A new season.
That’s what awaits area high school football teams Friday night as sectional playoff action kicks-off.
The trio of Warsaw, Wawasee and Whitko will all face familiar foes in teams that defeated them in sectional play a year ago. The Tigers host Carroll (Allen) in Class 6-A, the Warriors entertain Leo in Class 4-A and Whitko plays at Bellmont in Class 3-A.
Tippecanoe Valley will get a second shot this season at Culver Academy in a Class 3-A sectional opener. The Eagles beat the Vikings 36-13 way back in the opening week of the regular season.
Triton will travel to Union Mills to face South Central in a Class 1-A sectional contest.
Here’s a quick glance at area games.
Carroll (9-0) at Warsaw (5-4), 7 p.m.
The Tigers welcome in an undefeated Carroll team that checks in at No. 5 in the Class 6-A poll.
The Chargers topped Warsaw 42-7 in the sectional title game in 2013. That Carroll team was led by explosive playmaking brothers Drue and Justin Tranquill. Drue is now a freshman at Notre Dame, while Justin has missed all of his senior season this fall due to an offseason knee injury.
“They are just a really solid, well-coached football team,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen of Carroll. “They just play very sound, aggressive football. They don’t make mistakes and they capitalize when you do.”
Warsaw is 4-0 at home this season. The Tigers rallied from a 14-0 deficit to top Concord 24-21 in double overtime at home last Friday night.
“I’ve been pleased with our approach this week,” Jensen said. “The guys are working hard with good attitudes.”
The Tigers are expected to welcome back several players who missed last week’s game due to injury. A key returnee will be top receiver Riley Rhoades, who has missed the last two games due to a concussion.
“It’s the same story, different day for us,” remarked Jensen. “We have to produce offensively, limit our mistakes, win the kicking game and not give up big plays.”
Leo (7-2) at Wawasee (6-3), 7 p.m.
The Warriors have heard the word revenge word a time or two this week in preparation for another shot at perennial power Leo.
Leo sidelined Wawasee by a 35-7 final in a playoff opener a year ago.
“It was the first word to come out of my lips when we saw the draw and we’ve preached it to the kids,” said Wawasee coach Josh Ekovich. “Our kids are excited. You have to beat the best.”
“I think being familiar with them helps us. Our kids know what to expect from them.”
Both teams have been on impressive winning streaks of late. Leo has won five in a row, while the Warriors have posted three straight wins.
“We have to stop the run. They have talented running backs. We know we have to play well to beat this team.
“I think our kids are up for the challenge. We’ve had a great week of practice. This is like any other NLC game to us. We have to hit harder than they do and win the turnover battle. That will be huge for us.”
Whitko (6-3) at Bellmont (5-4), 7 p.m.
The Wildcats welcome the chance for a rematch.
Bellmont sidelined Whitko by a 35-13 final a year ago in a sectional opener.
“Drawing Bellmont again gives us a chance to avenge our loss to them last year,” said Whitko coach Josh Mohr. “It is nice to have that opportunity.”
Whitko has won five of its last six games and Mohr sees an advantage to having faced Bellmont last year.
“We got to see their unique offense first hand last year. It does help our players so they have an idea what it looks like and what they are trying to do. Bellmont is a physical team. Their style of offense requires a physical, smash-mouthed, stop it if you can mentality. They have a pair of backs that run hard and they can be explosive when given daylight to run to. They will do what they can to control the ball and clock.”
“We must be disciplined on both sides of the ball and eliminate costly errors. At times we can be our own worst enemy. In a game like this we must limit our mistakes, do our jobs and trust those next to us to do theirs. I expect our kids to play with great intensity, be physical on defense, and fast on offense.”
Tippecanoe Valley (1-8) at Culver Academy (3-6), 7:30 p.m.
The Vikings hope a fresh start proves to be just the tonic they need.
“We just need to stop hurting ourselves,” said Valley coach Scott Bibler. “Our nemesis all year has been our turnovers. We just need to battle through that.
“This is a game we can win against a familiar opponent if we execute better and put the pressure on them. We have been practicing well and starting well in games. We just need to sustain it the entire game.”
The Eagles, who are an independent and play a tough schedule, have lost six in a row.
Triton (2-7) at South Central (3-6), 7:30 p.m.
Running the football will be a big key on both sides in this one.
“It’s imperative that we run the football,” said Triton coach John Johns. “That will be a key factor for us.
“South Central likes to run the ball. They have a big back and we have to be sound up front and bring people down. We have to attack and pursue on defense.”
Triton is still banged up after a 47-0 loss at Jimtown in the finale last week.
“We’re still limping a little bit, but we’re about where we have been,” said Johns. “The guys are pretty eager and I expect them to be ready to go Friday night.”
South Central has lost three of its last four games.