The Wawasee football team just missed out on pulling off a stunner last week.
The Warriors will get a second shot at upending a ranked foe come this Friday night.
Wawasee will welcome in undefeated NorthWood to Syracuse for the premier local game on the prep docket as the regular season reaches week five.
The Panthers, who are ranked No. 3 in Class 4-A, bring a potent offense into the Northern Lakes Conference headliner. NorthWood, led by quarterback Trey Bilinski, is averaging 46 points-per-contest. Blinski ranks first in the state in passing with 1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions, while completing 68 percent of his throws.
Warsaw heads North to Middlebury to try and stay in the NLC race with a league game at Northridge. The Tigers rolled past Elkhart Memorial, while the Raiders upset Plymouth a week ago.
Undefeated Whitko, ranked No. 10 in this week’s Class 2-A AP poll, travels to Akron to face winless Tippecanoe Valley. First-year Wildcats coach Jeff Sprunger is a former assistant for the Vikings.
Triton returns home to host Culver in a bid for its first win of the season.
Following is a quick look at the local slate for Friday night.
Warsaw (2-2, 1-1) at Northridge (1-3, 1-1), 7 p.m.
You better believe that the Raiders have the attention of Warsaw coach Phil Jensen.
Especially after a 22-14 Northridge win at home last week over the Rockies just a week after Warsaw dropped a tough 17-10 final at Plymouth.
“We better be ready to meet the challenge,” said Jensen. “They had a big win over Plymouth. I saw some very good defense from them. They were aggressive.
“In the NLC, you better be ready every Friday night. Any game in the NLC is a dangerous one. We need to move forward and keep pushing to get better. You are not going to stay the same as a team. You are either getting better or worse.”
Northridge, in snapping an 18-game losing streak to Plymouth, allowed just 53 yards rushing and forced five turnovers.
“Hooley (quarterback Nick Hooley) is getting better each week and it seems that they are buying into what they want to do as a power running team,” said Jensen of the Raiders.
Warsaw beat the Raiders 14-7 last season.
NorthWood (4-0, 2-0) at Wawasee (3-1, 1-1), 7 p.m.
That’s been the rallying cry for Wawasee each week this season.
That is a tall task that awaits the Warriors this week after a gut-wrenching 49-40 loss at Concord last Friday night.
“That is the past and we need to move on and go 1-0 this week,” said Wawasee coach Josh Ekovich. “I was worried about how the guys would respond this week after being so close at Concord. But we have had a pretty good week of practice.
“We had an opportunity to beat a ranked team last week and another one this week. Right now, we just want to win this game.”
NorthWood is the lone team still unbeaten in NLC play just two weeks into the league schedule.
“NorthWood uses a lot of different formations,” noted Ekovich. “We can’t get all caught up in all of that stuff. We have to stop their run first. They have a solid run game that opens up the passing game for Bilinski.”
The Warriors had four turnovers last week and also allowed a pair of kick returns for scores.
“Turnovers are always a point of emphasis as we prepare and that’s the case this week too,” said Ekovich.
Wawasee quarterback Tyler Smith, who rushed for over 300 yards last week, already has surpassed both his rushing total and passing yardage total from all of last season.
NorthWood, coached by former Panther standout Nate Andrews, beat the Warriors 38-10 in 2015.
Whitko (4-0, 2-0) at Tippecanoe Valley (0-4, 0-2), 7 p.m.
It’s a rivalry that means a lot to Jeff Sprunger.
“When I was a kid and I watched my Dad (Bryan) coach at Whitko, we knew that the TRC would come down to that last game versus Valley,” said Sprunger. “The rivalry has not changed. It has deep roots. Valley will be fired up to play us.”
Sprunger spent four years as an assistant coach at Valley. He was an assistant at Whitko last year before replacing Josh Mohr, who resigned to become the Whitko AD. Sprunger’s staff includes his father Bryan who guided the Wildcats to a state title in 1986, along with former Wildcat head coach Wayne Swender.
“This means a lot to me,” admitted Sprunger. “I coached some of these Valley kids and I know that will be part of their rallying cry. Like I said, knowing their staff, they will be fired up. We have to come ready to go from the start.”
Whitko comes off a 57-14 pasting of winless Rochester. The Wildcats led 37-0 after the opening quarter. Star tailback Garrett Elder had six rushes for 198 yards and four touchdowns in the rout.
Valley, which has lost its last eight games, is still trying to find itself. The Vikings were outgained 411-62 and had five turnovers in a 40-0 loss to Northfield last week. Valley has been outscored 207-27 this season.
“We’ve went back to try and improve our conditioning and our fundamentals,” said Valley co-head coach Jeff Shriver. “We’ve challenged our players to put in extra time and they have responded well. We had an outstanding practice Tuesday night.
“Whitko has a great program. They have a lot of guys back from last year. I really respect their coaching staff and the tradition that they have.”
Whitko beat Valley 12-0 last season.
Culver (3-1, 3-0) at Triton (0-4, 0-3), 7 p.m.
Back to the basics.
That’s been the buzzword around Triton camp this week as the Trojans welcome in Culver.
“Our kids were upset with their performance last week (in a 42-0 loss at Bremen) and it’s shown up this week,” said second-year Triton coach Ron Brown. “They have shown up ready to get better. We’ve told our kids that we will put the guys on the field who want to hit and tackle.”
“It’s extremely important that we take a step forward this week and compete. We have to block and tackle better and control what we can control.”
Brown is impressed with a Culver team, despite its small numbers. The Cavaliers beat West Central 41-8 last week.
“Culver is a good team that has momentum and is on the rise,” Brown remarked. “They don’t have a lot of numbers, but they have a huge offensive line and a big back.”
Triton was outgained 415-49 in total yards a week ago and has scored 25 points through the first four games.
Culver, which finished 3-7 a year ago, topped Triton 19-0 a year ago.