The common theme around the area has been coaches and players trying to stay healthy as illness has hit at several schools. Tippecanoe Valley coach Jeff Shriver had to leave practice a little early Tuesday night due to feeling under the weather, but was right back at it on Wednesday ready to go.
A week interrupted at the start by the Labor Day holiday has also been another routine-changer in some instances.
Area teams must also make sure not to get complacent this week, especially in the case of Warsaw and Valley. Each are decided favorites as the Tigers host winless Elkhart Memorial in a Northern Lakes Conference clash, while the Vikings play at Southwood (0-3) in a Three Rivers Conference contest.
Wawasee has the biggest challenge of the week as the Warriors travel to Dunlap to face an explosive Concord squad. The Minutemen, who check in at No. 6 in this week’s Class 4-A poll, are 3-0 and the favorite to win another NLC championship this fall.
Whitko tries for its second straight win with a TRC road game at winless Manchester. Triton looks for its first victory of the season by hosting Bremen in a Northern State Conference game.
Following are a quick glance at Friday night’s contests.
Elkhart Memorial (0-3, 0-2) at Warsaw (2-1, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.
On paper, this appears to be a mismatch.
Warsaw coach Phil Jensen, though, is not buying into the talk.
“You have to show up and play and we need to get better and control where we’re at as a football team,” said Jensen. “Memorial has some good athletes. Last year we were 0-3 and went up there and beat them (28-13). You can’t take anyone for granted. My first year here, we were outscored 105-0 in our first three games and then we won our fourth one.
“The thing is that if we don’t get better, we’re going to fall behind in the NLC. We have to come out focused and ready to play the whole game Friday night. We had a big win, a good win last week (26-7 at Plymouth). But, we have things we need to work on, including being better offensively in the red zone.”
Memorial, under new coach Bill Roggeman, has been outscored 100-3 in losses to Elkhart Central, Concord and Goshen. The Crimson Chargers lost 2-0 to the Redskins last Friday night.
Warsaw continues to get big play from tailback Tristan McClone. The junior had 295 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opening win at Columbia City. After being held in check by an outstanding Homestead team in week two, he exploded for almost 250 yards and two scores in the NLC opener at Plymouth last Friday night.
“Tristan is doing his job,” said Jensen. “He’s worked hard to get to this point.”
Wawasee (2-1, 1-0) at Concord (3-0, 2-0), 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors will try to snap a couple of streaks Friday night.
Concord has won 16 straight NLC games and the Minutemen also own nine consecutive victories versus Wawasee, dating back to 2004. The Warriors beat the Minutemen 48-9 in the sectional that year en route to a Class 4-A state runner-up finish.
The Warriors, who escaped with a 24-23 overtime win over Northridge in Syracuse last Friday, will have to try and deal with Concord star DuWhan Alford and quarterback Ryan McKibben. Alford, who has committed to Eastern Michigan, has played tailback in the past, but is now playing more at linebacker. McKibben, who has a monster tight end in Franko House, was 12-23 for 198 yards and two touchdowns last week in a 28-7 NLC victory over winless NorthWood.
The Warriors, who lost 15-12 to Concord in 2011, will give sophomore Gage Reinhard his second start at quarterback Friday. Wawasee lost senior signal caller/DJ Semon for the season after week two due to a violation of team rules. Reinhard passed for 189 yards last week versus Northridge. Derrick Sorensen came up big in the win with 25 carries for 100 yards and a huge 79-yard return of a blocked field goal try by the Raiders for a touchdown.
Tippecanoe Valley (2-1, 1-0) at Southwood (0-3, 0-1), 7 p.m.
Valley coach Jeff Shriver says it’s all about one thing this week.
“Self-improvement,” said Shriver. “There are things we can do better and that’s our focus. We’re trying to improve each week. We’re not going to be the same team Friday night we were last week. We’ll either be better or not.”
The Vikings were pretty good last week in routing Manchester 51-14 for their second straight win. Valley scored on two of its first three plays from scrimmage in the TRC blowout and had seven different players score touchdowns.
“We were just inches away in the first couple of weeks from big plays,” noted Shriver. “We knew we had the potential for them. The thing is that we’re making progress in the areas we need to. The kids and the coaches are both working hard.”
The Vikings have outscored Southwood 122-29 in their last three meetings, including a 61-20 win in 2011. Southwood has given up 103 points the last two weeks, not a good sign with Valley playmakers like Ben Shriver, Tanner Andrews and Nolan Sponseller coming to call.
“We just need to play our game and with our intensity Friday night,” said Shriver. “We need to get off to a good start, control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and consistently execute in all three areas of the game.”
Bremen (1-2, 0-1) at Triton (0-3, 0-1), 7 p.m.
Rodney Younis knows his young team has taken some lumps early on.
The Triton coach also expects it to pay off in the long run in Bourbon.
“We are going to get better and we are going to win some football games,” said Younis. “It’s so valuable the experience our young kids are gaining. It’s only going to help us in the long run.
“Our kids don’t quit and they keep battling. Our goals are still intact and that’s to finish in the top half of the NSC this season.”
Big plays hurt the Trojans a week ago in a 37-19 NSC loss to Culver. This week, they meet a Bremen team that was pounded by physical New Prairie 41-14 last week.
“We have to come to play from the start of the game,” said Younis. “That’s our focus. We were just flat last week. Bremen is still a very solid and talented team. They will be the fastest team we’ve played so far.”
Bremen, which also lost to Valley, lost 18 players from last year’s 13-1 squad that won the program’s first NSC title since 1995 and its first regional championship since 1997.
Bremen quarterback Kai Slough, a junior, is a former Triton student.
The Trojans have been led by senior quarterback Bryson Mosier, who has eight touchdown passes and just one interception.
Triton will be without junior Cole Creightbaum Friday night. The running back is sidelined due to a rib injury.
Whitko (1-2, 1-0) at Manchester (0-3, 0-1), 7 p.m.It was good to get into the win column for the Wildcats.
“It’s fun to win and the thing is that we can’t look at Manchester’s record this week,” said Whitko coach Wayne Swender. “We got back to our goals last week and that was not turning the ball over and executing. Overall, our focus was better.”
“We just have to play one game at a time. We have to match the toughness and intensity that Manchester will bring at us. Our offensive line did a nice job last week and when they play fast and low like that good things happen. We just have to continue to hang on to the football.”
Whitko has outscored Manchester 61-7 in their last two meetings, including a 34-0 win in 2011.
The Wildcats had a pair of 100-yard rushers in last week’s 42-20 win over Southwood as both Tanner Hughes and Devin Gerding topped the century mark.