MISHAWAKA — Andrew Schafer almost didn’t get a chance to be a part of Marian’s chase for a 3A state football title.
Schafer, a senior and Elkhart native, stopped playing football in the eighth grade to concentrate on baseball. After some poking and prodding from coaches and friends, he came out his junior year.
Now Schafer and his brother, Ryan, a sophomore, will start tonight for the Knights in a semistate game at Hamilton Heights. Kickoff is set for 7:30.
“I missed it. I missed my friends,” said Andrew, a linebacker. “Coach (John) Mumford kind of wanted me to (play). He pushed me over the edge.”
Andrew said the transition back to high school football wasn’t seamless, but wasn’t too bad.
“I’ve always been a fast learner,” he said. “Definitely moving to high school, it gets faster. It was getting up to speed and some techniques.
“This is awesome. I’ve already realized what I missed,” Andrew added. “One of my biggest regrets in life would have been not coming out the last two years.”
“The amazing thing about (Andrew) is he’s made leaps,” Marian coach Reggie Glon said. “He’s always the last guy in the weight room, he stays out extra after practice. He’s become an impact player.”
That impact on defense also extends to Ryan, the only sophomore starter in a senior-dominated Knights lineup. “I look up to him,” said Ryan, “and he looks out for me.”
The Schafers played a big role in Joe Walter’s 61-yard scoop-and-score touchdown early in last week’s regional win over Heritage — Andrew made the fumble-causing hit and Ryan led the downfield blocking.
“Ryan beat out juniors and seniors from day one,’’ Glon said of his safety. “I see a lot of greatness in him.”
Glon also sees plenty in Hamilton Heights, which is riding a 12-game win streak since a season-opening loss to Tipton. The Huskies, Glon said, keep their run-pass balance almost even.
“They’re a lot like St. Joe,” Glon said. “It’s a well-coached, fundamentally sound team. We have to play the best game of the year.
“We’re on a roll. We have to make sure we don’t make mistakes,” he said. “We force them off the field and score some touchdowns.”
Mitch Street, the Huskies’ head coach, says the Knights and their triple-option game will give his team a big challenge along the defensive line.
“They have a lot of weapons. They’re a lot more run-heavy than we are and they do it very well,’’ Street said. “They’ll hurt you in different ways.”
Hamilton Heights’ offense, he said, tries to present the same challenge — make opponents cover the field. The Huskies have four receivers with 21 receptions or more and a quarterback in Corey Beck who’s thrown for more than 2,000 yards.
Marian kept a potent Heritage attack in check last Friday night.
“We have to make them defend different weapons,’’ Street said.
Marian at Hamilton Heights
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Hamilton Heights High School, Arcadia.
Records: Marian 10-3, Hamilton Heights 12-1.
Streaks: Marian has won 5 straight games; Hamilton Heights has won 12 straight games.
Series: First meeting.
Advancement: Winner to play either Chatard (11-2) or Gibson Southern (11-2) for 3A state championship on Nov. 24.
Radio: WAOR 95.7.
Web: www.broadcastsport.net, www.thefanmichiana.com.
Rushing — Michael Whitfield 146-1,303 (21 TDs), Tyran Otterbridge 150-990 (12 TDs). Passing — Vince Ravotto 55-113-913 (12 TDs). Receiving — Whitfield 21-349 (6 TDs), Devin Cannady 17-335 (3 TDs), Pat Hunsberger 8-68 (1 TD).
Rushing — Conner Faulkner 150-1,010 (21 TDs), Tyler Trietsch 115-712 (18 TDs). Passing — Corey Beck 116-190-2,073 (23 TDs). Receiving — Grant Weatherford 36-648 (10 TDs), Spencer Dull 24-249 (3 TDs), Ethan Englehart 23-340 (4 TDs), Landon Cunningham 21-513 (5 TDs).