That means that high school football season is hitting the stretch run already as teams look to contend for conference championships.
With four games left in the regular season, both Warsaw and Tippecanoe Valley still control their own fate in bids for league titles. The Tigers sit at 3-0 in the Northern Lakes Conference, one of only two unbeatens left in league play with powerful Concord. The Vikings are 3-0 in the Three Rivers Conference, sharing the league lead with Rochester (3-0) and North Miami (3-0).
Warsaw, winners of three in a row, will be a decided favorite again Friday night for the third straight week. The Tigers play host to a struggling Goshen team for Homecoming.
Valley takes its four-game winning streak on the road as a huge favorite at winless Wabash.
The local schedule also finds Wawasee at Plymouth in NLC action, Triton hosting New Prairie in a Northern State Conference contest and Whitko at Northfield in a TRC tussle.
The marquee game on the area docket has Class 4-A No. 3 Concord (5-0) playing at Class 3-A No. 1 Jimtown (5-0) for bragging rights in Elkhart County.
Here are a look at local games for week six of the regular season.
Goshen (1-4, 1-2) at Warsaw (4-1, 3-0), 7:30 p.m.
The Tigers plan to stick to what’s worked for the last several weeks.
“It’s all about staying focused and getting better for us,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen. “We’ve got a lot of good, positive things going on right now. We just have to continue to improve and not take anything or anyone for granted.”
Warsaw has won with big games from running back Tristan McClone and a stought defense. McClone rushed for a school record 322 yards in last week’s 35-21 NLC win at Northridge. The junior, who started at linebacker last year, tied the school standard with five touchdown in the win and now has 1,018 yards on the season and 12 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He has rushed for more than 200 yards in three of the five games this season, all Tiger wins.“Tristan’s doing a great job and so are his teammates,” Jensen said. “Austin (quarterback Austin Head) is hitting on 67 percent of his passes and Taylor Cone is unheralded. His ability to catch the ball really helps our run game. Plus, I know I can play Dylan Campbell and Tim Perkey to rest Tristan.
“Our defense has really been rising to the challenge too. They’re in the top two in most categories in the conference.”
Cone has caught 16 passes for 244 yards and one touchdown for the Tigers.
Goshen, which lost 14-0 to Warsaw a year ago, has struggled. The Redskins lone win was a 2-0 decision over winless Elkhart Memorial. Goshen, which lost 48-7 to Concord last week, is averaging just 6.6 points-per-game.
“Goshen has lost to some good football teams in Carroll, Elkhart Central, NorthWood and Concord,” said Jensen. “They’ve moved the ball up and down the field. They just haven’t scored many points. But, they are a good team.”
Wawasee (2-3, 1-2) at Plymouth (3-2, 2-1), 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors try to get back into the win column versus a surging Plymouth squad.
The Rockies, since a 26-7 home loss to Warsaw, have ran roughshod over Northridge (34-0) and Elkhart Memorial (35-6) the last two weeks. Plymouth is now back at full strength after having several key players suspended early in the season, including for the first half of the Warsaw game.
Wawasee looks to bounce back after a 35-21 home loss to NorthWood a week ago. The Warriors do expect running back Derrick Sorensen back after he missed last week due to a concussion. Wawasee is a minus eight in the turnover category on the season. Sophomore Gage Reinhard threw a pair of touchdown passes to Clayton Cook in last week’s NLC loss to the Panthers.
Plymouth tailback Sam Stevens rambled for 285 yards and three touchdowns last Friday in the win over Elkhart Memorial.
Tippecanoe Valley (4-1, 3-0) at Wabash (0-5, 0-3), 7 p.m.
Jeff Shriver wants to see consistency this Friday night from his talented Valley squad.
“I want us to do the little things right this week and be fundamentally sound and consistent with our techniques,” said the Valley coach. “I thought maybe we took a step backward last week in some areas. But, a tight game like that gives you a chance to teach. It was a good game for us. We sat down and watched a lot of film from it on Monday.”
Valley, thanks to its defense in big part, held off Northfield 28-26 to remain unbeaten in the TRC last Friday.
“Our defense rose up and came up huge with some stops, including three two-point conversions,” Shriver said. “It was good to still come out with a win and be able to use that game as a teaching tool for our kids.”
Valley is averaging 33 points-per game, led by its explosive combination of Ben Shriver to Tanner Andrews. Shriver leads the TRC by completing 49-85 throws for 676 yards and five touchdowns. Andrews has 17 catches for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
Wabash is coming off a 51-19 loss to Whitko last week. Valley beat the Apaches 63-0 a year ago.
Shriver said that tight end Mason Teel is questionable for Friday night due to a knee injury.
New Prairie (4-1, 2-1) at Triton (0-5, 0-3), 7:30 p.m.
Things do not get any easier for the Trojans this week.
Triton, which dropped a 39-7 NSC final at John Glenn last week, welcomes the Cougars to Bourbon. Jimtown manhandled New Prairie 42-12 a week ago to hand the Cougars their first loss of the season.
“New Prairie is a very solid, 4-A program,” said Triton coach Rodney Younis. “They definitely have a lot of weapons. It’s definitely going to be challenge for us. But, our kids enjoy a challenge.”
Younis continues to remain upbeat with his young team, which really was at near full strength for the first time all season last week.
“Our heads are not down and we continue to move forward and work to get better,” Younis said. “Our kids get it. Our focus is now what we can control. We watched film Saturday and always preach to learn from the mistakes you made in the previous game, correct them, and move forward. That’s what we are doing.”
The Trojans will get a boost Friday night as Cole Creighbaum, a two-way starter, returns to action after being sidelined by an injury.
Whitko (2-3, 2-1) at Northfield (1-4, 0-3), 7 p.m.
The Wildcats enjoyed Homecoming last week by whipping Wabash 51-19.
“It was nice to win and get a chance to play everyone last week,” said Whitko coach Wayne Swender. “It was just a good team effort.”
Swender knows his team must be ready this week for a Norsemen team that almost pulled off the upset at Valley last Friday night.
“Northfield will be ready to play and we have to be,” said Swender. “They are much improved. Our kids know the challenge. Our goal is to get better each week. We have to get off the ball, play hard and go at it come Friday night.”
Sophomores Tanner Hughes and Devin Gerding lead the Whitko offense. Hughes has rushed for 392 yards on 73 carries, while Gerding has 267 on 36.
Whitko beat Northfield 31-14 in 2011.
Area Games Friday Night
Northern Lakes Conference
Goshen at Warsaw, 7:30
Wawasee at Plymouth, 7:30
Northridge at NorthWood, 7:30
Concord at Jimtown (non conference), 7:30
South Bend Clay at Elkhart Memorial (non conference), 7:00
Three Rivers Conference
Tippecanoe Valley at Wabash, 7:00
Whitko at Northfield, 7:00
North Miami at Southwood, 7:00
Rochester at Southwood, 7:00
Northern State Conference
New Prairie at Triton, 7:30
Bremen at LaVille, 7:00
Culver at Knox, 7:30
John Glenn at Culver Academy (non conference), 7:30
Concord at Jimtown (non conference), 7:30