Are you ready for some football?
Area prep football teams will find out if they are or not come Friday night.
The 2012 high school season kicks off on local gridirons with squads looking to start the year off on the right foot.
A win or a loss in week one doesn’t determine the season, but a good start can go a long way to making the next two months a success.
Even though it’s just week one and mid-August, teams will spend the next nine weeks preparing for the postseason. Sectional play is slated for Oct. 19, 26 and Nov. 2 with regional games Nov. 9, semi state contests Nov. 16 and the State Finals Nov. 23-24 in Indianapolis.
The opening night docket locally finds Warsaw at Columbia City, Wawasee traveling to Whitko, Tippecanoe Valley hosting Culver Academy and Triton playing at Caston.
Following is a look at the lid lifters for the 2012 campaign.
Warsaw at Columbia City (7:00)
The focus for Warsaw will be on finding a way to contain Jared Murphy Friday night.
Easier said than done.
Murphy, City’s do-it-all senior star, will be a big key to the final outcome. The Eagles won 34-14 at WCHS in 2011.
“It all starts with No. 5 (Murphy) for them,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen of City. “They are a good team, but they go as he goes. He’s a legit Division I player, who can play all over. He’ll play slot, split end, quarterback, safety and return kicks. We’ll have our hands full.”
Jensen, who is looking for his 100th career coaching win Friday night, likes the look of his team as they attempt to improve on last year’s 4-6 mark.
“We’ve practiced well and we competed better in the scrimmage with Clay last week than we did last year,” Jensen said. “The big positive there was that we got after them. We’re confident in who can help us on Friday night.”
Murphy led the Eagles to a 6-4 finish in 2011. The 5-10, 165-pounder did everything his junior season with 145 yards and three touchdowns rushing, 631 yards and six scores receiving and 385 yards and five touchdowns passing. He also returned two kickoffs for scores and is a two-time all-conference pick at defensive back.
Jensen, whose team started 0-3 a year ago, will go with junior Austin Head at quarterback. Head, who threw for 535 yards and five touchdowns in 2011, was competing with sophomore Jake Mangas for the starting nod.
“Austin has been there,” said Jensen. “He has varsity game experience from last year and he’s more used to the speed of the game at the varsity level.”
Jensen points to a pair of areas that will be key to success Friday night.
“We can’t give up the big plays,” said Jensen. “We have to make them drive the ball and we can’t turn it over. If it’s a track meet, we’re in trouble.”
Wawasee at Whitko (7:30)
The Warriors took another step forward by going 7-3 in 2011, but graduation hit hard in Syracuse.
Coach Tom Wogomon returns just eight starters, including only three on defense, for his sixth season. Wawasee blanked Whitko 23-0 in last year’s season opener.
Wawasee will rely heavily on its ground game, led by All-NLC performer Derrick Sorensen. The senior rushed for 809 yards and eight scores. Senior DJ Semon takes over at quarterback after rushing for 316 yards as a tailback in 2011.
Whitko, which finished 6-5 a year ago, will look to its quarterback to lead the way. Senior Alex Stoddard returns for his third season under center in South Whitley. The 6-2 Stoddard threw for 1,201 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior and also rushed for nearly 500 yards.
Coach Wayne Swender’s squad will play four of its first five games at home this fall.
Culver Academy at Tippecanoe Valley (7:30)
Tippecanoe Valley coach Jeff Shriver knows one thing about a season filled with high expectations for his talented team.
“We’re either going to get better or worse as a football team,” said Shriver. “We’re not going to stay the same.”
Shriver hopes the Vikings start the getting better part with a strong performance against a good Culver Academy team Friday night at home.
“We’ve had a good week of practice after a scrimmage that left a little to be desired in terms of our intensity,” said Shriver. “We’ve fine-tuned some things and feel like the pieces to the puzzle are coming together.”
Valley was tied late at 8-8 with Culver Academy a year ago before the Eagles scored twice for a 22-8 win. Coach Andy Dorrel’s team finished 5-6 in 2011 with wins in three of its final four games. A key for the Eagles is senior Aramonti Phillips, a 5-10, 175-pound running back.
“They are a good football team,” said Shriver of the Eagles. They have tremendous speed and quickness and will spread the field. Phillips is extremely fast and strong. It will be a tough challenge for our defense.”
The play of Valley’s offensive line will be a huge key Friday night and the entire campaign. The Vikings are loaded offensively at the skill positions with junior stars Ben Shriver at quarterback, Tanner Andrews at receiver and Nolan Sponseller at running back. The outstanding trio helped the Vikings top the 50-point mark three times in a 6-4 season in 2011.
“I feel like our offensive line has taken steps forward in practice and is coming around,” said Shriver. “We have to control the line of scrimmage. We also have to consistently move the ball and also prevent the big play.”
Triton at Caston (7:00)
The Trojans face a tough test on the road and are also shorthanded to boot for their opener.
Triton, which lost 49-28 to Caston last year, will be without Jayden Mosier, a key starter at guard and linebacker. Mosier is sidelined with a broken wrist. The Trojans also are missing Ben Perkins, out due to a concussion.
“A big key for us is staying healthy and those are tough injuries for us,” said Triton coach Rodney Younis. “We need every man possible. But, we’ve been practicing well and the work ethic of this team is great. Overall, we’re just excited to get going.”
Caston finished 8-4 in 2011, losing to eventual Class 1-A state champion Lafayette Central Catholic in a sectional title game. The Comets return eight starters from an offense that scored 30 or more points six times a year ago.
“They are a very solid opponent with several seniors back,” said Younis of the Comets. “No. 1 we have to win the turnover battle. That’s always our No. 1 focus. We have to get off to a good start. We got down 21-0 last year. We can’t afford to do that again and we have to match their intensity.”