Nine weeks of high school football has passed us. Just. Like. That. Where did all of that warmth and excitement of opening night go? It really does seem like yesterday. Now it's cold, blustery, late October and playoffs. If Week 1 is the best night of the season then Week 10, the first week of the playoffs, is the second-best. The one-and-done finality hits home today.
With 5A schools Concord, Elkhart Central, Elkhart Memorial and Goshen enjoying the week off, that leaves seven Truth area schools on the schedule. Northridge is the only Elkhart County school playing at home while in Syracuse, Wawasee gets a home date as does Mishawaka Marian in St. Joe County. Jimtown, Fairfield, NorthWood and Penn face lengthy road trips. At roughly 45 miles, Jimtown's journey to Tippecanoe Valley is the shortest.
The tournament is built for seniors. Scores of players will finish games tonight, peel off their jerseys for the last time and go home. Most won't play in college. A playoff game is where seniors join hands, remember all the hard work, the sweat, the long bus rides, the Saturday film sessions. They don't want to remember turning in gear on Monday.
Juniors, take note. This is you in one year. Maybe you'll buckle on the helmet a little tighter and play a little tougher, run a little faster and hit a little harder. You're paying homage to the spirit of your leaders. For sophomores and freshmen, many of whom may be competing, the tourney is where it gets more difficult to swallow and your heart beats faster. If you're not nervous, then something's likely amiss.
Here goes ... tonight's observations. Remember, in the capsules below, those picks are by John Harrell and are heavily based on Sagarin rating. My picks are from the head, not from the heart. It's not a wish, only a projection.
3A -- Jimtown will beat Tippecanoe Valley, but it won't come easily. The Jimmies will have to bring lots of pressure and cover the key Viking receivers, namely Tanner Andrews. If Valley can't pass, they won't win. And, I don't think the Vikings can stop a run game like the Jimmies. ... Same sectional, but further south near Peru, Fairfield gets Maconaquah. I see a lot of points here. Not sure often the Falcons can stop the Braves, but I can't see them holding down Fairfield's Cam Kitson. Fairfield. ... Glenn at Mishawaka Marian will be a slugfest, a ground game which look more like a wrestling match. Marian has speed, Glenn has thumpers. Take Marian and its speed.
4A -- Three tough games for three NLC schools. I think Northidge at home can give Dwenger a game. The Raiders can't get beat deep again and if they can control the clock and score, the upset can happen. Northridge winning would be an upset, but not monumental. The Saints play a challenging late-season schedule and could easily overlook the Raiders. Neck out, but Raiders in a close one.
NorthWood faces a dangerous East Noble squad which can score points. Wawasee faces the same issue with an unbeaten Leo team. The Panthers have to play a near-perfect game and I'm not sure they have that in them. NorthWood has to move the ball smartly and score. It can't just control the clock and not get points. The Warriors are better equipped offensively and they'll have to be on their game. Leo is going to try to run over the face of Wawasee. Balance is the key for the Warriors. In the end, don't see the Panthers and Warriors advancing.
6A -- At first glance, you'd think Penn at Portage is a trap game for the Kingsmen, who clubbed the Indians 32-0 in Week 2. But Portage struggled to beat a 1-win LaPorte team last week in 2 overtimes. Zac Oakley is too good to allow Penn to bow out early.
For a look around the state, check John Harrell's pre-game capsules.
Jimtown (7-2) at Tippecanoe Valley (5-4)
GAME TIME: 7:30 pm ET, Death Valley.
COACHES: Mike_Campbell, 60-14 in 6th year at Jimtown. Jeff Shriver, 47-33 in 8th year at Tippecanoe Valley.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Jimtown, 67.57, 76th overall, 11th in Class 3A. Tippecanoe Valley, 42.2, 198th overall, 44th in Class 3A.
LAST OUTING: Jimtown defeated Triton, 56-0. Tippecanoe Valley lost to Whitko, 34-21.
VS. COMMON FOES: Jimtown 1-0, Tippecanoe Valley 0-1.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Jimtown 41-40, Tippecanoe Valley 37-44.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Jimtown, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Jimtown, 54-0, sectional, Oct. 22, 2010.
PREDICTION: Jimtown, 38-21
Fairfield (8-1) at Maconaquah (6-3)
GAME TIME: 7:30 pm ET, Maconaquah field.
COACHES: Bob Miller, 80-49 in 12th year at Fairfield. Mark Hartman, 15-34 in 5th year at Maconaquah, 16-53 in 7th year overall.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Fairfield, 55.95, 131st overall, 24th in Class 3A. Maconaquah, 51.88, 157th overall, 34th in Class 3A.
LAST OUTING: Fairfield defeated Culver Academy, 28-12. Maconaquah defeated Taylor, 58-20.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Fairfield 38-43, Maconaquah 39-42.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: No meetings.
PREDICTION: Fairfield, 38-24.
NorthWood (4-5) at East Noble (7-2)
GAME TIME: 7:00 pm ET, East Noble field.
COACHES: Scott Hoover, 30-26 in 5th year at NorthWood. Luke Amstutz, 14-5 in 2nd year at East Noble, 40-20 in 6th year overall.
SAGARIN RATINGS: East Noble, 74.66, 41st overall, 8th in Class 4A. NorthWood, 53.13, 149th overall, 33rd in Class 4A.
LAST OUTING: NorthWood lost to Plymouth, 21-14. East Noble defeated Bellmont, 34-7.
VS. COMMON FOES: NorthWood 0-1, East Noble 1-0.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: NorthWood 46-35, East Noble 39-42.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: No meetings.
PREDICTION: East Noble, 31-14
Fort Wayne Dwenger (6-3) at Northridge (7-2)
GAME TIME: 7:00 pm ET, Northridge field (WLYV, 1450 AM).
COACHES: Chris Svarczkopf, 122-34 in 12th year at Fort Wayne Dwenger. Tom Wogoman, 7-2 in 1st year at Northridge, 32-39 in 7th year overall.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Fort Wayne Dwenger, 75.33, 36th overall, 7th in Class 4A. Northridge, 67.56, 77th overall, 17th in Class 4A.
LAST OUTING: Fort Wayne Dwenger defeated Fort Wayne Luers, 36-2. Northridge defeated Elkhart Memorial, 27-0.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Fort Wayne Dwenger 34-38, Northridge 40-41.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Fort Wayne Dwenger, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Fort Wayne Dwenger, 56-0, sectional, Oct. 23, 2010.
PREDICTION: Northridge, 25-24.
Leo (9-0) at Wawasee (5-4)
GAME TIME: 7:00 pm ET, Warrior Stadium (WAWC, 103.5 FM).
COACHES: Jared Sauder, 67-21 in 8th year at Leo. Josh Ekovich, 5-4 in 1st year at Wawasee.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Leo, 74.29, 44th overall, 9th in Class 4A. Wawasee, 54.61, 140th overall, 31st in Class 4A.
LAST OUTING: Leo defeated Bluffton, 45-0. Wawasee defeated Goshen, 17-14.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Leo 36-45, Wawasee 45-36.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: No meetings.
PREDICTION: Leo, 31-17.
Penn (9-0) at Portage (6-3)
GAME TIME: 6:30 pm CT, The Warpath (WGCS, 91.1 FM; WTRC. 95.3 FM).
COACHES: Cory Yeoman, 115-25 in 11th year at Penn. Wally McCormack, 9-10 in 2nd year at Portage, 79-48 in 11th year overall.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Penn, 96.09, 6th overall, 6th in Class 6A. Portage, 76.82, 32nd overall, 17th in Class 6A.
LAST OUTING: Penn defeated Mishawaka, 28-7. Portage defeated LaPorte, 36-35, 2 overtimes.
VS. COMMON FOES: Penn 2-0, Portage 2-0.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Penn 37-44, Portage 45-36.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Penn, 3-0.
LAST MEETING: Penn, 32-0, Aug. 30, 2013.
PREDICTION: Penn, 31-17.
Glenn (4-5) at Mishawaka Marian (4-5)
GAME TIME: 7:00 pm ET, Marian Field (WTRC, 1340 AM).
COACHES: Dave Sharpe, 4-5 in 1st year at John Glenn. Reggie Glon, 127-88 in 20th year at Mishawaka Marian.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Mishawaka Marian, 62.36, 98th overall, 15th in Class 3A. John Glenn, 44.93, 180th overall, 41st in Class 3A.
LAST OUTING: John Glenn lost to Bremen, 42-14. Mishawaka Marian lost to Elkhart Central, 28-27, overtime.
VS. COMMON FOES: John Glenn 0-1, Mishawaka Marian 0-1.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: John Glenn 40-41, Mishawaka Marian 34-47.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Mishawaka Marian, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Mishawaka Marian, 42-20, sectional, Oct. 26, 2012.
PREDICTION: Mishawaka Marian, 28-17.