This week’s edition of “Three & Out” focuses on the GSSC – minus North Newton.
1st Down: For a team that went 3-7 in 2010, there could be many places where you could look at and say “that’s the problem”, but for Bishop Noll it’s pretty clear that defense is a huge issue. The Warriors surrendered a whopping 47.8 points per game in 2010 and unless you feature the greatest offense Region football has ever seen, that’s not going to get the job done.
2nd Down: The good news for Noll is that graduation will not hit them as hard as it has other teams. Only 10 players graduated from last year’s roster, so while they players they have coming back are coming off of a rough season, there should be experience on the field for Noll which can be invaluable.
3rd Down: Bishop Noll is another team affected by the off-season realignment, but it might be a change for a better. Dropping down from 2A to 1A, Noll finds themselves in an easier sectional this season without Wheeler, who put a 70 spot on the Warriors in the opening round last year, and Rensselaer. There are no true powerhouses in the new Sectional #33, with South Central being the closest thing to one. We’re not saying that Noll is going to win this sectional, or even make a championship appearance, but odds are they won’t get beat by 50 again.
1stt Down: Coach Ivan Zimmer was very optimistic prior to the 2010 season because of the experience he had returning on his Calumet ball club. Following the first four games there seemed to be plenty of reasons for Coach Zimmer’s optimism as the Warriors won three of their first four, but injuries and a lack of depth took their toll on Calumet as those three wins were the only victories they would pick up all season.
2nd Down: The Warriors offense was built around the running game last season, but with the losses of backs TJ Axel, Chuck Carter, & Chakese Whitfield, the attack is going to have to be more balanced in 2011. Considering that Calumet averaged only 18 points per game (14 if you take out the 56 point outburst against Gavit to open the season) a change of plans might not be the worst thing in the world.
3rd Down: This is a program that needs to learn to get better as the season goes on. Historically, Calumet gets off to a good to decent start, but then fades as the season goes on. Whether it’s an issue of depth or the strength of schedule increases later in the season, it’s a problem when you can’t enter the post-season with little or any momentum.
1st Down: 2010 was another one victory season for the Eagles, but that one win might be a small sign of improvement. The Eagles went 0-for-2009, so any win is good, but it was the first time since the 2007 season that Lake Station beat someone on the field (we’re not counting forfeits) that wasn’t rival River Forest. A six point win over Calumet isn’t a monumental achievement, but it counts for something.
2nd Down: Prior to the start of last season, Coach Mike Hepp said he wanted to get back to the offensive basics with his ball club, and find a few things that his team could execute well. While that philosophy is still a work in progress, there were signs that it was working. Lake Station had its highest offensive output in three seasons and was only shutout twice, which marks the second time in five years the Eagles weren’t shutout three times or more. With continued offensive growth, this team might be able to raise their points per game from 11.2 and make some of the blowout losses a little closer.
3rd Down: Of course to help with that starts with the defense. The Eagles gave up over 43 points a game last year, so while the offense was better, most of the contests weren’t even close because they were giving up so many points. With only a 33 man roster, depth is going to be an issue which usually rears its ugly head on the defensive side of the ball. But, if Coach Hepp can keep building the program, getting more kids to come out, he might not have to rely on so many players lining up on both sides of the ball.
1st Down: New Chicago was rocking to open up the 2010 season. River Forest was 3-0 for the first time since 2003 and fans were looking forward to the first winning season in eight years, but then the wheels just totally fell off. The offense which averaged 29 points a game over the first three weeks, scored 64 points total over the final seven games as River Forest lost each and every game after that 3-0 start.
2nd Down: How do Jeff Bean and his team rebound after what had to be a disappointing year? It’s going to be very tough considering how hard graduation hit a team that was lacking depth to begin with. The backfield tandem of Richard Pennington and Mike Manning, along with quarterback Chase Young and standout defensive safety Tyler Hansen are all gone, leaving big shoes to fill. River Forest dressed 40 on the roster last year, which is not bad for a 2A school, but its time for some of those returning players who either gained experience last year or will be seeing their first varsity action to step up.
3rd Down: The Ingots have not gotten out of the first round of the post-season since 2000, but with realignment, there’s a chance they could advance. It all depends on how the blind draw comes out. In the “Feast of Famine” Sectional #25, where teams are either really good (Andrean, Rensselaer, Wheeler) or not so much (Everybody else), River Forest could conceivably be the beneficiaries. If the Ingots were to draw Bowman, Boone Grove or Lake Station while the three powerhouses stay on the other side of the bracket (because that would be what we all want), its possible, not probably, that River could see semi-final action for the first time in 11 years.
1st Down: Winners of the first sectional title in school history in 2010, South Central was poised to make another tournament run in 2011, but now they’ll have to do it with a new head coach. Jeff Karras left the satellite in orbit after his departure for an assistant position (and teaching job) at Michigan City, leaving assistant Mel Hay in charge of the program. With the promotion of an assistant, there shouldn’t be too much turnover, but a new head coach is always going to want to instill his own philosophies and practices, so there will be change.
2nd Down: Making the transition easier for any coach is the presence of a star running back, and boy do the Satellites have that in Ethan Biggs. The senior ran for over 1500 yards and 17 touchdowns last season while averaging nearly six yards per carry. It’ll be tough to improve on those numbers, but in his last go-around in high school ball, you know Biggs is going to be motivated to be even better than he was last year.
3rd Down: Like last year, the sectional is right there for the taking for South Central and they will be the heavy favorites once again, but realistically, how far can this team go in the post-season? They have a lot of things going in their direction and are definitely a program on the rise, but standing in the way in the Regional round is Lafayette Central Catholic. You may say that a private 1A school isn’t the fairest opponent in the world, especially when they can draw kids from all over the Lafayette area, and I wouldn’t disagree, but it’s a problem that South Central is going to have to deal with. No matter how on the rise they are and how much better they could be, they aren’t LCC.
1st Down: If there ever was a regular season championship, odds are Wheeler would be right on top of any poll. With a 40-5 regular season record during coach Dan Klimczak’s five year run at the school, the Bearcats have put up extremely impressive numbers and an absurd average margin of victory of 42.5 points per game since 2006. The Bearcats haven’t lost a regular season game since 2007 and there are really only a couple of opportunities for that to happen in 2011.
2nd Down: However, they don’t aware regular season championships, they make you play in the post-season and the results there haven’t been too kind to Wheeler. Despite dominating the regular season, Wheeler is only 7-6 in the playoffs with only one sectional championship. What does this say about the Wheeler program? Are the impressive regular season numbers mainly due to a not-so-strong schedule? Is Class 2A really just that good? Most agree with the former, but the Bearcats have run in to a really strong Rensselaer Central program in the sectional championships in each of the past two seasons.
3rd Down: Will it be more of the same for the Bearcats in 2011. Well, without star quarterback Sam O’Shea, it’s hard to believe that Wheeler is going to put up the same type of numbers that they have been in the past. But, the schedule isn’t exactly the strongest in the Region, so another 9-0 season is possible. What is also possible is another premature exit from the post-season. With Rensselaer remaining in the sectional and now Andrean joining the fray, Wheeler could have their hands full in trying to advance once again.
1st Down: Not a very deep team to begin with as one of the smallest schools in the state, the Whiting Oilers are losing a lot of talent, especially at the skill positions, heading in to the 2011 season. Steve Kieltyka, Juwan Simmons, Emerik Quiroz, & Matt Aponte are all going to be very tough for Coach Jeff Cain to replace as each played a major role on both sides of the ball.
2nd Down: The Oilers are in that frustrating spot of being good enough to have only two or three losses heading in to the post-season, but maybe not quite as good as some of the teams that they could meet in the post-season. Whiting may take a small step back due to the loss of the talent described above, but their schedule allows them to still have a good shot at a winning record.
3rd Down: If the Oilers want to make a move in the GSSC standings, this might be the year to do it. Wheeler is going to be more vulnerable than they have been in recent seasons, South Central will be the conference favorite, but they have to prove that last year wasn’t an aberration, and while North Newton is getting better, they still aren’t part of the conference elite yet. With all of the post-season struggles that Whiting has undergone (no sectional title since ’97), winning the conference might be their best chance at taking home hardware.
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“Three & Out” returns in two weeks (yes, we get vacation too) with the GLAC, Northwestern & Independent teams