The crowded standings atop the league now boast four teams tied for the conference lead with Warsaw, Concord, Plymouth and NorthWood all 4-1. The shakeup occurred after host Wawasee stunned Warsaw 14-13 and Plymouth prevailed 31-28 at Concord a week ago. The win by the Warriors, which stopped a two-point conversion try with 36 seconds to play, snapped Warsaw’s four-game win streak and the Rockies win in Dunlap ended an 18-game win streak in conference play by the Minutemen dating back to 2009.
The conference championship will be decided on the field that’s for sure. Warsaw visits NorthWood tomorrow night and then hosts defending champion Concord Oct. 12 in the regular-season finale. Plymouth plays at Goshen Friday night and hosts NorthWood Oct. 12, while Concord visits Northridge tomorrow night.
The last time the NLC ended in a tie for league honors was in 2004 when Wawasee, NorthWood and Concord shared the title. Since then, Concord has won the NLC four times (including the last two years) and Plymouth on three occasions.
Things are a little more clear cut in the Three Rivers Conference as Tippecanoe Valley is sitting pretty. The Vikings, winners of six in a row, lead the league at 5-0. Valley can clinch at least a share of the conference championship with a win at North Miami Friday night. North Miami, which lost 13-10 to Whitko last week, and Rochester, which lost 27-6 at Valley, are both 4-1 in the TRC.
Whitko and Triton each hope to build some momentum for postseason play, which starts with first-round sectional games Oct. 19. Whitko plays at Rochester Friday night, looking to move up in the TRC standings. Triton, coming off its first win of the season at LaVille, looks to make it two in a row in the Northern State Conference at home versus Knox.
The IHSAA will conduct state tournament pairings on Sunday (Oct. 7) starting at 7 p.m. in Indianapolis. The draw will be televised locally on WHME-TV (Channel 46).
Sectional games are Oct. 19, 26 and Nov. 2 (championship) with regionals Nov. 9, semi states Nov. 16 and the State Finals Nov. 23-24 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Following is a quick glance at area games for week eight of the regular season Friday night.
Warsaw (5-2, 4-1) at NorthWood (4-3, 4-1), 7:30 p.m.
The Tigers still have the final say so in winning a conference championship or not.
“We still control our own destiny,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen. “You don’t get a redo. It comes down to who prepares, who executes and who is mentally tough now.
“We have to learn from our mistakes last week and make sure we are ready to go this week. This is another big game. NorthWood is on a roll and they are in the same place as us in the conference. They are a solid football team.”
The Panthers, who lost to Warsaw 22-19 in 2011, have won four in a row since an 0-3 start with losses to Culver Academy, Jimtown and Concord. NorthWood defeated Elkhart Memorial 27-24 last week by rushing for 441 yards. Freshman Tanner Cleveland had 162 yards on 25 carries and one score, while junior brother Blake Cleveland had 108 yards on 20 carries with three touchdowns. Tanner leads the Panthers with 701 yards rushing.
Warsaw will have Jake Mangas at starting quarterback Friday night. The sophomore performed admirably last Friday, going 9-10 with two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to Taylor Cone after Austin Head was injured versus Wawasee. Head, who is out for Friday night’s game, has an injury to his throwing shoulder and is scheduled to have an MRI on it.
“It’s the next guy up,” Jensen said. “Jake stepped up last week for us.”
Tristan McClone continues to lead the way for Warsaw. The junior tailback now has 228 carries for 1,343 yards and 13 touchdowns. He rushed for 175 last week in the loss at Wawasee.
“For us, it’s the same old, same old Friday night,” remarked Jensen. “We have to control the ball, limit their touches and not allow any big plays on defense or on special teams.”
Tippecanoe Valley (6-1, 5-0) at North Miami (5-2, 4-1), 7 p.m.
Jeff Shriver still wants his talented team to be greedy.
That is when it comes to winning the conference championship.
“Our goal is still to win out in the TRC,” said Shriver. “We know we can’ rest on our laurels. We’re not guaranteed anything right now. It’s a long way from over. We control our own destiny, but so does North Miami.
“We want to win the TRC outright and we are in a very good place right now. The most important thing is that we continue to play well and get better each week. We’re excited where we are with six wins in a row and we have to remember how we got here.”
Valley’s defense rose to the occasion last week. The Vikings allowed the Zebras just two field goals, while Dan Miller came up huge with a pair of interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
“Our defense played well last week,” noted Shriver. “I thought our defense and our offensive line both improved last week.
“North Miami has athleticism and size. We have to contain their offense and that starts with Barker and also his play on special teams. We have to meet their physicality and their excitement they will bring Friday night.”
Valley blasted North Miami 55-13 in Akron last year.
Wawasee (3-4, 2-2) at Elkhart Memorial (0-7, 0-5), 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors hope to build on the momentum seized from knocking off the rival Tigers a week ago.
Wawasee, which has been slowed by injuries and suspension, faces winless Memorial and then closes the regular season by hosting struggling Goshen next week.
The Warriors made it three in a row versus Warsaw by stopping a two-point conversion try by the Tigers on a fumbled exchange with 36 seconds left in last week’s thriller in Syracuse. Wawasee got a pair of first-half touchdown tosses from ever improving sophomore quarterback Gage Reinhard to Clayton Cook to take a 14-0 lead. Reinhard finished 9-16 passing for 133 yards with Cook catching five throws for 102 yards.
Memorial put quite the scare into NorthWood a week ago in a bid for its first win for first-year coach Bill Roggeman. Junior quarterback Blake Kramer was 21-30 passing for 318 yards with three touchdown tosses. Senior Dimetri Chatman had 11 receptions for 228 yards and three scores.
Wawasee topped Memorial 20-17 in 2011.
Knox (1-6, 1-4) at Triton (1-6, 1-4), 7:30 p.m.
Triton coach Rodney Younis wants to send his small, but vital, senior class out with a win Friday night.
“We have so few seniors (six), but four of these kids have been with me for four years,” said Younis. “They’ve been a pleasure to coach for four years. They come in and do the work and they are dedicated. They’re the type of kids you can build a program around. I want to send them out with a win on Senior Night.”
Triton notched its first win by handling host LaVille 21-10 last week.
“We had better balance on offense and our defense really buckled down in the second half,” said Younis of the victory. “We enjoyed it for the weekend, but our kids are the same every week regardless. They show up to work and try to get better.”
Triton beat Knox 21-13 a year ago. The Redskins lone win this season was a 41-0 final over LaVille Sept. 14.
“They are a solid team and this is a big game in terms of the standings in the NSC,” Younis said. “We want to finish as high as possible in the conference. We have to contain their quarterback. That’s our focus and for us, it’s just about playing well Friday night.”
Whitko (3-4, 3-2) at Rochester (4-3, 4-1), 7 p.m.
Wayne Swender wants to see another consistent effort from his Wildcats Friday night.
“The key for us is to play four quarters of intense football,” said Swender. “We need to play hard and play together. We’re preaching fundamentals and finishing the season strong.
“We tell the kids if they play hard good things will happen and that was the case last week (in beating North Miami 13-10). We put together four good quarters, played hard and hung on to the football. We had some good defensive stands.”
Rochester beat Whitko 30-8 a year ago. The Wildcats finish the regular season at Tippecanoe Valley next week.
“We know we will have our hands full these last two weeks,” said Swender. “It will be quite a challenge. Rochester is always ready to play.”