2023 FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Five area teams with something to prove this season

New Haven’s Mylan Graham leads the way, but more is needed in a pivotal season for the ‘Dogs. (Photo by Ayden Moore)

While every team in the area has visions of a winning season, some have more motivation than others.

For some, it could be high preseason expectations. For others, it could be bouncing back from a down season.

There is a multitude of reasons why, but suffice to say there is a bit more incentive with the teams below to put together a solid, if not stellar, 2023 campaign.


The Spartans’ five losses were the most in a season in close to a decade last season, with 2013 also signifying the last time the team finished without a winning record.

Couple that with the fact that Homestead’s nemesis – Carroll – routed Sparty by 42 points and broke through in Class 6A with a trip to semistate. Over the last two years, Homestead has nine losses while the rival Chargers have just three.

Fair or not, inevitably folks compare the pair of 6A powers, and Carroll is currently the darling.

While there are questions on offense, Homestead’s defense is what must improve significantly. Four of the Spartans’ five losses saw them allow 35 or more points. It starts up front, where departed senior Jackson Christmon had 8.5 sacks in 2022 and no one else had more than 1.5.

If Coach Chad Zolman’s team can up the intensity and execution on defense, it can improve the win total. But games against Carmel, Noblesville, Snider and Carroll will decide just how many more games the Spartans win.


Coach Jason Doerffler’s first season at the helm of the Lions was far from a failure, but the four losses were the most since 2018, and three losses to league opponents (twice to Columbia City, once to Norwell) was the highest in 15 seasons.

Last year was an adjustment for both coach and program as Doerffler adjusted to higher expectations and a vastly more engaged fan base (sorry Northrop) and players adapted to the new head man’s philosophy and schemes.

Year 2 sees less of a learning curve. And with talent in bunches on both sides of the ball, the belief is that this team should ascend back to the top of the Northeast Eight after a year hiatus.

There is also that postseason title drought that is entering Year 12. The Lions came close last year to breaking through, but Columbia City earned a 27-21 victory in the sectional championship.

Might the dry spell end in 2023?


Every conversation in regards to the Bulldogs starts with Mylan Graham – the five-star Ohio State commit expected to have a massive senior campaign.

But Coach Kyle Booher’s team needs to be more than just one player if it wants to contend for its first league championship since 2017. And it needs more than just superb skill position players that includes the likes of quarterback Donovan Williams, running back Tre Bates and Concordia Lutheran transfer Ajani Washington.

This is a team that lost five times in 2022 with everyone mentioned above outside of Washington. Line play and depth proved to be the Achilles Heels of the Bulldogs a season ago. Without a significant uptick with both, New Haven will struggle to compete with the big boys of the NE8.

So while the hype is going to be around the studs, improving along the offensive and defensive fronts and avoiding attrition will make or break New Haven’s 2023.


Coach Sherwood Haydock mentioned over the summer that not only is this the best roster he has had with Wayne in terms of talent, this is the first squad that truly feels like “his” in the sense that they know what expectations are.

There’s a lot to like about the Generals. Harold Mack is a legit D1 receiver. Jacob Sharin is one of the top area linebackers. Deonte Williams Jr. is about to have a breakout season. But there are still legitimate concerns about the offensive and defensive lines and if the Generals can hang for four quarters against the majority of the teams on its schedule.

Nothing put that more on display than the sectional game against Columbia City in which Wayne led by as many as 14 points, but couldn’t get stops in the second half in a 41-36 loss.

The schedule is backloaded with the likes of Carroll, North Side and Snider in Week 6 or later. A fast start would be big for the Generals.


Everyone is still looking up at Adams Central in the Allen County Athletic Conference, but there is movement to be had below the Flying Jets. Heritage and Bluffton look like teams on the rise, but what about Woodlan?

The Warriors have went from one to three to four wins in three years under Coach Mike Smith, trending in the right direction. Could a breakout be coming in Year 4? Jacob Snyder was an underrated QB in the area last season and he is gone, leaving a tremendous void.

Might the Warriors begin an ascent up in the conference? The first four weeks are critical with Eastside and Central Noble in the non-conference followed by Heritage and Bluffton.

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