It may sound odd, but Elkhart Central coach Levon Johnson says he would rather prepare for a fully healthy Trevor Wilmore than a less-than-100 percent healthy Concord quarterback.
Either scenario, though, is no bargain as the Blue Blazers as they prepare for their first sectional football championship game Friday, Nov. 8.
“You have no idea ... it’s almost better if he’s healthy and he played the whole time ... now you’d know what exactly is going to happen,” Johnson said of Wilmore, who tore his PCL ligament against Warsaw and will be playing for the first time since Week 9. Surgery is not required and the Concord senior will wear a brace.
“We anticipate they’ll do what they usually do, if they don’t, all of a sudden you’re in a guess game.”
What won’t be a guessing game is whether Wilmore, the Minutemen’s offensive leader, will play. He’ll play. How much he’ll play is up to the course of the game and the Concord coaches.
“Trevor is going to play and he’ll do a great job,” Concord coach Tim Dawson said. “Is he going to be 100 percent Trevor Wilmore before he was hurt? No. I’m not kidding anybody. He knows that. But he’s our leader and he’s going to play. He’ll be 90 percent.
“It’s just a matter of getting used to playing with (the brace). It’s more of mental thing than anything else.”
“Trevor’s a gamer ... he’s going to step up for a big game,” Johnson said. “He’s got a good line in front of him and speed on the outside.”
Dawson said only minor tweaks will be made to the offensive strategy — the passing game is in full, though a few run plays may be shelved.
Central’s run game, though, is fully stocked with workhouse halfback Joe Phillips and now-healthy fullback Keion Johnson playing at their best. In last week’s 35-21 victory at Goshen, Phillips pounded out 44 carries and 305 yards — each school records.
Against heavy run teams such as Jimtown and Plymouth, Concord gave up big chunks of yards. Later in the season against Northridge and Warsaw, the Minutemen handled the ground game better.
“When they’re healthy, they’re not a bad football team,” Dawson said of the Blazers. “Besides the Jimtown backs and (Michael) Hartman (of Plymouth), Phillips is the shiftiest and quickest kid I’ve seen. They’re happy to get four and five yards ... and then they get 12 or 20. They can be explosive.”
“It isn’t any secret that they’re going to get a heavy dose of run,” Johnson said. “But they’re a well-rounded defense so we can’t afford to make any mistakes and play behind the chains this week.”
Against Central’s defense, and with Wilmore getting back into rhythm, Concord may look to simplify its offense as it goes for its eighth sectional trophy and third in the last four seasons. Central is looking for its first sectional title.
“Try to get the ball into open space, try to make plays ... we can’t panic,” Dawson said. “We have to keep our poise and take what they give us when they’re giving us a lot of their different looks. And we’ve got to be able to run the football.”
The winner of Friday’s game will advance to the regional level next week against either Mishawaka or Munster.
Class 5A Sectional 10
Concord (8-2) at Elkhart Central (4-6)
Site: Rice Field, Elkhart.
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Series: First meeting.
Radio/Web: WTRC 1340, www.am1340.com.
Advancement: Winner to play Mishawaka (8-2) at Munster (7-3) winner in regional on Nov. 15.
Regional: If Concord wins, it would be at home to either Mishawaka or Munster. If Central wins, it would play at Mishawaka or at home to Munster.