With a pair of non-conference contests in the books, the focus shifts to bigger things with the start of conference play.
League championships may not be won the first week of conference action, but a loss Friday night puts a quick damper on any squad with thoughts of claiming a title.
The Northern Lakes Conference appears to be very balanced, although defending champion Concord still appears to be the cream of the crop. The Class 4-A No. 6 Minutemen, who sit at 2-0, began league play last Friday night with a 47-0 romp at winless Elkhart Memorial. Concord plays at NorthWood this Friday.
Warsaw looks to make a strong start in the NLC Friday night with a trip down US 30 to Plymouth, which will be utter chaos this weekend with the annual Marshall County Blueberry Festival in high gear. The Tigers went 4-3 in league play a year ago.
Tippecanoe Valley, which bounced back with a win Saturday in Indianapolis, has its sights set on a Three Rivers Conference title. The Vikings ended up sharing the crown in 2011 with Rochester after a 24-15 loss to Whitko in their final league game.
Wawasee looks to bounce back at home after a 35-7 home loss to two-time state runner-up South Bend St. Joseph’s last Friday in Syracuse. The Warriors (1-1) welcome a struggling Northridge team to Syracuse.
Both Triton and Whitko hope to get into the win column with home games Friday night. The Trojans host winless Culver and the Wildcats entertain winless Southwood.
Here’s a quick look at area games on the docket Friday night.
Warsaw (1-1) at Plymouth (1-1), 7:30 p.m.
Coach Phil Jensen has challenged his team to respond after being drubbed 63-7 at home last week by powerful Homestead.
He thinks they will.
“We’ve got some guys still licking their wounds from last week, but we have to be ready to get after it Friday night,” said Jensen. “I’m not sure how they will respond, but I think they will in the right way. I have confidence in these kids.”
Warsaw has lost eight of its last nine versus the Rockies, including a 29-13 setback in 2011.
“Plymouth will come right at us and we have to be ready to go,” Jensen said. “It’s a real tough opener because you don’t want to fall behind in the NLC. We just have to run the ball, take care of the ball and not allow big plays.”
Warsaw has been led by Tristan McClone. The junior running back has 60 carries for 339 yards, including 43 for 295 and three touchdowns in the season-opening win at Columbia City.
Plymouth evened its record at 1-1 with a 28-20 win at Rochester last week. Sam Stevens ran for 129 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns for the Rockies.
The Rockies have had several starters out the first two weeks after an off-the-field incident. The suspended players are slated to be able to return to action in the second half of Friday’s game with the Tigers.
“Plymouth is not going to change their offense,” said Jensen. “John (Plymouth coach John Barron) is a competitor. They are going to do what they do.”
Northridge (0-2) at Wawasee (1-1), 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors look to get back into the win column against the Raiders, who have lost 13 straight games.
Northridge, which dropped a 48-7 final to East Noble last week, will be without a pair of starting offensive linemen too. Senior Brock Logan (torn labrum) and junior Michael Fickert (torn MCL) are both sidelined for coach Jonathon Kirkton’s squad.
The Warriors, who beat the Raiders 34-6 in 2011, could get going offensively after struggling to score points in the first two weeks. Northridge is allowing an average of 47 points-per-game in its losses to South Bend Adams and East Noble.
Wawasee is led by its 1-2 rushing attack of quarterback DJ Semon (186 yards) and running back Derrick Sorensen (163).
“All our goals are still attainable for us,” said Wawasee coach Tom Wogomon following the loss to St. Joe last week. “The big picture is now beginning to play the NLC schedule. I hate losing. I know there should be about 60 guys over there that hate losing. And the only thing we can do is come back with some resolve.”
Manchester (0-2) at Tippecanoe Valley (1-1), 7 p.m.
Valley coach Jeff Shriver, with his team playing on Saturday, got to see Manchester himself last week.
“They are a lot better than their record,” said Shriver of the Squires. “I was impressed with them physically. They are a lot more physical. Turnovers have hurt them the first two weeks.
“We talk about defending our home turf. There are a lot of good teams in the TRC. We want to run the table and leave no doubt this year.”
Shriver feels good after a win over Bremen in Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday. A victory that came thanks in large part to Valley’s defense (which forced five turnovers) and made a key goal line stand and a huge trick play on offense for a 73-yard touchdown.
“Nothing heals a loss like a win,” said Shriver, whose team missed out on opportunities in a week one home loss to CMA. “To get a win over a quality opponent like Bremen is a great thing.”
The Vikings will be without Garrett Foust indefinitely. The senior offensive lineman is out due to a concussion. Junior quarterback Ben Shriver is healthier know, according to coach Shriver, after suffering a rib injury in the week one loss to CMA.
Coach Shriver expects his explosive offense, which topped 50 points three times a year ago led by playmakers Shriver, Tanner Andrews and Nolan Sponseller, to get cranked up soon. The junior trio were responsible for the 73-yard scoring strike Saturday as Shriver hit Andrews with a lateral, who then connected with Sponseller for the touchdown.
“I expect them to start putting numbers up,” said coach Shriver. “We’re working to get our offensive line situated.”
Culver (0-2) at Triton (0-2), 7 p.m.
Rodney Younis has seen his Trojans do a lot of things right in the first two weeks.
Now, he hopes to see them get a win versus rival Culver.
“We just have to stick with it because there have definitely been positives,” said coach Younis. “Our offense has done a nice job with just one fumble and not very many penalties. They have played smart football.
“We just have to improve defensively. The big plays have hurt us. We’ve had five defensive starters not playing yet due to injuries or other issues. That will help us in the long run with our depth. By week five, we should have everyone back.”
The Trojans, who lost 33-3 at Culver last season, welcome back Ben Perkins (concussion) this week. Younis expects Jayden Mosier (wrist) to be able to return to action next week.
“Throw out the records when we play Culver because it’s such a good rivalry,” Younis said. “It’s always a battle with them. It’s who’s better that night.”
Southwood (0-2) at Whitko (0-2), 7 p.m.
The Wildcats need to cut down on the mistakes.
“We’ve just had too many turnovers and a lack of focus the first two weeks,” said Whitko coach Wayne Swender. “We’ve went back to the fundamentals and have had a good week of practice.”
Whitko had six turnovers last week in a 43-13 loss to Columbia City.
“Our goal is to prepare and get better each week,” said Swender. “We’ve moved the ball well at times. We just have to minimize the mistakes. Southwood will be a good challenge for us. They are big upfront.”
Southwood, coming off a 1-9 season, was thumped 61-21 by Oak Hill last week. Whitko beat the Knights 45-0 in 2011.
Whitko will have Devin Gerding back Friday night. The sophomore running back missed last week’s contest due to a knee injury.