BEAR NECESSITIES: What you need to know coming out of Week 4

Leo’s Landin Hoeppner talks to a teammate during a September 9 game against New Haven.

Another Friday of football is in the books, making next week the mid-way point of the regular season.

Hard to believe, but once the season starts it moves pretty fast.

Before we look ahead to Week 5 though, let’s put a bow on Week 4 with Bear Necessities.


• So much attention was thrust on the big matchups through the first two weeks of the SAC and what they meant, namely to compare the league to some of the best teams in the state, particularly around Indianapolis.

But there was a more important factor at play for the likes of Homestead and Bishop Luers – challenge young teams right from the jump and force them to sink or swim.

Heading into Week 3, the Spartans and Knights were a combined 0-4 and looked to be afterthoughts in their respective divisions in the SAC. Now, both are 2-2 and turning heads.

Homestead has put up 86 points over the last two weeks. While the competition hasn’t exactly been fierce, the youthful lineup of the Spartans benefitted from taking their lumps in the non-conference and its showing to have paid dividends.

Bishop Luers looked completely lost through the first two weeks, but going to Wayne Stadium and pulling out a win surprised a lot of people. Impressing Blitz was a defense that after giving up a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to make their advantage just three points, the Knights buckled down and held Wayne off.

The defense finished the night with 11 tackles for loss, three sacks and three fumble recoveries. Senior Wes Javins was the star, accounting for four TFL, two sacks and a fumble recovery to go with seven tackles.

• Credit North Side coach Ben Johnson for not overthinking things.

Entering Friday, Johnson’s team was 0-3 and desperately needed a spark with the season on the brink and an offense averaging just 12.6 points per game.

The solution for the offensive woes? Putting four-star Notre Dame commit Brauntae Johnson at quarterback.

Johnson delivered, accounting for six total touchdowns and 315 yards of total offense in North Side’s 70-39 rout of Concordia.

Now, we have to factor in a Cadets defense allowing 52 points per game, but Johnson made the right decision. Too many times Blitz has seen high school coaches overthink things by pigeon-holing their best player into strictly one role or, even worse, using him as a decoy.

Coaching at the high school level is rocket science. You take your best players and put them in the best positions to succeed. Coach Johnson did that with Tae Tae on Friday, resulting in a much-needed dub.

Do not over-complicate the simple.

• Credit Carroll for pulling away from a pesky Bishop Dwenger team on Friday, but as we look ahead to next week’s showdown with Snider, there were some warning signs, particularly in the trenches.

The Chargers were only able to rush for 24 yards on 18 carries against the Saints. Conversely, Bishop Dwenger rushed for 175 yards, albeit on 58 carries, not exactly a sterling average (three yards per attempt).

But when you start to examine the matchup with the Panthers, what are their strengths? Offensive and defensive lines.

Carroll has to be better up front on both sides next Friday.

New Haven’s Ajani Washington braces for a hit from a Leo player after a reception in September 9’s game.


• With Leo down one facing its extra point in overtime on Friday, Coach Jason Doerffler had a decision to make, quickly.

Riley Stewart had made all of his PATs in the game up until then. Leo, despite allowing a touchdown to New Haven to open OT, still had the momentum. At least, that’s how it felt to Blitz. With alternating possessions, the Lions were set to begin with the ball first in overtime No. 2.

Hindsight is undefeated, but Blitz is of the opinion that that isn’t the time to go for the dub. Would it have been easy to call for a simple fade to Kaden Hurst? Or a quick slant to Brock Schott? Or perhaps Hurst in the Wildcat to create? Yes, but the PAT felt like the right decision.

Leo isn’t going anywhere despite the loss, and Blitz is already looking forward to the inevitable rematch in sectional play, when it REALLY means something.

Ajani Washington had an emotional rollercoaster of a game for New Haven on Friday.

He was a big part of the first quarter blitz (not Blitz) of Leo as the Bulldogs built a 20-0 lead right off the jump, hauling in a 29-yard touchdown from Donovan Williams for New Haven’s second TD.

But he also fumbled twice, both in plus territory as the Bulldogs were driving.

But he bounced back from those, picking off Kylar Decker with a crucial INT when it seemed like every team was going to score a touchdown on every possession.

Washington finished the night with seven receptions, 87 yards and a TD along with the pick and two turnovers.

Having a short memory is crucial to success on the football field, whether it be positive or negative plays. Washington was a prime example of that on Friday.

• More players/parents could learn from Columbia City‘s Noah McDevitt.

Through his first few years dressing varsity, McDevitt rarely saw the field except in blowouts. Serving as a special teams player as well as tight end and defensive end, opportunities were few and far between.

But instead of complaining or transferring, McDevitt put in the work and awaited his opportunity. In the off-season, the Eagles moved him to middle linebacker. Even before the season started and how much he would play, McDevitt was voted a captain by his teammates.

Now, McDevitt is one of the NE8’s top breakout players, fresh off another big performance in Week 3 where he amassed seven tackles, three TFL and a pair of sacks. He is one of the team leaders in all three categories.

“Noah has just stuck with our program,” said Columbia City coach Brett Fox. “He’s always been invested, worked his butt off and now he’s getting his time to shine.

“It is a great lesson to young players that sometimes it just takes time.”

A lesson to players AND parents.

Leo, led by Jaxon Keller (4) and Jathan Ellington (17) bring down New Haven’s Tre Starks during a September 9 game.


• Fresh off his most recent performance in a 20-point win over South Adams, it is time to give some serious consideration to Heritage‘s Kobe Meyer for OTH Player of the Year.

Make no mistake, there is a LOT of football left to be played, with games against Bluffton and Adams Central looming, but Meyer has been outstanding through the first month of the 2023 season.

The senior has thrown for 653 yards 12 touchdowns and rushed for 655 yards and seven scores. He is a veteran signal caller that is leading his team as well as anyone so far.

Some folks get so focused on star rankings and hype. The OTH Player of the Year isn’t simply an award for the best talent or the most college potential, it is for who is the best at his craft over the season. Meyer is right up there so far.

• With so much being made about Bluffton‘s offense, we cannot forget about how good the defense has been in holding South Adams and Woodlan to a combined six points through two league games.

Johnny Cruz was an absolute menace against the Warriors on Friday, accumulating four tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Cruz is a space eater up front at 6-foot, 270 pounds, but can move pretty well for his size and Woodlan had no answer for him in Week 4.

New Haven’s Chris Stewart looks down the sideline at one of his coaches during September 9’s game at Leo.


• Let’s talk about Garrett.

Similar to some teams in the SAC, Garrett took its lumps through the first two weeks in losses to Adams Central and DeKalb, but it has paid off since.

Shutting out Churubusco in Week 3 was one thing, but holding a Lakeland team that had scored 130 points combined in Week 2 and 3 to just nine on Friday was nothing short of astounding.

What is truly surprising is that Garrett is doing it with youth. Its leading tackler is a sophomore – Brayden Nusbaum. Fellow sophomore Aiden Hunt has been stout in penetrating the backfield. The top six tacklers are all underclassmen, and junior Calder Hefty already has three INTs.

It gets no easier for the Railroaders with a trip to Eastside next week, but the youth movement has arrived and is performing for Garrett on defense.

• Credit to Fairfield for not laying over on the road at Culver Academy on Friday.

When Culver converted on a short field goal late in the third quarter, it held a 31-23 advantage. The Falcons did not give up another point while Breckan Maran went to work.

The running back accounted for two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions in the fourth quarter and overtime as Fairfield earned a 39-31 victory.

It was a big win with a huge matchup with West Noble on tap for Week 5.

• At this rate, can anyone stop West Noble‘s rushing attack?

The Chargers ran the ball for close to 300 yards and five touchdowns as a team, with Seth Pruitt going for 165 yards and four TDs on 21 carries.

West Noble has run for 1,131 yards on the season through four games.


North Side‘s 70 points in a win over Concordia sets a new program record for points in a game. The previous record was a 66-0 victory over Peru on Nov. 3, 1939…South Side has scored just seven points on Snider since 2018…Prior to this season, the last time South Adams lost two-consecutive ACAC games was in 2018 in defeats to Adams Central and Jay County.

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