-two, Leo elected to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal. On a jet sweep, Kamden Zeisloft looked to turn the corner and get into the end zone.
Not only did Fuller seal the edge, he also wrapped up Zeisloft and IMMEDIATELY pulled him backwards, preventing the junior from falling forward to try and reach the goal line. It was an incredibly heads-up play in which Fuller understood the situation and adjusted how he brought down the ball carrier.
You don’t see that type of field sense very much at the prep level.
• A poignant moment happened prior to Friday’s game in Columbia City for senior quarterback Colten Pieper.
Football players are creatures of habit, and Pieper has a ritual in which he gets the same sub from the same Subway before every home game. Looking to pull into the parking lot, he found himself behind a car with a plate that reminded him of friend and mentor Owen Scheele.
When Pieper told his mom, she responded by telling him that was no accident, that Owen was reminding him that he was still with him.
With dynamic victories over Norwell, Wayne and now Leo over the last month, it is hard to not believe that Pieper’s late friend isn’t looking out for the QB and his teammates at Columbia City.
• For all those who raised eyebrows and doubted the hiring of Jason Doerffler at Leo, consider those concerns put to rest.
Leo did not end its sectional drought, but it did win eight games with three of its four losses this season coming to sectional champions.
It is a squad that loses some heavy hitters in guys like Max Loeffler, Drew Baker and Ethan Crawford, but you have to like the potential seen in Brock Schott, Landin Hoeppner, Kylar Decker and a host of other underclassmen.
The Lions will be just fine, and Doerffler has proven he knows what he is doing to those who thought he didn’t.
• There is a classic gif out there with Michael Scott of ‘The Office’ in which Steve Carell’s character asks ‘Why don’t you explain this to me like I’m five?’
So Blitz asks, someone explain to him like he is five how a Norwell team allowing fewer than a touchdown a game gets torched for 42 by Yorktown?
And for the record, this is a Yorktown team that dropped only 22 points on Garrett the week before.
But the Knights had no answer for juniors Mason Moulton and Jalen Thomas. The quarterback Moulton threw for 158 yards and three scores while Thomas rushed for 166 yards and a trio of TDs.
But the line play made the difference. The push up front that Norwell was able to get most of the season was non-existent. You can bet that Yorkton saw opportunities watching the Columbia City tape that it was able to take advantage of.
Just a shocking loss for the Knights.
• Hindsight is undefeated, so it’s easy for some to lambast Norwell coach Josh Gerber for going for two with 24 seconds left for the win instead of kicking the PAT.
Austin DeLeon was perfect on the night in extra points, but just ask Leo how difficult a gimme kick can be with the game on the line.
In the end, no one can put themselves in the mind of Coach Gerber. He had his reasons. One may be the fact that Norwell’s defense was struggling mightily to get stops. And Norwell has been so good this year in short-yardage situations.
The try fell short and so did Norwell’s season. With pre-season aspirations of some championships, the Knights failed to win the NE8 and did not capture a sectional trophy.
• Anytime you beat Eastbrook, you know you have taken the battle in the trenches. It’s the only way to beat the Panthers because they are predicated on running the football.
Bluffton won the battle in the trenches on Friday, or at least came close enough in the 42-35 victory.
Yes, the Tigers allowed 422 yards rushing, but tey were able to move the ball well themselves with 311 yards on the ground.
In many ways it was the Devin Stupples v. Anthony Cruz show. The Eastbrook back Stupples ran for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Cruz carried the ball 226 yards and two scores on 24 carries.
Kudos to the Tigers for just their second sectional crown and first in 34 years.
• What if Carsen Jacobs does not get hurt on Friday?
That’s the question many in Butler asked themselves all weekend as Eastside saw its season end at the hand of Bishop Luers.
The Blazers quarterback rushed for 69 yards and a score on nine carries before leaving the game with an injury in the first half.
Eastside was held off the scoreboard over the final two quarters in the loss as Wyatt Davis took over behind center. He completed just 2-of-9 passes for 45 yards.
But the passing game wasn’t where Jacobs was truly missed, but rather his leadership and his running prowess. The three-headed rushing monster of Dax Holman, Briar Munsey and Jacobs had run roughshod over opponents all year. With Jacobs out, it hurt the Blazers tremendously.
Blitz isn’t saying Eastside would have won if Jacobs didn’t get sidelined, but…maybe.
• Not really sure what Blitz is supposed to say about Adams Central at this point.
Averaging over seven yards a play is pretty good, and your one pass completion going for a nine-yard touchdown from Ryan Black to Trevor Currie is impressive.
But Blitz cannot stress how paramount the next two games are for AC. The Flying Jets are going to be big favorites in each. They should win both, perhaps with ease.
But Lutheran is on another level. To be able to knock off the Saints in a rematch from last year’s state contest, you have to be firing on all cylinders, ready to play your most complete game of the year in a few weeks time.
Coach Michael Mosser needs to do all he can to make sure that happens. Sure, the focus is going to be on Carroll this week, but AC has to start game planning for Lutheran and practicing some things in games that it will need against the No. 1 team in 1A, namely sophomore QB Jackson Willis, who has thrown for 3,102 yards and 43 touchdowns this season.
Snider finished 3-of-3 on fourth down, while North Side went 1-of-6…North Side has now lost 11-consecutive games to Snider in the playoffs dating back to 1990, the last time North won a sectional title…Bluffton QB Braxton Betancourt threw nine TDs and 10 INTs in his first eight games of the season. In his last four, the junior has thrown seven TDs and just one INT.
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