Concord looks to pull a shocker as it goes against a perfect team.
NorthWood has sort of had to remind itself that it is a perfect team as it looks to beat Northridge for a second time.
The Minutemen (6-3) travel to Class 5A No. 1-ranked Fort Wayne Snider (9-0), while in 4A, No. 2 NorthWood (10-0) hosts Northridge (3-7), when the Indiana high school playoffs resume Friday with sectional semifinals.
"Everybody was asking what's wrong with us," NorthWood coach Nate Andrews reflected a bit incredulously Wednesday night of his team's by-far lowest output of the season during a 14-0 win over Northridge five weeks ago, "and to me, (that question) doesn't make sense. We played a solid Northern Lakes Conference team that played tough. We did win the game.
"But I guess it does tell of the expectations we've created, so hats off to our kids."
Hats will go off, and likewise bells around the state, if the Minutemen can solve Snider over in 5A at Spuller Stadium.
"Obviously, we're going to have to have some breaks and play our best game of the season to have an opportunity to win," Concord coach Craig Koehler said Thursday, "but our kids know they can get it done, and that's half the battle."
A year ago, the Minutemen hosted eventual state champion Snider in a sectional final. Concord trailed 34-21 upon scoring on the opening play of the fourth quarter before ultimately falling 47-21.
"I think it might be one thing if we never played them, but a lot of our players know a lot of their players after that game," Koehler said. "We know what we're up against."
The Minutemen are up against a club featuring a handful of Division I prospects. Those include multi-dimensional offensive threat Mac Hippenhammer, bound for Penn State, and offensive tackle Zenden Dellinger, committed to Cincinnati.
Hippenhammer has averaged 13.4 yards over 30 receptions with three touchdowns, 6.5 yards on 40 carries with five TDs, 39.3 yards on kickoff returns with a TD and 18.4 on punt returns with a TD this season. He had 156 yards on five catches against the Minutemen last season.
As a team, Snider's cranking out 321 yards per game on the ground. Money Woods, who had 116 yards and two TDs last year at Concord, is at 930 yards and a 7.2 average this season, while Christian Covington's gained 772 for a 7.6 average. Each has scored 12 touchdowns.
With the departure of quarterback Isaac Stiebeling to Eastern Michigan, the Panthers haven't been as potent through the air as a year ago, but junior Michael Haupert has stepped in to rush for an 8.2 average on 64 keepers to go with 857 yards passing.
For the Minutemen, all-everything Cedric Mitchell is still hobbled by a high ankle sprain, but he's played with it for over a month now, and overall, Concord's "about as healthy as we can be," according to Koehler.
The Minutemen have won three straight games since a 37-36 loss at Jimtown.
"I know our players are confident with the way they finished the year," Koehler said. "And I know offensively, we're better up front than last year, when we just couldn't run consistently against (Snider). So, hopefully, we can do that. Defensively, we've gotta figure out a way to get some negative plays and make them punt a few times."
The young Raiders, who started 0-3, have won two straight. They also surprised Plymouth 22-14 in September, and they held the Panthers to their lowest output by 21 points in that aforementioned 14-0 contest.
"They're a lot different than when we faced them the first time," Andrews said. "I think they were still finding their identity. They've changed from both a personnel standpoint and schematically. It seems like they've found the right fits for their kids. The quarterback (sophomore Julius Graber) is running a nice option and throwing it well."
NorthWood's defense posted its lone shutout in that first meeting and "did a solid job," according to Andrews, "but I also think (Northridge was) fine with 3 and 4-yard runs to try to keep the ball away from us. This time, it's the tourney, so that might be different."
As for the Panthers' offense, "we did not execute, had a lot of dropped footballs," Andrews said of the initial meeting. "We didn't play as tough and as physical as we have most of our other games, but you've also got to give credit to Northridge."
Elkhart Central, Goshen and Jimtown all hit the road for semifinals.
In 6A, No. 2 Penn (9-0) hosts Valparaiso (5-4), a team the Kingsmen beat 27-7 in a season opener.
The Blue Blazers (2-7) head to Michigan City (6-3) and the RedHawks (7-2) travel to Fort Wayne North (1-8), each in 5A, while the Jimmies (6-4) visit West Noble (4-6) in 3A.
A year ago, the Goshen-North game would've been Redskins vs. Redskins, but both teams have since dropped that moniker.
Goshen's new nickname took effect Jan. 1, while North's switch to the Legends went into effect with the start of this school year. Each school's old nickname dated back to the 1920s.
6A: Valparaiso (5-4) at Penn (9-0)
5A: Elkhart Central (2-7) at Michigan City (6-3)
5A: Concord (6-3) at FW Snider (9-0)
5A: Goshen (7-2) at FW North (1-8)
4A: Northridge (3-7) at NorthWood (10-0)
3A: Jimtown (6-4) at West Noble (4-6)
Concord-Snider and Northridge-NorthWood start at 7 p.m., others at 7:30, all Eastern.