Welcome to the best reality show Friday night has to offer — another edition of Elkhart County area high school football.
The panel again includes Blue Blazers, Crimson Chargers, Minutemen, Jimmies, Raiders, Redskins, Panthers, Falcons, Kingsmen, Knights and Warriors.
My name is Bill Beck. I’ll be your host.
Grab a sandwich and a soda and settle in. If you’re completely geeked up about football — yes, a 53-year-old man just wrote “geeked” — you have plenty of characters and storylines to sink your teeth into this fall.
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It’s how high school sports works now. Just keep it football family-friendly.
Here are things you need to watch in 2013:
It would be absurd not to mention the presence of Vinny Schnell at Elkhart Central.
A talented junior, whose father, Dave, was a high school All-American in the 1980s, has patiently waited for his turn to run the Blue Blazer offense and may be the most dynamic arm to come along in a long, long time.
Yes, it was only a scrimmage, but his first pass against NorthWood last Friday night was the first glimpse of what’s sure to come. Young Schnell, on the first snap against the Panthers, dropped straight back to pass, confidently moved up in the pockets as Panthers flew past, and fired a bullet to Vince Lucchese.
A cannon shot of a throw, on the money, hitting Lucchese in full stride over the middle, about 25 yards downfield. A money ball.
Touchdown. Untouched for 65 yards.
That said, let’s not be too quick to crown the young QB. There’s a lot to learn and he’s never taken a real game-night varsity snap.
But he could be special.
For others to keep an eye on, look for sophomore Tanner Cleveland to be a real stud running the ball at NorthWood, Zach Oakley at Penn will be a load again in the NIC wars and Devin Cannady could be dynamite as a QB for Marian.
Top to bottom, Concord is the best all-around team in Elkhart County. Few would argue that.
But like so many teams this year, the talent and experience drop from the frontline leaders to the second string is steep. The Minutemen have a strong collection of linemen on both sides of the ball. If Concord wants any part of a fourth straight NLC title, the big boys have to play well.
Memorial will start the season working two quarterbacks into its mix — incumbent Blake Kramer and junior Trevor Trowbridge. Coach Bill Roggeman is giving both a fair shot at winning the full-time gig. Until then, both will play.
Where will Jimtown be? It may be well into the season before anyone can gauge the Jimmies. A lot of new moving parts.
If you’re a fan of offense, look for Fairfield to put up a lot of points. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons aren’t a point-a-minute kind of team. They have a loaded backfield.
Tom Wogomon has his hands full in trying to make Northridge relevant in the NLC. Don’t expect miracles, but the new offense Wogomon brought with him from Wawasee may make the Raiders a more formidable offense.
Mike Cheviron at Goshen also is looking to make some noise in his third season. The Redskins never found offensive production last fall.
Tim Dawson begins his 25th season at Concord. Since 2005, the Minutemen have been the most consistent team in the regular season and tournament.
A tightened Class 5A now features a local sectional of Concord, Central, Memorial and Goshen. Keep in mind when the pairings are drawn in October that the Blue Blazers and Minutemen, outside of the old jamborees, have never played each other in football.
Penn embarks on the new high-powered Class 6A. No bargains there, though.
The news this week that Culver and Knox are leaving the Northern State Conference in two years could set off a chain reaction of league affiliation changes in the coming years. It’s happened in college, and it may happen in northern Indiana high schools.
Athletic directors and conferences may be forced to become even more creative with alignment, loyalties and scheduling in the future.
For now, the NIC, NLC, NSC and NECC are status quo. We’ll let the suit-and-tie crowd sort that out.
Tonight, it’s the helmet-and-jersey crowd which matters.
Bill Beck is The Elkhart Truth sports editor. Contact him on Twitter @BillBeckTruth or email to firstname.lastname@example.org