It's high school game day for Week 3 and the first full night of the conference football season is peppered with potential tone-setters.
First, a notable roster move at Elkhart Memorial where senior Blake Kramer, who pushes himself in the offseason toward a college track and field career, has decided to step away from football now and not risk potential injury. Said Kramer Thursday morning, "I spoke with coach (Bill) Roggeman yesterday although all parties were kept in the decision throughout the whole process. He agreed with the decision that I made. I have too many scholarships on the line with track. I faced the fact that I was not going to play football at the next level (college) and continuing to play was prohibiting my progress in running and taking the risk of obtaining an injury. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have made in my life. The teams performance had absolutely nothing to do with my decision nor did my roll on the team have a factor. I still believe that the team is going to have a great season despite the 0-2 start. The entire team is very hard working and motivated and bound to win the rest of the games they compete in this season. I wish the best for the entire team."
The Crimson Chargers are 0-2 heading into Goshen, a third straight road game. Junior Trevor Trowbridge, who had shared the QB duties with Kramer, will now take over on a full-time basis. Said Bill Roggeman, the EMHS head coach, "It's gotta help (Trowbridge). A, he's the quarterback and B, it'll make him more nervous. But he was fine with sharing time, but now he's the guy. It was where either one couldn't beat the other out ... both deserved playing time. We can tailor things to Trevor completely."
Roggeman said there is no ill-will toward Kramer or his decision. In fact, Roggeman said Kramer embarked on "a very mature process'' in choosing to step away from football. "He didn't quit," Roggeman said, "he chose to go full force on track."
Games To Watch: In the Northern Lakes Conference, three intriguing games get the ball rolling. Two unbeatens -- NorthWood and Concord -- meet at Jake Field, Plymouth and Warsaw continue their long-standing community rivalry and Northridge looks for its first 3-0 start since 1992 when it plays host to Wawasee. The results, and more importantly, how the games are played, may set the table for how the rest of the NLC shakes out this fall.
NorthWood, which is playing more two-way players than it has in recent years, knows it's got to keep Concord QB Trevor Wilmore in the pocket and not running free while the Panthers' offense has to spread the ball around and try to control some clock. Defensively, NW has been spotty in wins over Jimtown and CMA. The Jimmies gave the Panthers a full dose of run game while the new-look Eagles have dumped their hard ground attack for a spread offense. Concord is capable of doing both, but again, has not looked crisp.
"Concord has an offense that can do it all,'' NorthWood coach Scott Hoover said. "The thing we don't have that we've had in the past, we don't have that 12-play drive in us.We've got to have our share of big plays. Offensively, we need to get big chunks."
The Minutemen will be without halfback Jackson Marlowe and wideout Adam Glanders for a second week while they nurse injuries. On the heels of relatively easy wins over South Bend Washington and Memorial, Concord needs a 4-quarter game. "This is a great test for our defense. They present a lot of problems. They'll run from the slot, the veer, they'll have the quarterback follow. It's a good test."
Central @ Penn: Again, two unbeatens, but teams on different paths. The Blue Blazers, after a slow start vs. Memorial, opened up and worked over Goshen in the second half last week. That's two wins over struggling offenses and winless teams. The Kingsmen, meanwhile, have buried Valpo and Portage and QB Zach Oakley is a bear with speed. ... Remember, Central-Penn is a long series, not a great rivalry. The Blazers haven't won in 31 years. When it's all said and done, it comes down to whether Central can block well enough up front for QB Vinny Schnell and RB Joe Phillips. If ECHS can't hold off a typical attacking Penn front, it'll be a long night. Again. And then there's Oakley when Penn has the ball. "Great competitor, great leader ... he finds ways to win ball games," Penn coach Cory Yeoman said.
Levon Johnson, Central's coach, said that maintaining poise is the key this week. "Our message to the guys was about being patient, that 3 and 4 yards is a win. We have to keep drives going and don't do things to cost us a down." ... Central has a four-year starter in Isaac Barrios on the most experienced offensive line the Blazers have had in a long time. Their success is vital, pure and simple. Without it, Central has little chance to win.
Wawasee @Northridge: Another fun story line with Tom Wogomon, the new Raider coach, taking on a Warrior team he left last spring. All of the pre-game talk has been about Northridge's 2-0 start, but it's Wawasee who will have the game's best offensive player in wideout Clayton Cook. The Raiders don't want to get beaten by Cook and they can't beat themselves with pressure they may place on this contest. "As soon as the ball is kicked off, it's a football game and two teams wanting to be 1-0 in the conference," Wogomon said.