Sometimes rematches just happen randomly. Other times we have been anticipating them for quite awhile.
This showdown definitely falls in the latter category.
After colliding in the 2021 Class A state championship, Lutheran and Adams Central are back for Round 2 this season. It was obvious that these teams were on a path to meet again, and we get it at 11 a.m. Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Let’s break down the matchup.
1. FANCY SEEING YOU HERE
No teams in Class 1A are to the caliber of either Lutheran or Adams Central. Not even close.
The duo were the only squads in the state’s lowest class to rank in the top 40 overall in the Sagarin Ratings. Lutheran leads the state in winning margin at 39.7 points per game. The Flying Jets? Third overall at 35.9 a contest.
There is nothing guaranteed when it comes to the playoffs in any sport, but these squads have been undoubtedly the best in Class 1A all season long. It is fitting they meet on this stage once again.
2. HERE WE GO AGAIN
Last November, Adams Central had to deal with prolific quarterback Montasi Clay of Lutheran, who completed close to 70 percent of his passes against the Flying Jets for 269 yards and three touchdowns. He was also dangerous with his legs, scampering for 69 yards and the game-winning score with a little over a minute left in Lutheran’s 34-28 victory.
The blessing was that Clay was a senior.
Unfortunately for the Flying Jets, Clay has been replaced by sophomore Jackson Willis, who has destroyed Lutheran records books this season to the tune of a 69 percent completion percentage, 3,890 yards, 51 touchdowns and just six INTs.
The fortunate thing for AC is that Willis not as adept of a runner as Clay was. Clay’s ability to extend plays with his legs was a huge asset in last year’s matchup. While Willis may be a more prolific passer, the Flying Jets may be able to defend him better.
3. DEFENSES REIGN
As expected, both of these squads have stingy defenses, with neither allowing more than 200 total yards per game.
The Lutheran rush defense has been particularly stout, with teams only able to muster 52 yards on the ground per game.
We all know that the bread and butter of what AC does begins and ends with the running game. Can Coach Michael Mosser’s squad find a way to keep the chains moving?
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Joe Davis, senior, Lutheran
We mentioned the QB Willis, but in case you think that Lutheran is one-dimensional, consider that the senior Davis has rushed for 1,769 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, averaging close to eight yards PER ATTEMPT. In the Saints’ spread offense, Davis is a key component that forces teams to respect the run game and not key on trying to take away the prolific passing attack.
QB Ryan Black, senior, Adams Central
Folks not familiar with AC are going to gloss over Black’s stats and look at others at the key to this game. Don’t fall into that trap. Everything the Flying Jets do runs through Black. His ability to read defenses, distribute the ball to the right people in the Wing-T and be able to strike downfield on occasion are all overlooked assets with this offense. Oh, and he has 28 rushing touchdowns.
LB Johnny Hall, junior, Lutheran
As a sophomore, Hall was one of the standout players for the Saints and showed it in the state finals with eight tackles. Now one year older and wiser, the outside linebacker is one of the more dynamic players in Lutheran’s 3-3-5 odd stack defense. With 105 tackles, six TFL, four INT, three forced fumbles and a sack, Hall has a knack for being around in the football, whether it be close to the line of scrimmage against the run or dropping into coverage. The Flying Jets must account for No. 16 at all times.
LB/RB Keegan Bluhm, junior, Adams Central
Much like Hall, Bluhm has seen a lot of varsity football action before his senior season. He was one of the top tacklers last year as a soph and he continues to be a menace on defense in 2022. The fact that Bluhm is also AC’s leading rusher only increases his importance in this matchup. The junior has rushed for close to 1,500 yards and is second on the team with 89 tackles while tops in interceptions (four) and forced fumbles (three).
KEY TO VICTORY – LUTHERAN
Continue the dominance
To say that the Saints’ road to the Class 1A state championship game was easy would be an understatement. All told, Lutheran outscored its five playoff foes prior to state by a combined 238-14.
Blitz isn’t alone amongst folks in northeast Indiana that Adams Central can compete and win this game. But the dominance in which Lutheran has displayed – an undefeated record, knocking off the likes of 2A powers Triton Central and Scecina, the lopsided box scores – could mean that the Saints have a decided advantage in this one.
If that is the case, Lutheran simply has to play its game to earn a convincing victory.
KEY TO VICTORY – ADAMS CENTRAL
Run the football
Lutheran is incredibly stingy with its rush defense, while the Flying Jets average over 315 yards per game. AC was able to do its thing on the ground last year enough to not take it completely out of its element. It must do the same thing against arguably a better defensive unit than the Saints had a year ago.
Per usual, the Flying Jets have a vast array of rushing weaponry that can be deployed on Saturday morning – Bluhm, Black, Gavin Cook, Ryan Tester, etc. Run the football. Play keep away. Eat up clock. Score. Repeat.
The game we knew was coming a few months ago is finally here. A rematch of an instant classic a season ago that saw Lutheran make the plays late to overcome a deficit and win.
This is a better Lutheran team than a year ago, which is a scary fact to face if you are an Adams Central fan. Plus, the Saints are a different team in terms of how their offenses operates with a more pure-passing QB behind center this year.
Adams Central has to be able to control this game with its run game. If Lutheran shuts down the rushing attack, the Flying Jets have no shot. Conversely, if Willis is able to throw the ball all over the field, the Flying Jets have no shot.
AC can win this game, it just needs a lot to go right. If this is close in the fourth, anything can happen.
BLITZ SAYS LUTHERAN BY 6.