The games matter just a little more this Friday night.
It’s conference time.
Conference championships may not be won in the league openers, but teams can take a big step towards building momentum for the rest of the regular season and a run at a title.
All eyes this week will be squarely on Syracuse as the power-packed Warriors welcome in Northridge and former Wawasee coach Tom Wogomon. The Northern Lakes Conference lid lifter will be the Channel 46 Game of the Week and can be seen on a tape-delayed broadcast Friday night at 11 p.m. and again on Saturday at 9 a.m.
Wawasee, who Wogomon coached from 2007-12, is bidding for its first 3-0 start since 2006. The resurgent Raiders, who went 7-3 in Wogomon’s first season in 2013, are looking to start 3-0 for the second straight year.
Warsaw, coming off a dramatic comeback 25-24 win over East Noble at home last week, heads to Plymouth. The Rockies are ranked No. 10 in Class 4-A.
Triton welcomes in Northern State Conference foe Culver for the home opener in Bourbon.
Both Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko hope to taste victory for the first time this fall with Three Rivers Conference openers in Akron and South Whitley.
Here’s a quick look at league openers Friday night.
Northridge (2-0) at Wawasee (2-0), 7:30 p.m.
“Our kids are pretty excited, but it really is another game and another opportunity to compete,” said Wawasee coach Josh Ekovich. “It’s a huge game, but we are not trying to make it too big.
“It’s Wawasee versus Northridge. It’s not Wawasee versus coach Wogomon. It’s the kids who play the game.”
The Warriors boast a high octane offense, led by star receiver Clayton Cook and standout signal caller Gage Reinhard. Wawasee rolled West Noble 48-6 last week and the Raiders topped South Bend Riley 37-7.
“Northridge has good speed, they play hard and confident and are very aggressive,” noted Ekovich. “Controlling both lines will be huge for us this week. We need to hit harder than they do, win the turnover battle and protect our home field.”
A big fourth quarter flurry rallied Northridge to a 31-14 win over the Warriors a year ago.
Warsaw (1-1) at Plymouth (2-0), 7:30 p.m.
Coach Phil Jensen knows he needs more consistent play from his new offense come Friday night.
“We need our offense to produce early and put up points when we can,” said Jensen.
The Tigers spotted East Noble a 17-0 first quarter lead last week before rallying for a huge win on Senior Night.
“Plymouth is very well coached and they have a huge offensive line and their quarterback is a tremendous competitor,” remarked Jensen. “We have to be as good mentally as physically this week with their option attack.
“We need to get some stops and not give up the big play. We also need solid special teams play.”
Plymouth, which lost 20-19 at Warsaw last season, has scored 94 points in defeating Bremen and Rochester the first two weeks.
Jake Mangas paces the Warsaw offense. The senior quarterback had a huge game a week ago, running for a touchdown and then throwing a two-point conversion with less than two minutes to play. Receiver Riley Rhoades and tailback Ethyn Bradley are both coming off big time games for the Tigers as well.
Manchester (1-1) at Tippecanoe Valley (0-2), 7 p.m.
Scott Bibler sees Friday night as a fresh start for his young Valley team.
“We just need to continue to work hard and believe and we’ll get there,” said coach Bibler. “We can’t dwell on the past. We just need to stay positive and our kids need to realize that we can be a good, solid team.”
Valley lost 35-19 at Bremen a week ago and were hurt by three key turnovers deep in Bremen territory.
“We are getting better and executed better last week,” noted Bibler. “We just need to cut out the turnovers and giving up the big plays. Our kids just need to react and go, just turn it loose.”
Valley outscored the Squires 58-43 in 2013.
Southwood (2-0) at Whitko (0-2), 7 p.m.
Whitko, which earned a share of the TRC title in 2013, is looking to breakthrough in its third straight home game.
“We’re getting better and that’s the key for us,” said second-year Whitko coach Josh Mohr. “It goes back to we’ve lost to two good football teams (Wawasee and Columbia City).
“We need to focus on ourselves. Our kids are positive and driven. The TRC is solid from top to bottom this year. We know that we will have our hands full Friday night. Southwood plays hard and they have a lot of experience back.
“We just ned to focus and take care of our jobs right now. Every week is a championship week.”
The Wildcats lost 43-20 to Columbia City, while Southwood topped Oak Hill 29-26 last week.
Whitko posted a 41-35 victory over Southwood last season.
Culver (1-1) at Triton (1-1), 7 p.m.
The Trojans hope home will be the key to a win in their Northern State Conference opener.
Triton lost 49-20 at Northfield last week, while Culver edged South Central 29-28.
The Cavaliers topped the Trojans 21-19 a year ago.