The final half of the prep football regular season is upon us.
It’s time for local high school football teams to chase conference championships in earnest and/or try to build momentum for the postseason push.
Area gridders take to the field this Friday night for week six of the nine-week regular season already.
Warsaw will celebrate Homecoming by welcoming Goshen to Fisher Field for a key Northern Lakes Conference clash. Both teams are 2-1 in league play, tied with Plymouth in the league standings, behind frontrunner NorthWood (3-0). The Tigers have won two in a row, while Goshen picked up a huge 28-26 NLC win at rival Concord last week.
Warsaw has defeated Goshen the last eight times the two have met on the gridiron. Goshen’s last win over the Tigers came in 2007. Warsaw posted a 35-7 win at Goshen last season.
Wawasee continues the meat of its schedule with a trip to Plymouth. The Warriors have dropped a pair of NLC games the last two weeks, at Concord in a 49-40 shootout and to undefeated NorthWood at home last Friday night.
The Warriors should have plenty of incentive for their trip to Plymouth. The Rockies beat Wawasee 66-7 in a first-round Class 4-A sectional game last season. Plymouth ended the rout by throwing a touchdown pass with just 11 seconds to play in the game and then converting on a two-point conversion. The Rockies went on to win their first sectional championship since 2001.
Whitko will welcome Southwood to South Whitley for a TRC matchup. The Wildcats, who are ranked No. 8 in the Class 2-A poll, need a test. Whitko has rolled over five opponents thus far with a combined 2-23 record by a combined score of 189-61.
Speaking of the Wildcats.
What an incredible couple of weeks it’s been for Whitko star tailback Garrett Elder. The senior has rushed for 558 yards the past two games on just 16 carries with eight touchdowns. Elder, who rushed for 1,783 yards a year ago as the Whitko quarterback, has 964 yards this year on just 52 carries, good for an eye-popping average of 18.5 yards per carry. He had 10 rushes for 360 yards, including touchdown runs of 81, 72, 49 and 17 yards, in a 44-20 win at Tippecanoe Valley.
Tippecanoe Valley and Triton both have opportunities to get that much-needed first win this week. The Vikings play at winless Manchester and the Trojans host a one-win Winamac team.
Following is a quick look at Friday night’s games.
Goshen (4-1, 2-1) at Warsaw (3-2, 2-1), 7 p.m.
Phil Jensen has seen his team put together back-to-back strong showings.
It only gets harder from here on out for the Tigers.
“We need another outstanding performance this Friday night,” said Jensen. “It only gets harder from here on out for us. We have to continue to improve or get left behind in this conference.”
Warsaw dominated host Northridge 34-2 last week. Goshen rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat Concord for the first time since 2005. Goshen, which is ranked No. 13 in this week’s AP Class 5-A poll, had lost 10 in a row to the Minutemen.
“That was a huge program win for Goshen last week and I’m sure a big emotional boost,” Jensen remarked. “I hope we have some momentum from last week.”
Goshen features a strong running game led by senior Jeff Stoll. He rushed for 161 yards on 31 carries in the win at Concord. The RedHawks are led by senior backup quarterback Charlie Collins who has started the last two games with CJ Detweiler out due to an injury. Collins, who also plays defensive back, passed for two touchdowns and ran for another score in last week’s huge NLC win.
“They have a good tailback and their quarterback runs it pretty well,” noted Jensen. “We need to come out and start quick and score when we have the opportunities. We need another four quarter game by everyone.”
Warsaw beat Goshen 35-7 a year ago.
Wawasee (3-2, 1-2) at Plymouth (3-2, 2-1), 7 p.m.
The Warriors will need to keep their emotions in check and stay focused on the task at hand.
“We can’t let our emotions get in the way of what we need to do,” said Wawasee coach Josh Ekovich. “We need to make sure that we are prepared to handle adversity. The good thing is that we have a pretty level-headed group.”
The Warriors lost a 53-30 shootout to offensive juggernaut and unbeaten NorthWood last week. The Rockies had to rally from a 17-0 halftime deficit to edge a one-win Elkhart Memorial team 19-17.
“Plymouth is a good team and we will have our hands full,” noted Ekovich. “It’s a typical Plymouth team in that they play hard. They have a couple of quarterbacks who they play, a hard-nosed fullback and a hard-nosed defense.
“We really need to prepare for it like we do for every game. We have to limit our mistakes and take advantage of our opportunities.”
Southwood (3-2, 1-2) at Whitko (5-0, 3-0), 7 p.m.
Jeff Sprunger is looking forward to the challenge this week.
He believes that his team is too.
“We are looking forward to playing Southwood,” said coach Sprunger. “I’ve been happy to see how we have played so far in that we have controlled and dominated games, but we want to show we can play with the big dogs.”
“The blessing for me is that our kids have not allowed our success to go to their heads. They are hungry and want to get better. And that has to be our focus.”
Southwood rolled to a 54-29 victory over winless Wabash last week.
“The Southwood quarterback has a heck of an arm and really throws it well,” commented Sprunger. “We have to get pressure up front on him and be disciplined in our secondary.”
Southwood edged Whitko 21-20 in last season’s contest.
Tippecanoe Valley (0-5, 0-3) at Manchester (0-5, 0-3), 7 p.m.
There is going to be one very happy football team come late Friday night at Manchester High School.
Either the Vikings or the Squires will get off the schneid and collect that first win of the season.
“I think that makes both teams dangerous for the other,” said Valley co-coach Jeff Shriver.
Valley lost 44-20 to Whitko and Manchester dropped a 27-7 final to Northfield last week.
“We competed and had some tenacity and fight last week,” noted Shriver. “Our kids are resilient. They are working hard on their conditioning and fundamentals. Our focus is on us. Our kids are buying in. They know that if we continue to improve that good things will happen.”
“We habe to control and protect the football this week. We have to finish plays. Manchester will spread it out and try and get the ball quickly to their athletes in space. We have to contain, pursue and tackle well.”
Valley topped Manchester 36-27 last season.
Winamac (1-4, 1-4) at Triton (0-5, 0-4), 7 p.m.
Coach Ron Brown likes the matchup that he sees this week for his young Triton team.
“I see it as a dead even matchup because of how they play,” said Brown of the Warriors. “They are not as physical as some of the teams we’ve played and that bodes well for us. The key for us is to try and get our athletes in space to make plays.”
“That being said. Winamac is a traditionally strong football program with a Hall of Fame coach. They will come here ready to go.”
Triton scored 26 points last week in a loss to Culver after scoring a total of 25 in the first four games versus a brutal schedule. Winamac beat North Judson 40-14 to get their first win last Friday night.
“Our kids are smart,” said Brown. “They know the teams that we have played are a combined 20-5. They know that going forward the teams we still have to play are not as good.
“Our defense needs to get stops this week and we need to limit our turnovers. Our focus this week in practice is on playing a clean game.”
Winamac defeated Triton 43-12 a year ago.