The chase for a conference championship.
That’s the mix that the trio of Warsaw, Whitko and Tippecanoe Valley all find themselves in as the prep football season hits week eight Friday night.
Warsaw and Valley each are coming off big, emotional league wins over rivals last week. The Tigers edged Wawasee 14-13 at home to snap a three-game losing streak to the Warriors. The Vikings beat Rochester 42-21, defeating the Zebras for the third straight year.
The Tigers host NorthWood Friday night in another must win Northern Lakes Conference game. Warsaw is tied atop the NLC standings with Concord and Northridge at 4-1. The Raiders play at Concord Friday night and Warsaw closes out the regular season at Concord Oct. 18.
Valley sits in second place in the Three Rivers Conference, tied with Rochester at 4-1. The Vikings host a struggling North Miami squad Friday night in Akron.
Whitko, winners of five in a row, leads the TRC at 5-0. The Wildcats host Rochester Friday night and then entertain Valley Oct. 18.
The IHSAA will hold the draw for the state tournament series Sunday night starting at 7 p.m. in Indianapolis. Sectional games begin Oct. 25.
Here is a quick look at area games on tap Friday night.
NorthWood (4-3, 2-3) at Warsaw (5-2, 4-1), 7:30 p.m.
Phil Jensen says the score from the Northridge-Concord game Friday night will not be utmost on his mind.
“We better be focused on NorthWood,” said Jensen. “They’re NorthWood. They are a good football team. They have a four-year starter at quarterback in Kirkwood and a strong back in Cleveland.”
Jensen says last week doesn’t mean much if the Tigers don’t take care of business versus the Panthers, a team they topped 17-10 in overtime last fall.
“Last week’s win was a great thing, but it’s dampened if we don’t play to a higher level this week,” Jensen said. “It’s ramping up for everyone with it being week eight and the tourney draw on Sunday. We control our own destiny in the NLC.”
“I’d like to see us put more points on the board this week. Our special teams play will be key and on defense we have to keep their option attack in front of us and not give up the big play.”
Senior Tristan McClone now has 1,035 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns to pace the Warsaw offense.
Elkhart Memorial (2-5, 1-4) at Wawasee (3-4, 2-3), 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors look to bounce back on Homecoming.
“Our focus has been on how we respond and so far it’s been a good week,” said Wawasee coach Josh Ekovich. “We were playing not to lose last week.”
Memorial features athleticism, but the Crimson Chargers have struggled to score points, averaging just 10.9 per contest. Memorial’s two victories are over winless Goshen and a South Bend Clay team that is 1-6.
“Memorial shows signs of being a good football team and they almost beat us last year (a 14-9 Wawasee win),” Ekovich said. “We have to contain their athleticism.
“We’re a good football team. We just need to put it all together. I want to see us play a complete game, both offensively and defensively.”
North Miami (1-6, 1-4) at Tippecanoe Valley (4-3, 4-1), 7 p.m.
The Vikings look to make it four straight wins.
“We were clicking last week and we know that we have to play championship football every week,” said Valley coach Jeff Shriver. “We’ve preached that we have no room for error and our kids understand that.”
Valley, which has shared the TRC title each of the last two seasons, meets a North Miami team with just a lone win over winless Wabash. North Miami has beaten the Vikings four of the last five seasons, including 12-7 in 2012.
“They are a dangerous team,” said Shriver of the Warriors. “We know the opportunity we have in front of us in the TRC these next two games. I want to see us up our level of intensity and physicality Friday night.”
Senior quarterback Ben Shriver of the Vikings leads the TRC with 1,611 yards passing and 15 touchdowns. Star senior wideout Tanner Andrews tops the conference with 747 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.
Rochester (5-2, 4-1) at Whitko (5-2, 5-0), 7 p.m.
The mindset is not changing for the Wildcats.
Why should it?
Whitko looks to make it six wins in a row versus the Zebras. The Wildcats have scored 221 points in their win streak, led by a punishing ground game.
“We just want to continue to get better and just take one week at a time,” said Whitko coach Josh Mohr. “It’s one step at a time. Our guys understand the position we’re in, but you have to be ready to play every week. At 5-0, we have not won the TRC title. It takes an entire season to win the TRC.
“We want to continue to do what we do. We have to hold on to the ball and grind it out. Rochester is very fundamentally sound, very well-coached and very confident.”
The Zebras edged the Wildcats 20-17 in 2012.
Tanner Hughes continues to lead the prolific rushing attack for Whitko. Hughes has 918 yards on the ground.
Triton (1-6, 0-5) at Knox (2-5, 1-4), 7:30 p.m.
The Trojans look to get into the win column in the Northern State Conference.
Triton has lost six in a row overall since opening the season with a win over Caston.