It’s time to wipe the slate clean for local high school football teams.
A fresh start awaits prep players and coaches as area squads begin conference play Friday night.
A new beginning is a good thing too as all five local teams suffered losses on the gridiron last Friday night.
Warsaw looks to bounce back after a long night in a 49-14 loss at a strong East Noble team. The Tigers welcome unbeaten Plymouth to Fisher Field for the key Northern Lakes Conference opener.
Wawasee travels to Middlebury where the surprising Raiders are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 1992. Northridge first-year coach Tom Wogomon was the man in charge of the Warrior program a year ago. Wogomon spent six seasons at Wawasee, notching winning years each of the last three in Syracuse.
Both Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko open Three Rivers Conference play searching for that elusive first win of the season. The Vikings have shared the league title each of the past two seasons.
Triton travels down to Culver to face the Cavaliers in a Northern State Conference clash.
Here’s a quick look at Friday’s local slate.
Plymouth (2-0) at Warsaw (1-1), 7:30 p.m.
Warsaw coach Phil Jensen says his veteran team has responded well after last week’s drubbing at the hand of the Knights.
The proof will be in the pudding come Friday night.
“This is really a one week season in itself,” said Jensen. “You don’t want to fall behind in the NLC right out of the gate.
“I think our guys have responded very well. We looked at film on Saturday of the first half of the East Noble game and we’re going forward. We had good practices Monday and Tuesday. I was upset because I know this team is better than we showed last week.”
The Tigers allowed four East Noble touchdowns on fourth down plays. They also had a fumble returned 85 yards for another score and dropped a snap on a punt attempt that resulted in a touchdown.
“I just want us to play like we are capable of,” Jensen said. “We have to be ready to go from the start Friday night. We have to limit our mistakes and respond when adversity comes.
“Plymouth epitomizes their coach (John Barron). They are hard nosed and ready to give you everything they have. He does a great job.”
Warsaw won 26-7 at Plymouth a year ago when the Rockies were struggling with suspensions of several key players. Plymouth beat Rochester 35-0 last week in a game shortened by the weather.
The Rockies are led by fullback Michael Hartman, who rolled up 218 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries last week.
Senior tailback Tristan McClone leads the Warsaw offense with 60 carries for 320 yards and three scores. Warsaw quarterback Austin Head is 8-of-22 passing for 116 yards with Tanner Balazs pacing receivers with six catches for 60 yards.
Gabe Furnivall leads the Warsaw defense in tackles.
Wawasee (1-1) at Northridge (2-0), 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors edged the Raiders 24-23 in overtime a year ago in Syracuse.
A revived Raider program looks for a measure of payback under Wogomon.
Northridge, which posted just one win on the field in the last two years, already has doubled that. The Raiders opened by beating South Bend Adams and then topped South Bend Riley 31-13 last week.
“Northridge is a very well coached and tough team,” said Wawasee coach Josh Ekovich. “Their defense flies to the ball and they have a sound running game.”
Tippecanoe Valley (0-2) at Manchester (0-2), 7 p.m.
Jeff Shriver wants to make sure his Valley football team has fun this Friday night.
A win in the TRC opener would go a long way to doing that for the talented Vikings, who sit at an unexpected 0-2.
“It’s very disappointing to be 0-2 and not what we wanted to do, but simple math says we have at least eight more games to play,” said coach Shriver. “We’re not a bad football team, although our record may not show that.
“We just have to refocus and get back to having fun and playing a great game that all of us as coaches and players love. Losing though is not fun.”
The Vikings, who have shared the TRC title each of the past two seasons, lost 22-7 at home to Bremen last week. Lineman Austin French is out this week after suffering a concussion in that game, while star receiver Tanner Andrews will play after leaving the game with a groin injury.
The big question for the Vikings is who will line up at quarterback. Senior Ben Shriver, a three-year starter and school record holder, injured his knee last Friday. Shriver had an MRI on Tuesday and was scheduled to visit the doctor this morning to see what his status is for the rest of the season.
“French is out this week, Tanner is fine and we don’t know about Ben,” said coach Shriver on Wednesday. “Ben is progressing. He rode the stationary bike at practice Tuesday.
“The thing is that we can’t dwell on the negatives. We are a football family and have guys who have to step in and step up for us.
“This is a big TRC game. It’s a must win game for us. Our goal is to win the TRC again.”
Coach Shriver confirmed this afternoon that his quarterback (and son) is cleared to play Friday night. The younger Shriver, who did practice Wednesday, has a knee sprain, according to coach Shriver.
The Vikings throttled the Squires 51-14 a year ago.
Manchester is 0-2 under new coach Greg Miller, including a 55-19 blowout by Bluffton last week.
Whitko (0-2) at Southwood (1-1), 7 p.m.
The Wildcats look to post win No. 1 in he Josh Mohr Era.
Whitko is coming off a 34-13 loss at Columbia City. Southwood fell 36-7 to Oak Hill in week two. The Wildcats won 42-20 a season ago.
“Southwood is similar to Wawasee and Columbia City in scheme, ” said Whitko coach Josh Mohr. We have to be focused and ready to play on Friday night.
“The kids are excited to start conference play. We must continue to improve each week.”
Triton (1-1) at Culver (1-1), 7 p.m.
The Trojans load the bus for the first road game of the campaign.
“The mistakes were detrimental to us last week and that’s an area we’re working on,” said first-year Triton coach John Johns. “We’re a young team and a thin team and I think we asked a lot of our skill guys last week and they got tired.”
Triton, with a roster numbering around 25, will be challenged up front by Culver.
“We have to win the individual battles,” said Johns. “Culver is big up front and we need to be a little more sound on both sides of the ball.”