Every team in Indiana is guaranteed 10 games – nine regular-season matchups and one postseason contest – making Friday the unofficial mid-way point of the 2023 campaign.
And in Blitz’s mind, it was the most telling in terms of who is at the top of some of the area leagues.
We will tackle that and plenty more in Bear Necessities this week.
• How about some love for Bishop Dwenger?
Many were quick to jump on the bandwagon hating on the Saints when they were handed their worst loss in school history, a 57-0 shellacking at the hands of Cincinnati Moeller. Yet Coach Jason Garrett‘s squad has bounced back in three weeks since, knocking off North Side and Homestead and battling Carroll for longer than anyone thought.
Friday was particularly impressive. Bishop Dwenger’s first three drives went missed field goal, INT, punt. It then followed that up with touchdowns on four successive drives to pull ahead. Homestead scored late but could not convert on the point after and the Saints escaped with a 28-27 win.
Ethan Springer has been a work in progress all season, and the quarterback had his best night of the year thus far in throwing for 142 yards and three touchdowns in the victory while also running for a fourth score.
The Saints may not be an true power team in the SAC this year like they usually are, but they are making their case as the third-best squad in the league.
• Speaking of Homestead and Bishop Dwenger, there was plenty of back and forth on social media on Friday night and Saturday about the chippy play during and after the whistle.
While Blitz took in Carroll-Snider live, he did go back and see some of the Homestead-Dwenger game as well as talk to a few folks who were there. There was some definite extracurricular activity going on, with a questionable takedown of Homestead sophomore Michael White seeing him exit the game.
Thing is, you’re gonna blame who you want to blame depending on what side you are on. The most glaring thing that Blitz saw was the lack of control exhibited by the officiating crew.
This isn’t an attack on individual referees or officials, but the best of the best corral the type of behavior we saw on Friday way before it gets to a boiling point. Whether it be penalties or discussions with players or coaches, you can steer clear of things getting ugly if it is addressed early on. It didn’t seem as if that happened in that game.
• Not sure Blitz has seen this stat line before.
In Bishop Luers‘ 38-0 blanking of Concordia Lutheran, the Cadets were held without a single yard of rushing gained.
In fact, they lost 45.
That’s right, Concordia finished with minus-45 yards rushing in the loss. Victor Sawyer was the leading rusher with 35 yards on 12 carries, but it was offset by significant lost yardage on sacks, with quarterbacks Carter Ripke and Bradan Corbett each being taken down three times.
A complete smothering of the Concordia rushing game by the Knights.
• A couple of brothers had big nights for North Side on Friday.
Freshman Caleb Kiengele scored his first varsity touchdown for the Legends in their victory over Northrop, a four-yard pass from Brauntae Johnson in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, brother Josh Masasu, a junior linebacker, amassed seven tackles and a pair of tackles for loss in the victory.
Masasu led North in tackles last year as a sophomore, while Kiengele was dominating middle schoolers at Northwood. Now the two are together, with Kiengele joining his brother on the varsity roster from the start of this season, a sign of his potential.
Expect more big stat lines from the duo over the next few years.
• Want to hear (read?) something astounding?
Jimmy Sullivan has thrown four interceptions this season (to go with eight touchdown passes), all of which have been returned for touchdowns.
On Friday against Snider, Brandon Logan picked off Sullivan twice in a 78-second span that were both returned to paydirt. The same thing happened in Week 1 when Mason Alexander took two interceptions back for scores.
• What made Columbia City so good last year was a stellar offensive front with a bevy of capable rushers. That seems to be the case again here in 2023.
An afterthought last year as a junior who got just eight carries the entire year, Cayden Sroufe has led the way on the ground for the Eagles this year. His most recent effort was arguably his best as he scored four touchdowns on Friday against DeKalb – three rushing and one passing – to go with 197 yards of total offense.
Sroufe has scored nine of Columbia City’s 25 rushing touchdowns on the year, displaying not just his effectivness, but the dominance of the Eagles on the ground.
Will that continue as the schedule stiffens beginning Week 6 at New Haven?
• Credit to Leo for winning ugly on the road at East Noble.
You could say they lost in pretty fashion in the shootout against New Haven in Week 4, but Friday was a grinder. The Lions picked up just seven first downs, put the ball on the ground multiple times and completed only seven passes.
But the defense was stout all night, holding East Noble to a single touchdown and a combined 8-of-26 on third and fourth downs.
It’s all about execution, and Leo executed just enough to pull out the 14-7 win.
• Bluffton‘s latest win showcased its strength against the run once again, holding Jay County to 45 yards rushing and a 1.5 yard per rush average.
Included in the defensive effort were nine tackles for loss, led by Deontae Eskridge‘s trio for the game.
As good as the offense could be for the Tigers, having any chance of hanging with Adams Central in Week 7 hinges on stopping, or at least slowing down, the Jets’ rushing attack. If that can’t happen, Bluffton has no shot.
Jay County’s offense isn’t Adams Central’s, but it was the latest good defensive performance from a defensive front that will need to be at its best in a few weeks.
• Woodlan got a much-needed 33-3 victory over Southern Wells on Friday, doing so without its head coach.
Coach Mike Smith missed Friday and will be absent next week as well for undisclosed reasons.
The Warriors get Jay County at home in Week 6.
Heritage had a lot of miscues on Friday night and they struggled to move the ball against a very tough Adams Central defense.
But one big takeaway was the play of Caleb Abbott, who looked really good in multiple situations for the Patriots. Their opening drive was dead to rights, a three and out before the Flying Jets even blocked the Heritage punt. But Abbott stuck it out, recovered the block and rumbled hard for the first down as AC did everything in their power to get him down.
Abbott also recovered an Adam Central fumble early in the second quarter.
Abbott was not just a first effort guy Friday night in his team’s first loss of the season. He was giving second efforts and third efforts. That kind of momentum is a big positive for Heritage going forward the rest of the season.
• Churubusco‘s running game got right against Prairie Heights in a 52-7 win. The Eagles rushed for 409 yards and seven touchdowns in the rout, with nine different players getting at least one rush.
It was a feel-good win for ‘Busco, which hadn’t started 0-4 prior to this season since 2003.
• Lakeland came back strong this week from the one hiccup on their record, running for 367 yards in a shootout win over an ever improving Angola team.
Sean Conley put up one of the best weeks rushing for anyone in the area this season with 250 yards and 3three touchdowns while Carson Mickem added 100 yards rushing.
With the Lakers sitting just one game out of the NECC Big Division top spot, a week 7 matchup with West Noble still very much looks like a premiere game and that has not always ben the case.Lakeland’s loss to Garrett in Week 4 had us asking a lot of questions but their tough win Friday makes them once again seem like the top contender to the Chargers.
Warsaw Tigers stand up! The Tigers are still tied atop the Northern Lakes race at 3-0 in conference with a game looming next Friday against also 3-0 Mishawaka.
The big thing for the Tigers was their offense as a team that scored just 17, 8 and 10 points in three of their four games previously this season. The 5-0 overall Tigers put up 42 on Friday night against a NorthWood team that is laden with high level talent.
No talent though could match Reed Zollinger, who came within a whisker of setting the program record of rushing yards. Zollinger’s 313 yards was just nine short of the school record set by Tristan McClone in 2012 against Northridge when he ran for 322. Zollinger did match the school record with 45 carries and being that close to either record is very hard considering the history of running backs under the ‘Bart Ball’ ways at Warsaw.
All around, Warsaw has to be happy with limiting NorthWood’s two Division 1 players. While Georgia commit Nitro Tuggle did have 173 receiving yards, he did not reach the end zone. Michigan commit Jojo Edmond has held to just five tackles.
While the Tigers sit outside of our four main area conferences, it could be argued that their forthcoming week 6 matchup is as important as any match up in the area.
Huntington North‘s last three NE8 wins have all come against Bellmont…Through five games, Tre Bates of New Haven is averaging 8.4 yards per rush…South Adams and Monroe Central combined to go 3-of-28 on third down…Eastside finished with just 14 yards passing in its win over Garrett…Friday saw a couple of nice blocked punt plays. At South Side, Wayne‘s Jaysean Douglas returned a blocked punt for a touchdown…Columbia City‘s 48.8 points per game is tops among area teams and tied for 5th in the state. Adams Central is second in the area in scoring average at 43.6 points per game, but has the best defense in the area, giving up just 6.4 points per game, which is 6th best in the state.