Raise your hand if you had the Northern Lakes Conference football race coming down to four teams with identical records in the final two weeks.
It’s been that kind of year.
League losses by Concord and Warsaw coupled with wins by NorthWood and Plymouth last Friday have left the NLC lead in a surprising four-way jam at 4-1.
Now comes the fun part. All four schools will play one another in the final set of games. The sorting out process will be done by the contenders.
“We’ll all be playing each other the next two weeks. Our fate is in our own hands,” said Scott Hoover, NorthWood’s coach. “You win out, you win a championship. We’re all in the same boat. This definitely adds some excitement.”
On Friday, NorthWood plays host to Warsaw, Concord travels to Northridge while Plymouth heads to Goshen.
Next week, Concord gets a shot at Warsaw while NorthWood goes to Plymouth.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
“It’s all we could ask for,” Hoover said. “We thought we had a good chance at winning some games after Concord and we’ve kept that in the back of our mind that if we finished up 6-0 and could get some help, you never know. We’ve gotten a lot better.”
For now, Concord coach Tim Dawson is more concerned about getting on the right track after back-to-back losses to Jimtown and Plymouth.
“It’s not fun being 0-2 the last two weeks. We can’t worry about Warsaw, Plymouth or NorthWood,” Dawson said.
The Minutemen will try restart this week with junior Trevor Wilmore replacing Ryan McKibbin as starting quarterback. With Wilmore and halfback DuWhan Alford in the backfield, Concord ran for 343 yards against the Rockies.
“It gives a great two-headed monster in the running game,” Dawson said. “Trevor deserves to start this week, but I’ve talked to them both and we’ll go with whoever has the hot hand.
“Trevor still has to get the ball to open receivers, but now teams can’t focus on (Alford). I’m proud of the way Ryan’s handled it. Both have to get in there and perform.”
NorthWood, too, is hitting stride in the run game with brothers Blake and Tanner Cleveland as a formidable 1-2 punch. Blake is a junior and Tanner is a freshman.
In last Friday’s win over Memorial, the brothers combined for all four Panther touchdowns.
“Tanner’s a strong kid for his age. He’s hard to find back there because he’s not really tall. You never get a real good shot on him,” Hoover said. “Blake’s been a great blocker for us and he understands what we’re trying to do. He knows when we run the fullback on the option, he’s got to make that one cut and get vertical.”
Last Friday was an explosive, record-setting night for two Elkhart receivers — Spencer Schnell of Central and Dimetri Chatman of Memorial — and Blue Blazer quarterback Nick Faus.
Faus and Schnell hooked up a whopping 18 times for 303 yards — each school records — in a wild 66-51 shootout loss at Fort Wayne Snider. Faus, who leads Elkhart County QBs with 16 touchdown passes, etched his name into the ECHS books by firing a record six TDs and 457 yards.
Then there’s Memorial.
In a back-and-forth NLC scramble at Andrews Field, Chatman hauled in three TD passes from Blake Kramer, including an EMHS-record 94-yarder in the fourth quarter.
In the Crimson Chargers’ 0-7 season, Chatman has all of the team’s four touchdowns.