It’s only week three of the high school football season, but Litchfield’s shot at an SCAA D II championship could effectively be gone and a pair of local schools could be sharing the drivers seat come Saturday morning.
With Tekonsha getting outscored 98-0 in its first two contests and Burr Oak fielding just an 8-man team right now the conference title is certain to land in the hands of a Hillsdale County team.
Here is a look at possibly the single most important week of the season for the division.
North Adams-Jerome (1-1 overall, 1-0 SCAA D II) at Waldron (1-1, 1-0) 7 p.m.
Both teams sit at 1-1, fresh off victories in week two. North Adams-Jerome cut down on the turnovers and HB David Wick went over 100 yards again in a 21-7 win over Litchfield. Waldron already had a victory before it stepped on the field last Friday, thanks to a forfeit win over Burr Oak. They still played the game though, as an 8-man contest on an 11-man field and prevailed 32-22. They got a whole bunch of underclassmen some playing time and most of its starters should be well rested for this battle.
Both teams are multi-dimensional, with the ability to eat up yards on the ground, as well as through the air. Dylan Emens (Waldron) and Dakota George (N A-J) are both experienced signal callers who aren’t afraid to put the ball down field, even if its at the risk of a turnover. In a week one loss at Britton-Macon Emens was 6-for-16 for a 103 yards, a TD and three INT, but in the 8-man game he was 5-for-11 for 137 yards, three scores and a pick. George is currently the second most prolific passer in the county, with 223 yards (24-for-40) with two TDs and three interceptions. The main difference in the teams’ passing attacks is Emens has one of the most dangerous receivers in the area on his side, while George is usually looking for options out of the backfield. Waldron senior Fletcher Masters is a track star in pads and he has gone over 100 yards in each of the Spartans’ first two contests and it would be surprising to see the Rams shut him down. On the other side, George usually goes to Dakota Borton or Wick, but like Emens, George can do some damage outside the pocket.
Where the Rams might have an advantage is in the running game, where a stronger, more confident Wick is hard to bring down on first contact.
The Spartans have sort of a running back by committee, but John Emens, Robert Bernath and Taner Cooper provide a more-than-adequate-trio. The Spartans have fumbled the ball eight times in two games though.
The Rams are a veteran group who proved to be quite staunch in a division bout with Litchfield last week. They limited the Terriers to 137 yards of total offense and they intercepted Jordon Fox twice. Sophomore Matt McCormick is living up to head coach Bryan Cook’s preseason praise, as he registered 18 tackles last week and he might just pack more muscle into his small frame than any player in the conference. Senior Logan Longman is also making his presence known, as the middle linebacker, a year after missing the entire season due to injury. Their defense did give up 34 points in week one, but it was to a Class C Adrian Madison team that put up 55 the next week. The Spartans gave up 323 total yards to Britton-Macon in week one, but they did cause two turnovers and the Tories were just 3-of-10 on 3rd-down conversions against them. Linebackers Casy Mohr, Bernath and Alex Winch are a quick bunch who know how to hit and they will be tracking Wick all night long.
Both these teams have the ability to put some points on the board, but they are also pros at shooting themselves in the foot. I think the team that limits big plays the most wins this one. Masters could be the difference maker in that department for the Spartans offense and Waldron has had time to gel the last few weeks under a new head coach. I think Cook’s boys are playing with more pride and heart than they have in several years, but I’m not sure they are going to be able to neutralize Emens or make clutch plays in tight spots on the road.
Waldron 21, North Adams-Jerome 14
Camden-Frontier (1-1, 1-1) at Litchfield (0-2, 0-1) 7 p.m.
This is essentially the Terriers season on the line, while it is a chance for Camden-Frontier to prove they are a serious title contender. After finishing last year out with a victory over Athens it seemed like coming out party was on the horizon for Litchfield, but losses to Bellevue and North Adams-Jerome have put a damper on their season. The Redskins on the other hand are scoring like never before (seriously, check out their track record) and quarterback Kurtis Tyler and wideout Brady Nusbaum are already locking up spots on the all-conference team. If C-F can win this contest they will give themselves a chance to fight for a crown over the next month, with key battles with N A-J and Waldron left.
Both these teams love to create open space on the field and both of them have a number of different options on the ground. As far as 2009 goes though, the similarities stop there. Tyler leads the county in passing, with 360 yards and six TDs to his credit, against just one interception and with a 50 percent completion rate.
Nusbaum has been on the receiving end of every one of those touchdown tosses, and has tallied 231 yards on 14 catches. The sheer fact they scored 31 points on Reading should be a statement in itself. Dan Nye and Jake Jividen provide different looks in the backfield, and either one of them could get the ball on every down. Litchfield’s offense is one that isn’t afraid to take chances, evident by their 44 pass attempts so far this year, tops in the county. Starting QB Jordon Fox has thrown for 106 yards, but no TDs and three INT so far. Alex Cornish isn’t the fastest wideout in the county, but his hands and ability to get yards-after-the-catch are well above average. Co-captain Michael Henley is averaging almost 7.5 yards per carry and has the team’s lone touchdown, but he has only carried the ball 19 times. Reading had loads of success on the ground against C-F in week one and Granger might have to consider using the run to set up the pass in this ball game. Fox is a fearless gunslinger, who can move well with his feet, but he has to learn to throw the ball away sometimes when pressure is coming and limit his costly mistakes.
It’s hard to get a read on the Redskins’ defensive unit because they played two polar opposites to start the season. They gave up 55 points to Reading, then shut out Tekonsha. In both games their secondary proved to be more than capable of sticking on the opposing teams top receiver though. Conversely, their defensive line had trouble shedding blocks and their linebacking corps look to keep improving in regards to stopping the run. The Terriers really haven’t given up all that many points or yards so far, but they also failed to force a turnover from N A-J QB Dakota George last week, who is prone to giving the ball away. David Koontz anchors a sizeable defensive line and Jeremy Cornish was an All-SCAA player in the secondary in 2008.
This one will prove to be a game dictated primarily by the Terriers’ offense and Redskins’ defense. It is pretty obvious what the Litchfield defense and C-F offense are capable of, but putting it together on both sides of the ball is what it’s going to take to win this one. I think Litchfield will come out strong, with some new wrinkles in their offense, but Camden-Frontier is riding an emotional high that is going to end up being too much to counter. Tyler and Nusbaum caused havoc against Reading, so there’s no reason they can’t do the same this week. I think this is a defining moment for two teams headed in different directions. I expect a well-played game, but someone has to win.
Camden-Frontier 35, Litchfield 20