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The Journal Gazette

Friday, September 14, 2018 1:00 am

Top 15

Line play setting Dwenger apart

Dan Vance | For The Journal Gazette


(All games at 7 p.m.)

Bishop Dwenger at Carroll

North Side at Bishop Luers

Northrop at Concordia

Wayne at South Side

Homestead at Snider

Bellmont at Huntington North

Columbia City at DeKalb

East Noble at Leo

New Haven at Norwell

Adams Central at Heritage

Jay County at Bluffton

Monroe Central at South Adams

Southern Wells at Woodlan

Angola at Lakeland

Eastside at Garrett

Fairfield at West Noble

Fremont at Central Noble

Prairie Heights at Churubusco

NorthWood at Wawasee

Warsaw at Northridge

Whitko at Tippecanoe Valley

Time to throw some respect the way of Bishop Dwenger. The lone SAC unbeaten team flexed its defensive muscles in shutting down a high-powered Homestead offense, and the Saints now stand alone atop the city standings.

With arguably the best offensive and defensive lines in the SAC, Bishop Dwenger has put itself in the driver's seat at the midway point of the regular season and done so without a lot of the flash and flair that has made other teams headline worthy.

How does the rest of the area stack up?

1. Bishop Dwenger

The first three weeks taught us little about the Saints, but Week 4 may have taught us everything. A big, physical front line has kept Dwenger undefeated as it prepares for a gantlet of teams looking to prove some sort of point. This is a tough team that wins games in the trenches, and the Saints will continue to challenge teams to fight them there.

2. Bishop Luers

The Knights have been able to win big games in pressure situations; add last week's double overtime win to that list. Of the three teams sitting at 3-1 in the SAC, Luers' résumé is clearly the strongest with wins over Homestead, Carroll and Concordia.

3. Wayne

A significantly improving red zone defense thwarted North Side four different times last Friday. Can the Generals continue to shut the door on better teams? Wayne is compiling wins, and tonight should be no exception as it prepares for a gantlet of its own in the final four weeks.

4. Homestead

The Spartans are not out of the conversation completely, but a still-learning defense needs to quiet doubters. Snider will come prepared to fight tonight, so the Spartans have to be able to keep the Panthers offense on the sideline so they can try to put up big numbers of their own.

5. Snider

Things are improving for Snider, but the Panthers' résumé is at the bottom of the second place SAC teams. A win over Homestead would change that and it is important for Snider to keep up the tradition of being big brother to the Spartans. Jon Barnes Jr. continually looks more comfortable at quarterback and that is a big step for Snider.

6. Angola

On paper, the Hornets have a tough matchup against Lakeland tonight, but in reality it should be a showcase game for the Hornets defense, led by Ryan Brandt. Last week, they stopped a hard-running West Noble team and Lakeland shouldn't measure up either.

7. Carroll

Many SAC teams have had to bounce back from disappointment, and the Chargers will just be the newest on that list. Gaven Vogt versus the Bishop Dwenger defense is a headline maker tonight.

8. Concordia

Concordia is the best team in the SAC that just can't seem to pull out a victory. Tonight's game opposite Northrop is big for both teams and could make it the best game of the week.

9. Adams Central

It is going to take an unworldly run defensive effort to slow down Adams Central in the race to an ACAC title. Two backs in Jalen Hammond and Logan Macklin are able to rush for 100-plus yards a game.

10. East Noble

Becoming as hard to stop on the ground as in the air, the NE8 Conference could be the Knights' for the taking. Kaiden Harshberger is quietly emerging as the conference's top rusher.

11. Northrop

Knocking down the big-win door against Carroll, the Bruins could really thrive now. Bailey Meerzo continues to impress as a threat from quarterback, and more weapons are emerging around him weekly.

12. South Adams

The Starfires' potential slide was thwarted by a stellar Week 4 from sophomore Christian Summersett. Can their offense sustain? Tonight opposite 4-0 Monroe Central will speak volumes about that and if they can keep pace with area Class 1A teams.

13. Churubusco

The Eagles are making waves in Class A, ranked fifth in both the coaches and media polls. Their offense could feast tonight opposite Prairie Heights.

14. New Haven

Kentrel Thomas came up big on defense, and the Bulldogs have a spark atop the NE8 by beating one of the other top contenders last Friday and they will have to beat an improved Columbia City next week.

15. Leo

In a loss to New Haven, the Lions took a hit in their NE8 hopes. A true identity could be forming on the ground as Alex Wertman continues to be a workhorse.