Week one of the Indiana high school football season has arrived.
The heat and humidity of late summer has also kicked in just in time to make for some tough and trying practice conditions heading into Friday night.
But, it’s also time for area players to turn up the heat for real this week in search of win number one of the season.
There are plenty of story lines to follow and questions to be asked early on in the 2014 season.
How will the new-look Warsaw offense, predicated on the passing game, fair?
Just how good can the Wawasee connection of Gage Reinhard to Clayton Cook be in their final season in Syracuse?
Can Whitko build on the momentum of a conference championship season in 2013?
How will a host of new faces for Tippecanoe Valley perform on Friday nights?
Can Triton take a step forward in its second season under John Johns?
Some of the answers start arriving this Friday night.
Warsaw at Columbia City, 7 p.m.
The Tigers will be tested for the first time under true game conditions as they go with a completely new style on offense.
“The question is can we execute what we want to do now against someone who know’s what’s coming,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen. “We executed some things well in the scrimmage, but there were things to work on. It was a typical scrimmage.”
Warsaw, which finished 7-4, handled the Eagles 33-14 at home a year ago. Columbia City went on to finish at 5-5. The Eagles graduated their quarterback and top receive and have a new coach in Brett Fox.
“We exchanged scrimmage films with them, but how much did they show,” Jensen said of the Eagles. “They are big and physical up front, something we are not.”
Jensen says despite the shift in offensive philosophy that the keys to success do not change.
“We have to take care of the football, not give up big plays on defense and win the special teams,” commented Jensen. “The three basic things to win games.”
Wawasee at Whitko, 7 p.m.
The Warriors will pack the buses and head down SR 13 to meet a familiar foe.
“I think this is always a big game for both sides because a lot of people on both sides kno each other because of how close the districts are,” said second-year Wawasee coach Josh Ekovich. “I think our kids are excited and ready for a game.”
Wawasee handled the Wildcats 42-20 in Syracuse a year ago.
“Whitko is going to run the ball and they are always going to play hard-nosed football with intensity,” Ekovich said. “I just want to see us play with passion from start to end and play like the close-knit team we are.”
“I think that our defense is salivating. I think they feel they have something to prove this year.”
Whitko is hoping to build from last year’s 6-4 mark, which included a share of the Three Rivers Conference title. The Wildcats will look to succeed on its ground game, led by returnees Tanner Hughes and Trace Killian.
“We want to springboard off last year and our focus is on improving every week,” said second-year Whitko boss Josh Mohr. “We will get a good look where we are at early on with Wawasee and Columbia City the first two weeks.
“Clayton Cook is a great receiver for Wawasee and he and Reinhard work well together. But they are not all the weapons they have.
“We want to try to execute and do what we do. I want us to be fundamentally sound.”
Mohr said that junior Brady Weeks and sophomore Garrett Elder are still competing for the starting quarterback spot.
“I look at it like I have two quarterbacks and that’s a great problem to have,” said Mohr.
Culver Academies at Tippecanoe Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Scott Bibler will begin his second tenure as the Vikings’ head coach right at home Friday night.
Bibler, who won 98 games while guiding Valley from 1990-2005, looks to instill confidence in a young and in many positions untested team.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces and we have to get them believing and just keep building,” said Bibler, who has been an assistant coach since his first tenure as head coach. “We saw things in our scrimmage that are fixable. We have to block and tackle better.”
The Vikings dropped a 36-29 final at Culver Academies a year ago. Each team went on to finish at 5-5.
“They are always a handful,” said Bibler of the Eagles. “They are disciplined and smart.”
“I just want to see a competitive spirit from our guys on Friday night. I want to see them go out there and get after it. I want to see a toughness and a tenacity.”
Triton at Caston, 7 p.m.
John Johns sees a better vibe around his football program in Bourbon as he enters year two as head coach.
“I think we have a more positive outlook and I really believe our momentum is better right now,” said Johns.
The Trojans defeated Caston 25-13 in the opener in 2013. Triton went on to a 1-9 season, while Caston finished 3-8.
“Caston is a veteran team that is quick,” noted Johns.
“I want to see us dial up our aggressiveness Friday night. A big key for us is to block better and be able to move the ball on the ground. That’s our Mantra this year.”