By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
It’s the opening week for high school football and Fairfield Falcon coach Bob Miller relates it to a holiday.
“I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve. I can’t wait for Friday night,” the veteran coach said.
Another veteran coach Tim Dawson at Concord said, “After 23 practices our kids are ready to hit someone other than a teammate.”
The weather was perfect to start practice with lower temperatures and humidity before those elements started cranking up this week.
“At least it happened before Friday night so the kids have a chance to get acclimated a little better,” Dawson said. “That will help out especially with two-way players.”
The Falcons are not only adjusting to the weather, but getting back into a routine as Fairfield returned to school last Monday.
“We are probably one of the few schools around here that had a full two weeks of two-a-days,” Miller said.
The highlight game of the first week as it has been in recent years has the Jimtown Jimmies visiting the NorthWood Panthers at Andrews Field in Nappanee. The field is named after the school’s legendary coach Jim Andrews who amassed an impressive record of 150-67 over 20 seasons (1972-91) before he died in an automobile accident in the spring of 1991.
Jimtown at NorthWood
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Series record: Jimtown 13-5
Last season: Jimtown 27-0
NorthWood scrimmaged Elkhart Central in preparation for the season.
“It was a good change for us,” NorthWood coach Scott Hoover said. “Central has some good players, but we matched up well with them. We got out of the scrimmage what we wanted. It gave us a chance to evaluate some players and to see if we can play at a faster and more physical pace.”
The Panthers were a 28-2 winner in 2011 when the teams last clashed at Andrews Field.
“Our guys always want to beat the teams close to you,” Hoover said. “Our kids go to church with the Jimtown players. We see them at the fair. One thing we told them about last season’s game is we are a different team with the opportunity to leave its mark on the program.”
It may be a different team, but many of the skill players return including the starting quarterback 6-2 (205) senior Will Kirkwood.
“It’s always nice to have a returner at quarterback,” Hoover said. “Jimtown can throw a lot of things at you with their blitz packages and Will has seen just about everything.”
The NW offensive line is anchored by returning starters — 5-10 (240) senior Jake Snider at center, 5-11 (215) junior at left guard and 6-2 (195) senior Corbin Johnson at left tackle. Six-two (208) senior Tanner White, who started on defense a year ago, is slated to start at right tackle.
“They all played in the game last season and now have a year under their belt,” Hoover added.
Six-foot (165) junior Marquis Schieber is slated to start at quarterback for the Jimmies.
“He is a very athletic kid,” Hoover said. “When he keeps the ball and gets around the edge he can go.”
Fairfield at Central Noble
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Series record: Fairfield 19-18
Last season: Fairfield 56-0
The Falcons have not lost to Central Noble since a 21-14 decision in 2004.
Jeremy Yates has taken over as coach at Central Noble.
“We saw their scrimmage and they appear to be quicker on offense,” Miller said. “They are running the pistol this season. They were also more aggressive on defense in blitzing out of a 3-5.”
The biggest question Miller has heading into the opener is the kicking game.
“Eldon Burtsfield really left a big hole for us,” the coach said. “It might be by committee. Right now it could be (5-5, 182, junior) David Sceniak kicking off, (5-10, 234, sophomore) Reid Kammerdiener kicking PATs and (6-1, 173, senior) Thomas Martin punting.”
The Falcons are deep in the backfield with 5-9 (175) senior Cameron Kitson, 5-7 (161) senior Tony Zook and 5-10 (175) sophomore Mitch Dewitt.
Fairfield also returns plenty of experience in the offensive line with three-year starters 6-1 (257) senior Andrew Hagar, 5-11 (236) senior Tyler Hostetler and 6-0 (246) senior Reece Miller along with 5-10 (222) senior JoDean Miller, who started at a sophomore.
Northridge at SB Adams
Kickoff: 7 p.m. at School Field
Series record: Tied 1-1
Last season: Northridge won by forfeit
The Adams Eagles won the game by a 46-20 last season before having to forfeit the contest due to an ineligible player.
Craig Redman is back for his third season as the Adams coach. He guided the team to a 7-5 mark last season for the program’s lone winning season since 1994.
“He has really turned the program around,” first-year Northridge coach Tom Wogomon said.
Leading the Eagles is 6-0 (210) senior running back Shaq Vann. He rushed for 696 yards and seven touchdowns last season to go with 22 catches for 567 and five scores.
“He is really good,” Wogomon said. “If he gets in the open field its game over. He seems to have a better supporting cast around him this season.
“Adams runs an option offense and that presents challenges in the first week. Vann can run either on a dive play or take a pitch and go outside.”
One of the keys for the Raiders on defense will be the front four with 5-11(180) senior Sam Stahley and 6-5 (240) junior Michael Fickert at ends and 6-1 (215) senior Lucas Wickey and 6-1 (200) junior Isaac Zimmerman at tackles.
“We are in a new defense and one thing that impressed me in the scrimmage was the most of the time we were in the correct alignment,” Wogomon explained.
The Raiders had some competition at quarterback in camp between 6-0 (171) senior Tanner Love and 6-0 (140) junior Payton Carson.
“We have settled in on Love as the starter, but there will be times I can seeing Carson in there,” the coach said. “To start practice they were splitting the reps 50-50 now Carson is taking about 40 percent of the snaps.”
Concord at SB Washington
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. at Jackson Field
Series record: Concord 5-1
Last season: Concord 30-25
The Concord Minutemen won a thriller last season as DuWhan Alford rushed for a late TD. Alford is now playing at Eastern Michigan.
Washington’s quarterback is 6-4 (240) senior Sean Caplinger.
“He’s big and athletic,” Concord coach Tim Dawson said. “He threw the ball well in the scrimmage and he has the players who can go out and get it. Washington might be one of the more athletic teams we will see this season.”
Concord scrimmaged Mishawaka, the team the Minutemen lost to last season in the northern semistate.
“The scrimmage is a chance to look at things and make changes,” Dawson said. “One thing that pleased me was we saw kids carrying out the techniques we have been using in practice. Our offensive line also picked up some things that Mishawaka did that we had not worked on in practice.”
Concord’s top receiver — 6-2 (185) senior Adam Glanders — was held out of the scrimmage but is expected to be ready for the opener. He caught 55 passes a year ago for 887 yards and 10 scores.
Six-one (177) senior Trevor Wilmore is back at quarterback for the Minutemen. He completed 79-of-140 passes (56.4 percent) for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was also a running threat with 1,006 yards on 136 carries (7.4 average) and 14 TDs.
Whitko at Wawasee
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Series record: Wawasee 13-4
Last season: Wawasee won 20-7
This one begins the Josh Ekovich era at Wawasee. He was the offensive line coach last season, but took over the top spot after Wogomon left Wawasee to go to Northridge.
The Warriors returned 20 letterwinners for this season, including 6-1 (155) junior Gage Reinhard returns at quarterback. He earned the starting spot last year in Week 3 and ended up throwing for 1,327 yards and 13 touchdowns. His favorite target from a year ago in 6-3 (175) junior Clayton Cook who snared 40 passes for 782 yards and 11 scores.