Plenty to play for.
That’s the rallying cry of prep football coaches as the regular season reaches its conclusion come Friday night.
Although none of the five teams in the IFN coverage area will be playing for conference titles, there is still a lot to glean with a win in week nine. Sitting at the top of that list is much-needed momentum and a dose of confidence heading into postseason play.
The sectional round of the state tournament series begins on Oct. 21 for Wawasee, Tippecanoe Valley, Whitko and Triton.
Warsaw, like all Class 6-A teams, will have a week off before starting sectional play on Oct. 28.
The Tigers will look to bounce back after taking one on the chin, 61-24 a week ago at undefeated and Northern Lakes Conference champion NorthWood.
Whitko will also look to respond after a 34-12 loss last week at home to Northfield, a setback that kept the Wildcats from playing in the Three Rivers Conference title game this week.
Tippecanoe Valley looks for its fourth straight win after starting the season 0-5. Wawasee hosts Goshen in a rivalry game on Senior Night and Triton tries for its first win at West Central
Following is a quick look at the local docket for Friday night.
Concord (5-3, 4-2) at Warsaw (5-3, 4-2), 7 p.m.
Count fiery Phil Jensen among those who believe there’s plenty at stake this week.
“There’s a lot for us to play for and we’ve talked about that,” said the veteran Warsaw coach. “There’s second place in the NLC still up for grabs and points to the all-sport trophy and All-NLC picks too.
“We came back to work on Monday and will see how we respond after last week. We need to right things and get our feet back under us this week.”
Warsaw faces a young Concord team that has been up and down all season long. The Minutemen, who won the NLC title last year, beat Northridge 31-19 last week. Concord is allowing 27 points-per-game on the season.
“Concord has some really good players and I think that there are starting to find their identity,” remarked Jensen. “They are a really young team and I think that could explain some things with their inconsistency at times this year.”
The Minutemen have a special player in Cedric Mitchell. The explosive senior star, who has committed to Bowling Green, is a game changer in the kick return game, on offense at receiver and at defensive back. Mitchell has scored in all three phases of the game and has 14 total touchdowns this season.
“He’s pretty good,” stated Jensen with a slight chuckle. “He’s the kind of guy as a coach you hold your breath anytime he touches the ball. He’s that explosive. Our plan is to not kick the ball to him. That’s been talked about.”
Warsaw will be shorthanded this week as Lane McClone and AJ Villarreal are both sidelined on the defensive side of the ball due to injuries.
“We need to take care of the ball and be a little more patient offensively,” Jensen said.
Concord beat Warsaw 22-17 last season.
Goshen (6-2, 4-2) at Wawasee (4-4, 2-4), 7 p.m.
A lot of incentive exists for the Warriors too this week.
Wawasee will meet rival Goshen and pay tribute to its senior class.
“”This is a big one for us,” noted Wawasee coach Josh Ekovich. “We always circle the W game (with Warsaw) and the Goshen game on our schedule. Plus, it’s Senior Night too. It’s a great opportunity for us.”
Wawasee started strong last week, rolling to a 35-0 lead en route to beating Elkhart Memorial 38-14. Goshen topped Plymouth 7-2.
“Goshen is a skilled team with a good running back and a good quarterback,” Ekovich said. “They are 6-2 and 4-2 in the conference so they have played well.”
Goshen owns wins over Concord and Plymouth, two teams that Wawasee lost to during its recent four-game losing streak.
“I just want us to put two halves together,” said Ekovich. “I want us to play mistake free and continue to play physical. It’s all about doing what we have to do in order to win this week.”
Goshen topped the Warriors 20-0 a year ago.
Whitko (6-2, 4-2) at Peru (6-2, 5-1), 7 p.m.
In the scheme of things, this week means nothing for Whitko.
Don’t tell coach Jeff Sprunger that.
“We’re going to find out our true character this week,” said Sprunger. “We will see how we respond after a tough loss. We talked about that with our kids on Monday night and that’s the challenge for this week. It’s a great opportunity for us to build some confidence and get ready for the playoffs.”
Peru comes off a 29-28 win over a strong Southwood team last week.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” noted Sprunger. “Peru will line it up and pound it at you. We were not very physical last week. We need to meet the challenge this week and control the line of scrimmage.”
Whitko lost to Peru 19-7 in 2015.
Tippecanoe Valley (3-5, 3-3) at Southwood (5-3, 3-3), 7 p.m.
The Vikings want to keep the good times going.
It’s not going to be easy though.
“Southwood is probably player for player the most athletic team we’ve seen this season,” said Valley co-coach Jeff Shriver. “They spread the field and they stretch the field. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”
Valley has responded to challenges the last three weeks with a trio of wins.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids,” said Shriver, who along with Aaron Norris took over the team after Darin Holsopple resigned on Sept. 5. “It’s been great to see them get rewarded for their work. Their effort and attitude has been remarkable. It starts with our seniors.
“Our kids have bought into the changes that we have made. We just need to continue to improve. Every game is critical to us. We’re trying to regain pride and respect.”
Valley and Southwood did not meet last season.
Triton (0-8, 0-7) at West Central (1-7, 0-7), 7 p.m.
Triton coach Ron Brown liked what he saw from his team a week ago.
He hopes for more of the same this week.
“There was nothing magical that we did last week,” said Brown. “We did the simple things and executed.”
The Trojans dropped a gut-wrenching 34-33 final in three overtimes to Class 2-A No. 11 Knox. Triton, which got a huge performance from quarterback Bo Snyder, led 21-7 before the Redskins rallied to force overtime.
“Our kids were distraught after that game and it’s the fastest that I’ve ever seen the locker room clear out after a game,” noted Brown. “That’s a great thing that they care that much.”
Triton will face a West Central team that won its first game a week ago. The Trojans (as in Triton) beat the Trojans 13-12 in 2015.
“I expect a hard-fought, spirited game,” Brown said. “We’re taking the same approach. We’re focusing on what we have to do and taking care of us. Our kids are focused and feel good.”