PREP FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Sectionals get difficult quickly for area teams
There are still two weeks left in the IHSAA football regular season, but the sectional pairings came out Sunday, so area teams found out who they’ll open postseason play with and the second season is now closing in fast.
Here are some things to look for in the various sectionals throughout northeast Indiana.
Class 1A Sectional 43
It’s hard to argue that this isn’t the hardest sectional in the state at this level.
It includes six teams that are 5-2 or better, with all six of those teams ranked in the top 17 in the state, including No. 4 Churubusco, No. 10 Eastside and No. 17 Northfield.
The sectional also includes three defending sectional champions in No. 11 South Adams, No. 13 Adams Central and No. 13 Southwood (the Knights and Flying Jets are tied for that ranking).
“It’s rare that you go from 2A to 1A and the sectional might have gotten harder,” South Adams coach Grant Moser told The News-Sentinel.
The Starfires won their Class 2A sectional a year ago.
“It’s going to be a ton of great games and great atmosphere,” Moser said. “Really, this is what football is all about. It’s going to be fun to be a part of and whoever comes out of the sectional definitely deserves to be a champion.”
The challenge will come quickly for the Starfires, as they open against Adams Central, which beat South Adams 42-12 earlier this season. It mirrors last season when the Starfires lost to Woodlan in the regular season before beating the Warriors in sectional play.
“I mean, we’re not going to win a sectional without facing someone good,” Moser said. “It is a similar situation to last year with Woodlan, and we know we have to adjust now and have to figure out how to get things going quickly. But what’s good is the pressure is on Adams Central because they are the favorite, so we just have to come out loose and see what we do.”
Class 2A Sectional 34
Woodlan’s chance to completely move past its loss to South Adams in last season’s sectional will start with Prairie Heights. Expect the No. 2 Warriors to be focused as to avoid another early upset.
If Woodlan moves through to the final, it will likely setup a championship match-up against one of the more surprising teams in northeast Indiana this season, NECC champion Central Noble.
The Cougars are going to finish with their first winning season since 2007 after knocking off Churubusco Friday 19-17 and will be going for their first sectional title since 2002.
Class 3A Sectional 28
Defending Class 3A state champion and 11th-ranked Concordia Lutheran will start its title defense against Garrett in a rematch of last season’s semi-state game.
The Railroaders will be seeking to make a statement statewide with an upset of the Cadets, but that wouldn’t be the only difficult game if Garrett prevails.
The sectional has plenty of solid teams, including an interesting match-up pitting No. 14 Bishop Luers and West Noble.
Class 4A Sectional 20
This sectional gets interesting quick, as rivals Leo and No. 2 New Haven face each other.
For the Lions, though, the opening game is a chance to overcome their heartbreaking loss to the Bulldogs earlier this season. Leo led that game 17-0 before losing late.
“It’s a tough draw, obviously,” Leo coach Jared Sauder said. “We’re playing a really competitive team, but it’s kind of a fun draw, too, because it’s a rivalry game again and both teams know each other well.
“It will be a game that our kids will be up for and their kids will be up for it, too. I really look for that in sectional play and in a postseason game like that.”
Whoever wins that game will have some challenges remaining. The next opponent could be No. 10 Bishop Dwenger, while Columbia City and Wayne are each on the opposite half of that sectional draw.
Class 4A Sectional 19
This will be another loaded sectional which has six teams that are 5-2 or better.
Those teams include No. 5 Northridge, No. 6 Angola, No. 7 NorthWood, No. 12 Plymouth, Culver and East Noble.
Angola came away with a favorable draw, as the Hornets drew Wawasee (1-6). However, their potential semifinal could be against NorthWood.
East Noble landed in the opposite half, starting with Plymouth, while Northridge faces Culver in the other quarterfinal.
It’s a tough draw for the Knights, who will need Andrew McCormick to continue playing well to earn their first sectional title since 2003.
Class 6A Sectional Sectional 3
All eyes will be on the rematch between No. 2 Snider and No. 11 Homestead.
The Panthers and Spartans have proven to be two of the best teams in the area throughout the year and the Panthers won the regular season context at Lucas Oil Stadium 52-31.
“I think it makes that opening game have a sense of urgency by the coaches and the players,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. “We are going to have to be playing well because if you don’t, you’re going to be turning your stuff in the next Monday.”
The opening round game for Snider will also be its first in Class 6A, as it moved up due to their success factor.
Given the sectional includes Carroll and Northrop also, Tippmann doesn’t see anything changing for the Panthers.
“I mean, initially there is no difference,” Tippmann explained, “because those teams we are going to play in sectional were all the teams we played in the regular season. So we are very familiar with each of those teams.
“No matter who we play, there is not going to be anything shocking, and our (gameplan) isn’t any different whether we’re playing a 5A school or a 6A school.”