Heading into Friday night’s slate of local high school football games there is a three-way tie for the top spot in the NLC standings.
The outcomes of the Concord at Warsaw and the NorthWood at Plymouth contests will determine the championship as Concord, Plymouth and Warsaw all share the top spot with 5-1 league records.
If Concord defeats Warsaw and Plymouth tops NorthWood the title would be shared by Concord and Plymouth. If Concord and NorthWood both win then Concord would be the outright champion.
“It’s the last week of the regular season and we are still in the title hunt,” Concord coach Tim Dawson said.
The Concord Minutemen are seeking a third straight NLC title, something that has never been done before in Concord football history.
“We’ve had a couple of off weeks and that is a tribute to our opponents,” Dawson said. “Still we have put ourselves in position to accomplish something that has never been done before at Concord.”
Friday is the end of the regular season with the state tournament beginning at the sectional level on Friday, Oct. 19.
“You always want to be playing your best football entering the playoffs,” the coach said. “We would also like to win a championship before we start the tournament.”
Concord (6-2) at Warsaw (6-2)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Series record: Warsaw 25-22
Last season: Concord 28-6
Six-foot (171) junior Trevor Wilmore has become the starting quarterback for the Minutemen with 6-3 (235) senior Ryan McKibbin the backup. Wilmore ran for a team-high 177 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 56-28 win at Northridge. He also completed 14 of 20 passes for 251 yards.
“Trevor’s running ability gives us more of a dual threat,” Dawson said. “Last week our offense was pretty balanced, but we are running the ball now to set up the passing game where in the past we would throw the ball to set up the running game.”
McKibbin is the team’s punter.
“We’ve changed personnel at other positions during the season, but when you change quarterbacks more people notice,” Dawson said. “I’m proud of the way Ryan has handled the change. Is he happy about it? No, but as a competitor that is how you want him to be.”
Warsaw’s offense centers around 5-11 (200) junior tailback Tristan McClone.
“He is a great high school running back,” Dawson said.
“He is always going forward. He is averaging about 35 carries per game so it’s no real secret what Warsaw is trying to do. But at the same time you can’t go to sleep, because they can throw the ball over your head.
“Warsaw wants to control the ball to keep our offense off the field. We are going to have to force them into some punting situations.”
NorthWood (4-4) at Plymouth (6-2)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Series record: NorthWood 33-13
Last season: NorthWood 21-8
Last Friday’s 17-10 overtime loss to Warsaw knocked the NorthWood Panthers out of the NLC title picture, but the team could still have a say in whether it’s an outright or shared championship.
“We were a little disappointed after last week,” NorthWood coach Scott Hoover said. “At this point we are more worried about getting a win for ourselves than helping determine the outcome of the conference race.”
The blind-draw is used to determine sectional parings and in an oddity NorthWood faces Plymouth again in the first-round of the playoffs. One difference is the Panthers will host the sectional game at Andrews Field in Nappanee.
“Facing conference teams in the playoffs isn’t something we haven’t run into much before last season,” Hoover said. “Most years we’ve been a 3A program in a conference of 4A and 5A schools.”
The Plymouth Rockies are coming off a 28-16 win last week at Goshen. Plymouth rushed for 283 yards of its 339 yards of total offense. Sophomore Justin Drudge rushed for 88 yards on 14 carries, senior Sam Stevens 62 on eight and senior Ike Kastner 43 on six.
“Plymouth is a very good team,” Hoover said. “They are physical up front. Their quarterback (Kastner) and fullback (Stevens) are good athletes.
“Plymouth’s physical play reminds of Warsaw, but they also remind me of Jimtown. They are very good at running the ball and only pass about three or four times per game, but one of them is usually for a touchdown.”
NorthWood and Plymouth both run the option on offense.
“Since we run the option it helps us defend it,” Hoover said. “But you can make subtle changes in the option that make look like nothing to the ordinary fan, but that completely change how you defend the play.
“Stopping the run is going to be a key for us. Another thing we have been working on are special teams. We have not tackled very well in kickoffs the last couple of weeks.”