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Table of contents 102 N. Main Street, Kendallville, IN 46755 (260) 347-0400

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ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES

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IN All Sports Football Preview is a special supplement to The Herald Republican, The News Sun and The Star, which are publications of KPC Media Group Inc. ©2018 All rights reserved

Angola

2

Central Noble

4

Churubusco

6

DeKalb

8

East Noble

12

Eastside

16

Fremont

18

Garrett

20

Lakeland

24

Prairie Heights

26

West Noble

28

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Angola Hornets

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the Angola football team this season include, front row, from left, Eric Cockroft and Colton Mattox. Middle row, Ben Villafuerte, Jayce Meyer, Joel McCurdy and Marcques Tagliaferri. Back row, Luke Honer, Brock Tingley, Chase Schnepf, Jake Bradley and Jarrett Gibson.

schedule Aug. 17

H

DeKalb

7 p.m.

Aug. 24

H

Leo

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

A

Jimtown

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

H

West Noble

7 p.m.

Lakeland

7 p.m.

Sept. 14 A

Sept. 21 H

Fairfield

7 p.m.

Sept. 28 A

Prairie Heights

7 p.m.

Oct. 5

A

Garrett

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

H

Eastside

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

angola High School

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Hornets motivated for repeat performance in 2018 BY CHRIS REED

creed@kpcmeda.com

ANGOLA — As soon as the final whistle blew in Angola’s loss to Bishop Dwenger in last year’s regional, eyes immediately turned to the Hornets’ 2018 campaign. Angola’s 2017 campaign was a fluke in one sense of the word, but not in the way you are probably thinking. The Hornets’ 12-1 record — 10-0 in the regular season — was one of the best in program history. It was also the first time in 25 years that the team advanced to the regional round of the state tournament. Angola stormed through the Northeast Corner Conference a season ago and with several teams on the 2018 docket churning through roster overhauls at key positions, the Hornets’ upcoming NECC schedule looks ripe for the picking, though its non-conference schedule poses several challenges. Barring injury, Angola seems poised to reload, not rebuild. The Hornets lost key seniors at quarterback, receiver and linebacker, but will try to fill those voids with more upperclassmen who have been in the system for three or four years. Quarterbacks Jacob Domanski and Jarret Gibson will enter practice as the top two signal callers. Domanski served as the primary backup to Chance Roddy last year. Hornets coach Andy Thomas praised both players’ smarts and willing-

KPC FILE PHOTO

Slotback Joel McCurdy is part of a strong group of players returning from Angola’s Class 4A sectional championship football team last season.

ness to compete, saying, “They are both the type of guy you want leading your team.” Elsewhere on the roster, Joel McCurdy will return as the team’s top receiving threat after posting 54 receptions, 638 yards and six touchdowns last year. Luke Honer returns as the team’s top linebacker. Strengths: Ground and pound will likely be Angola’s winning ticket. Running back Chase Schnepf returns for his senior season, and will look to improve upon his 1,034 yards and 25 scores posted in 2017. With a new QB and likely several new faces catching the ball, Schnepf will be even more important this year. On defense, safety Ryan Brandt headlines one of the NECC’s better units, which also includes returning

starters such as Honer and defensive lineman Kyle Trick, as well as returning defensive tackle David Frank from injury, amongst others. Key to success: Last year’s team found a recipe for success — a run-and-gun style of offense that featured Schnepf, while Roddy hit on the intermediate and long routes through the air — and it worked to perfection. Thomas noted this year’s team will need to find it’s own recipe. Key game: Versus DeKalb in the season opener. The first of three non-conference games, followed by Leo and Jimtown, Angola will learn a lot about its team from the first kickoff. The Barons return a ton of experience on both sides of the ball and questions about the Hornets’ new players should be answered pretty quickly.

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Page 3


central noble cougars

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the Central Noble football team this season include, front row, from left, Nathan McDonald and Jesse Jacobs. Back row, Tanner Vandegrift, Nick Alwine, Levi Leffers and Nick Rawles.

schedule Aug. 17

A

West Noble

7 p.m.

Sept. 14 H

Fremont

7 p.m.

Aug. 24

A

North Miami

7 p.m.

Sept. 21 H

Lakeland

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

H

Fairfield

7 p.m.

Sept. 28 A

Churubusco

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

A

Prairie Heights

7 p.m.

central noble High School

Oct. 5

H

Eastside

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

A

Garrett

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

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Tipton returns with seniors in 2018 BY TAYLOR LEHMAN

tlehman@kpcmedia.com

ALBION — Central Noble is welcoming back Trevor Tipton, who brought massive success to the Cougars program in the late 1990s and early 2000s, appearing in five consecutive sectional finals from 1998 to 2002, including Central Noble’s most recent sectional title in 2002. “He misses it,” said Lyn Yoder, who coaches Central Noble’s freshman team. “It’s tough. You miss that competition. We’re glad to have him back.” Tipton inherits a team that is heavy in senior experience and a program that went 8-4 a season ago. At the heart of that is second-year starting quarterback Nick Alwine. After transferring to the program a few years ago, Alwine quickly gained hold of the quarterback position and as the team’s leader, Yoder said. “He started for us last year, so he’s returning and has some experience,” Yoder said. “He did a really nice job. He’s a good leader out there.” Key returners: QB Nick Alwine, WR Jesse Jacobs, OL/DL Levi Leffers, RB Nick Rawles, OL/DL Tanner Vandergrift. Promising newcomers: Nate McDonald played running back for Central Noble’s junior varsity team last season and now joins the varsity team to bolster the position that already features Nick Rawles and some of Jesse Jacobs. Jacob Rose will be a key contributor at the wideout position for Alwine and Jacobs as well. Strengths: Experience is the biggest strength when discussing the Central Noble program. With the majority of starters returning from last season’s team and Tipton taking over at the helm, having experience and knowledge of the game will be

KPC FILE PHOTO

Lineman Levi Leffers (62) will be a leading player for the Central Noble football team this season.

crucial to the success of the Cougars in 2018. Areas to work on: Central Noble is working on creating a dynamic position in order to get Jacobs the ball in as much space as possible. Leaning toward this more modernized form of offense will be a significant aspect to work on for the Cougars if they want to repeat success from last year. Keys to success: If the talent and experience that are featured within the program can adapt to the new

system Tipton brings with him, and adapt quickly, this Central Noble team will add to its most recent successful streak. If not, the Cougars could be looking at a season of regression again. Key game: The opening game against West Noble will be incredibly crucial to the restarting of Tipton’s era. The Chargers also return many of their 2017 starters, and after a 32-14 loss last season, the Cougars are going to want intra-county revenge.

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churubusco eagles

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the Churubusco football team this season include, front row, from left, Joey Emehiser, Parker Curry, Nathaniel Keener, and Brandt Parsons. Back row, Sam Wood, Gage Kelly, Jake Fulk and Tom Richards.

schedule

Churubusco High School

Aug. 17

A

Whitko

7 p.m.

Aug. 24

H

Lakeland

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

H

Garrett

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

A

Eastside

7 p.m.

Sept. 14 H

Prairie Heights

7 p.m.

Sept. 21 A

Fremont

7 p.m.

Sept. 28 H

Central Noble

7 p.m.

Oct. 5

A

West Noble

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

H

Fairfield

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

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Churubusco well-seasoned for 2018 BY KEN FILLMORE

kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

CHURUBUSCO — Churubusco has a lot of experience coming back from team that finished 9-2, won a Class 1A sectional game and was part of a three-way tie for the Northeast Corner Conference Small School division title. The Eagles return eight starters on offense and six starters on defense for sixth-year coach Paul Sade. That includes arguably the area’s best quarterback-running back duo in senior signal caller Tommy Richards and senior fullback Nathaniel Keener. Richards enters his third season starting under center after being very efficient last year by completing 56 percent of his passes (56-100) for 726 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Keener had a breakout season by rushing for 1,288 yards and 17 touchdowns while picking up the slack for Garrett Horn, who missed about all of last season due to injury. “We’re gonna build off all the strength and power we have,” Keener said to WANE television (KPC Media Group’s news partner) at the Northeast Indiana Football Media Day in the Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum Expo Center on July 20. Churubusco is typically stingy on defense under defensive coordinator Zach Dock. Junior Reese Wicker had 16 tackles for loss last year, including five sacks. Senior inside linebacker Parker Curry is the leading tackler returning with 76 total tackles last season. Sade said the halfback rotation is more athletic than it usually is at Churubusco with versatile senior Joey Emenhiser and juniors Sam Wood, Gage Kelly and Jake Fulk in the mix. The coach said Brandt Parsons is much improved at receiver. Key returners: Senior FB Nathaniel Keener, junior OL/DL Reese Wicker, senior QB Tommy Richards, senior ILB Parker Curry, senior DB/HB/PK Joey

KPC FILE PHOTO

Churubusco’s Joey Emenhiser (22) chases down Garrett’s Dillon McCann during a game last season. Emenhiser is one of many starters returning for the Eagles from last season’s 9-2 squad.

Emenhiser and junior HB/DB Sam Wood. Wicker, Emenhiser and Wood are entering their third seasons as defensive starters. Promising newcomers: Juniors Case Lemper (OL-ILB), Jake Fulk (HB-OLB), Jake North (OL-OLB) and Blake Trostel (TE-OLB) Strengths: Their traditional running game and the aforementioned experience. Areas to work on: Making the right fit with personnel and how the leadership will develop. Sade knows the players he wants to get

Sometimes We Meet By Accident!

on the field, but it’s more a matter of where they play, and that’s what the coaching staff tried to accomplish this preseason. Churubusco won’t be very deep, but it did well overcoming the injury loss of leading player Garrett Horn for about all of last season. Keys to success: Leadership, the Eagles’ trademark physicality and taking the next step in the bigger games. The experience and a lot of athleticism in the skilled positions will help them be a sectional title contender in Class 1A. Key game: at Eastside Sept. 7.

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7


dekalb barons

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the DeKalb football team this season include, front row, from left, Nick Waters, Peyton Stout, Eli Rohm and Landon Miller. Back row, Lukaas Roller, Jacob Barkey, Tylar Pomeroy, Kyle Dunham, Jon Bell and Aidan Friedel.

schedule Aug. 17

A

Angola

7 p.m.

Aug. 24

H

Garrett

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

H

New Haven

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

A

East Noble

7 p.m.

Columbia City

7 p.m.

Sept. 14 H

Sept. 21 H

Huntington North

7 p.m.

Sept. 28 A

Norwell

7 p.m.

Oct. 5

H

Bellmont

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

A

Leo

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

dekalb High School

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Barons ready to finally take next step BY BRICE VANCE

bvance@kpcmedia.com

WATERLOO — DeKalb will start to see the fruits of its labor pay off sooner rather than later and 2018 might be the year things turn around. Now with three full freshman classes having had success in freshman football and at the junior varsity level, Head Coach Pete Kempf thinks that success should follow them up to the varsity level and produce more wins. “We’re optimistic because we have three freshman groups in a row that have had six-plus wins a freshmen group,” Kempf said. “There’s not a sophomore we have to start. We have a decent sophomore group. We’re just excited about the experience we bring back.” The Barons (3-7, 3-5 Northeast 8 last season) took awhile to find their footing offensively against some of the better teams on their schedule last season. They averaged 14.7 points per game in 2017. Key returners: Four of the five starters return to the offensive line — Nick Waters, Jacob Barkey, Tylar Pomeroy and Hoyt Stafford — as well as quarterback Kyle Dunham, wide receiver Dylan Deller and running back Jon Bell. On defense, DL Tanner Moore-Levy, DL Lukaas Roller, LB Nate Turnbull, LB Landon Miller, SS Aiden Friedel, CB Peyton Stout, DB Lance Barnhart and DB JD Shearer. Promising newcomers: WR Easton Rhodes and Eastside-transfer Tanner Huff, TE Evan Snider, T/DT Jacob Fleming, RB Tanner Jack, DL Spencer Boettcher, C/MLB Trestan Kern. Strengths: The offensive line will be one with the amount of experience returning, which hopes to turn the running game into a much-needed strength that has been lacking the last couple of seasons. On the defensive front, four players — Moore-Levy, Roller, Bell and Miller — who had nine or more tackles for loss return to help disrupt opposing offensive lines.

Our 73rd Year

KPC FILE PHOTO

Tanner Moore-Levy (91) will be an integral piece of DeKalb’s defense in 2018.

Areas to work on: Execution, execution and, yes, execution. DeKalb has the right guys to fill up every position, but it will be a matter of executing the game plan. When the running game does slow down, who will help out Dunham from the receiving core that is largely unproven? “We can be good if we execute. When we come in, and we’re ready to play it’s amazing,” Kempf said. “We have two distinct feelings when you come to practice. When the kids are in it, it’s unbelievable, and we have some of the best practices we’ve had in five years. If they decide that today is not a great day, then it’s not going to be a good practice.”

Keys to success: It will be important for DeKalb to establish an identity this season as Kempf wants to be physical on both sides of the ball. It will be key for the Barons to keep the positives vibes they are generating from the offseason and turning them into positive play on the field. Key games: The easy answer is both of its non-conference games in the first two weeks at Angola and versus county rival Garrett. Let’s go with the former because the Barons have scored just a touchdown in each season opener against the Hornets the past two seasons. Angola should provide a good measuring stick for DeKalb, which is also a potential sectional opponent.

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9


REPLAY

Dunham is DeKalb’s guy

BY BRICE VANCE

bvance@kpcmedia.com

WATERLOO — It’s his job, and that’s not something you could have said the last two years. Before each football season, DeKalb has had a few options at quarterback. But this time, it’s Kyle Dunham listed at the top of the depth chart, and he’s earned it. “It’s definitely a nice feeling to have being set in stone,” Dunham said on being the No. 1 quarterback this season. “It’s a good position to have to be able to know that you can impact the game so much and that people are counting on you.” “Outside of taking a beating for the last two years. He stood in the pocket, delivered and makes good decisions,” DeKalb head coach Pete Kempf said. “As a senior, he just carries that presence. He does a lot of things right and leads in the correct ways. He’s great for Corey.” Yes, Corey Price is the backup quarterback for the Barons, and is a viable No. 2. But with Dunham being the clear No. 1 and Price following in his footsteps, it gives Kempf a sense of ease heading into 2018. “It gives us a sense of confidence that you don’t have to make that decision,” Kempf said. “That’s always a hard decision, especially when you have two that are battling, that are equal in many aspects, but they have different attributes and are successful for different reasons.” “It’s not necessarily a comfort level, but now we know how to divvy up reps,” Kempf added. “We have a No. 2 in Corey Price, who’s daggum good.” Last year, the Barons had four different players throw a pass. Although, only two players threw a pair of passes, and Dunham and Peyton Stout had the majority of attempts. “He’s a great guy to build around. He’s a three-sport athlete and starts in three sports. He’s a good student. He’s kind of like your Mr. All-American, and you just love the kid for that,” Kempf said. “He

BRICE VANCE/

Kyle Dunham will be the starter at quarterback for DeKalb when it opens the season at Angola on Aug. 17.

does everything right, and that’s all you could ever ask.” Dunham was 88-for-159 for 1,113 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had a completion percentage of 55.3 percent. He is also capable of tucking the ball and taking off for yards on the ground. He gained 143 yards on 41 carries with three scores. “None of it’s going to be flashy, but he’s going to stick in the pocket and deliver the ball. He’s going to get back up and do it again. You can’t replace that,” Kempf said. He did take a beating in a few games last year, but this year he should be more comfortable while surveying defenses. The majority of Dunham’s offense line returns, with four of five starters returning from last year and a healthy competition behind the starters and for that last open spot. “I’m really comfortable with my (offensive line). We lost Donald Hughes from last year and have four starters returning,” Dunham said. “I think we’re

going to be sold in that spot. I have a lot of trust in those guys.” The core of the offensive line returning also helps with a style change that will come with the Barons’ offense this season. The plan is to use the experienced line and the duo of Jon Bell and Tanner Jack at running back to help the running game, which should take some of the pressure of Dunham’s shoulders. “I think we’re a lot more physical and with our new schemes, there’s more complexity. There’s a lot of change. We are under center now some,” Dunham said. “It’s definitely going to be good for us.” With a few years under his belt and going into his final season, DeKalb football will have a stable piece at quarterback, which hasn’t been a guarantee the last few years. “I think my understanding of the offense and just being a leader has really progress,” Dunham said. “I think our offense in general has progressed so much.”

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GO Here’s a great recipe for a quick snack for both players and fans on game day. Players can pack them in their bag for a snack before the game and fans can pack a couple to snack on before or after the game.

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Granola Bars Makes 12 3 cups rolled oats (or 2 cups oats and 1 cup Rice Krispies) 1/2 cup peanut butter 1/2 cup jelly or jam 1/4 cup hot water 1/4 tsp salt butter or vegetable oil Additions nuts coconut dried fruit honey Instructions 1. Heat the oven to 350. 2. Butter or oil an 8” x 11” baking pan. If you have a different size pan, that’s fine—it’ll just change how thick the bars are. 3. Pour the oats into a large bowl. You can use quick oats if they’re all you have, but I prefer the bite and chew of rolled oats. For a different texture, you can also substitute a cup of oats with a cup of Rice Krispies, but the bars are great either way. 4. Add the peanut butter, half the jelly, the water, and the salt to a small pan. Stir over low heat until it’s smooth. 5. Mix the peanut butter and jelly concoction into the oats until all the oats are coated and you have a sticky mass. 6. Dump the mixture into the oiled pan and press it into an even layer. Spread the remaining jelly over the top. 7. Pop the pan into the oven for 25 minutes, until it’s toasty and brown around the edges. Leave the bars in the pan until they cool completely, about an hour, then slice into 12 bars.

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Page 11


east noble knights

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the East Noble football team this season include, front row, from left, Damian Miller, Jack Herber, Kaiden Harshberger, Zach Ellert and Nolan Mallas. Back row, Jordan Slayton, Bailey Parker, Alex Manns, Trystan McCreery and Spencer Pattee.

schedule Aug. 17

H

Plymouth

7:30 p.m.

Aug. 24

A

Warsaw

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

Huntington A North

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

H

DeKalb

7 p.m.

Leo

7 p.m.

Sept. 14 A

Sept. 21 H

Norwell

7 p.m.

Sept. 28 H

Columbia City

7 p.m.

Oct. 5

A

New Haven

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

A

Bellmont

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

east noble High School

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East Noble looks for leadership in 2018 BY TAYLOR LEHMAN

tlehmankpcmedia.com

KENDALLVILLE — East Noble is on a mission to find a redefined leadership on both sides of the ball in 2018. The Knights lost their offensive and defensive captains with former quarterback Andrew McCormick headed to Indiana State and former linebacker Kenny Cook joining Tiffin. Even on a production level, replacing players like McCormick, who accounted for 72 percent of the Knights’ offensive production in 2017, and Cook, who was the only Knight with more than 100 tackles (142) and 10 tackles for loss (10.0) last season, can be difficult. But head coach Luke Amstutz said it’s losing both players’ understandings of what was happening on the field that creates the biggest hurdle in taking steps forward at the positions. “He was very similar to Andrew for our defense,” Amstutz said of Cook. “He was a calming influence. He was smart. He had a deep understanding of what was going on. Sometimes you have to get leadership from different places. It’s great when you get it from the quarterback and linebacker, but sometimes you get it from safety and wide receiver. Sometimes you get it from offensive line or defensive end. We just have to have that expectation that our kids are going to show leadership, especially from the senior positions, and just do the best they can.” What will make the transition from McCormick and Cook easier for the fresh faces, Amstutz said, is the team’s size and experience returning in the trenches. Amstutz emphasized the defensive line and the seniors that return there — like defensive end Spencer Pattee, who recorded 77 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks last season — when

discussing improvement on a line that reached the quarterback just 12 times in 2017. “We are as big and as strong as we’ve been in years,” Amstutz said. “We can really cause some problems for offenses, and then if we can find ways to cover people and shore up our pass defense, we’re excited about where we’re at there.” That leadership will prove to push East Noble past the snags it caught on last season — 22-18 loss to Plymouth and 35-21 loss to Leo — or contribute to potentially falling short of last year’s sectional semifinals appearance. Key returners: Senior RB/WR Kaiden Harshberger, senior LB Jack Herber, senior DL Spencer Pattee, junior RB Dane Hile Promising newcomers: Junior quarterback Bailey Parker took 20 passes to record 149 yards last season, but he steps in for McCormick at quarterback. Strengths: The defensive line will be a strength for the Knights this season, as they return many of last year’s contributors, such as Spencer Pattee, Nolan Mallas and Jordan VanWagner. The same goes for the other side of the line, as Amstutz is high on the potential production of the current offensive line as well. Areas to work on: Finding a consistent attack from the running back position will be crucial if the Knights want to utilize the highly touted offensive line. Harshberger, Dane Hile and Griffen Dafforn-Koebler combined to average just 4.0 yards on 197 carries last season. Finding ways to defend passing attacks will be an endeavor of growing pains for the Knights this season. Parker compiled the most productive defensive season in the secondary (four interceptions, six pass deflections), but with his

KPC FILE PHOTO

Kaiden Harshberger returns for East Noble this season after being one of the top receivers in northeast Indiana last year.

transition into the quarterback position, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his snaps limited on defense. The Knights also lose Colton Wright, who defended the most passes (7) on the defense in 2017. While Amstutz is optimistic about the defensive line heading into the season, it’s going to be a season of making statements at the position in 2018, as it produced just 12 sacks last year. It’s also sack or bust against passing attacks if East Noble can’t find security at positions in the secondary. Keys to success: In addition to finding answers in the secondary, East Noble will need to find new leadership to push through the ups and downs of a season. Amstutz said he is confident the senior class can find that leadership in 2018. Key game: East Noble finished in a three-way conference record tie last season with Leo and New Haven. The Knights defeated New Haven, which they would like to repeat this season as well. But the most significant game will be at Leo in week five, when leadership is beginning to be established for most teams.

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Page 13


A brief history of American football

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BY METRO CREATIVE CONNECTION The sport known as American football was borne out of the English sports of association football (soccer) and rugby. During the late 19th century, elite Northeastern colleges took up the sport, playing a soccer-type game with rules adopted from the London Football Association. Intercollegiate matches began to spring up at schools such as Rutgers, Princeton, Harvard and McGill University. Rugby-type rules became preferential among players and spectators. Walter Camp, known affectionately as the “Father of American Football,” transformed the rugby-style game into the one that resembles American football today. Camp brought two key innovations to the game. The opening “scrummage” was eliminated, and a rule was introduced that required a team to give up the ball after failing to advance down the field a specific yardage. Camp also developed the quarterback position, lines of scrimmage and the scoring scale used in football today. Early games were controversial because of the high rate of injury. Even President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in to ask collegiate teams to revise regulations to make the game less brutal. The committee overseeing the rules would later become known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Thanks largely in part to the popularity of college football, professional football began to gain traction with the public. The American Professional Football Association was formed in 1920. That league would later become the National Football League. The first televised NFL game occurred in 1939. Eventually, American football’s popularity would explode. What developed on college campuses has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. According to the International Federation of American Football, there are 80 countries with organized federations governing the game. Plus, thousands of youth and adult leagues exist all over the world.

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BY TAYLOR LEHMAN

tlehman@kpcmedia.com

only thing he really lacks.” In his 20 pass attempts last season, Parker completed 12 of them for 149 yards and three touchdowns. He also scored on one rushing touchdown. His primary role, though, was at safety, where he recorded 57 tackles, six pass deflections and a team-high four interceptions. As he makes the move to full-time quarterback, Parker said the prospect of filling some of the most decorated shoes in East Noble history doesn’t intimidate him. “Andrew was a great quarterback, but I’m not going to dwell on the past,” Parker said. “I’m just going to do the best me that I can and do the best things to help the team win as the season goes on.”

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KENDALLVILLE — There’s one question that has followed East Noble head football coach Luke Amstutz all offseason — what will the Knights do to make up for the loss of former quarterback Andrew McCormick? But Amstutz has known for a while what the answer to that question would be, and his decision, he said, has caused him no anxiety. The offense will turn to junior quarterback Bailey Parker, who took 20 pass attempts in 2017, as its next quarterback. “He’s having a few growing pains, as any first-year starter would, but he’s got a lot of talent and he’s worked very hard,” Amstutz said. “He’s going to be excellent. We don’t expect there to be any kind of step back in the passing game.” For Parker, replacing McCormick is no easy task. The former quarterback, now in the Indiana State football program in Terre Haute, demolished every passing record in East Noble’s book, including most passing yards in a career, most touchdown passes in a career and appearing within the top seven in completion percentage during all three seasons he started at varsity. McCormick was also his team’s leading rusher in all three seasons, including an 820-yard mark on the ground in 2017. But his leadership and understanding of the East Noble offense is what Amstutz has repeatedly said will be missed the most. That doesn’t change as Parker begins his stint at quarterback. “The hardest thing to replace with a guy like Andrew is that he was such a force as a leader,” Amstutz said. “He was a guy that understood everything. Bailey is going to have moments where he’s still trying to figure out what he is supposed to do, where a senior like Andrew knew what everybody else was supposed to do. It’s kind of the difference between a senior and a junior in any case.”

Parker has done what would be expected of a quarterback replacing another that was regarded as the best to come through the program. Senior receiver Kaiden Harshberger said he has been working with Parker and the other receivers on timing since before the summer, and Parker said he continues to work before and after practices as well. Standing around 6 feet, 3 inches, tall, Parker has the height for the position, and Amstutz said he doesn’t lack the arm strength or accuracy either. Both Amstutz and Parker said he can run a read-option offense as well and carry the ball when need be. “He just needs to get in there and get in the pocket and get some experience throwing the ball live,” Amstutz said. “That’s probably the CASINGS • BASES • HANDRAILS • PICTURE MOULDINGS • IN STOCK AT AUBURN HARDWOOD MOULDINGS

REPLAY

Knights look to Parker for quarterback production

Page 15


eastside blazers

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the Eastside football team this season include, front row, from left, Hunter King, Joe White, Carson Smith and Trey Staley. Back row, Nic Shewman, Matthew Lieb, Brayden Myers, Blake Munsey and Maguire Jacobs.

schedule Aug. 17

H

Heritage

7 p.m.

Aug. 24

A

Adams Central

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

A

West Noble

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

H Churubusco

7 p.m.

Sept. 14

A

7 p.m.

Garrett

eastside High School

Sept. 21 H

Prairie Heights

7 p.m.

Sept. 28 H

Fremont

7 p.m.

Oct. 5

A

Centrla Noble

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

A

Angola

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

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Eastside counting on seniors for leadership BY JEFF JONES

jjones@kpcmedia.com

BUTLER — Eastside’s football team has won or shared the Northeast Corner Conference Small Division title four years in a row. The Blazers have never won five. Despite losing 12 seniors from last year’s squad, second-year head coach Todd Mason believes the Blazers have the talent to make history this fall. Last season, Central Noble, Churubusco and Eastside tied for the crown. Mason sees those teams at the top of the heap once again, with Churubusco leading the pack. “Churubusco’s going to be the team to beat in my opinion,” he said. “Central Noble’s made a marked improvement the last couple of years. I think we’re in the race too. “No Eastside team has won five conference championships in a row; that’s one of our big goals this year.” Eastside finished 7-4 overall and 3-1 in the NECC in Mason’s first season. He’s counting on 10 seniors — including several All-NECC players — plus a promising sophomore class to take on the challenge before them. “We’re going to rely on our seniors. We’re going to rely on those 10 for leadership and to show the younger kids the Eastside way,” Mason said. “We have a great sophomore class that we feel are going to be great contributors to our season.” “Our seniors are the stakeholders in the development of our sophomores,” he added. “They’re doing a fantastic job of leading the way.” “We’re looking forward to

KPC FILE PHOTO

Eastside’s Hunter King, left, makes a tackle against Adams Central in a 2017 game.

that experience translating to a successful 2018 football season,” Mason said. Strengths: 10 seniors return for the Blazers, including All-NECC honorees Trey Staley, Joe White, Hunter King, Blake Munsey and kicker Brock Holman. Several younger players gained varsity experience under the Friday night lights as well. Areas to work on: How deep are the Blazers? It’s a question that every coach deals with. While injuries, unfortunately, are part of the game, an injury to one or two key players could have a major impact on the season. At the same time, other players get the opportunity to show

what they can do. Keys to success: How quickly can the new players adapt to playing at the varsity level? Mason believes the talent is there, but many of the younger players had experience largely on special teams or in limited varsity action. Key games: The Blazers open with a new opponent — the Heritage Patriots of the Allen County Athletic Conference. Eastside and Heritage have met six times in the past, but not since sectional play in 1993. Other key games for Eastside are a Sept. 7 home game with Churubusco and a road game the following week at Garrett for the Train Trophy.

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Page 17


fremont eagles

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the Fremont football team this season include, front row, from left, Christian Bice, Karson Meeks and Jon Armstrong. Back row, Doug Martin, Kenny Laws, Kaleb Gannon and Preston Applegate.

schedule Aug. 17

A

Southern Wells

Aug. 24

H

River Valley (Mich.)

H

Lenawee Christian (Mich.)

7 p.m.

Pittsford (Mich.)

7 p.m.

Aug. 31 Sept. 7

A

7:30 p.m. 7 p.m.

Sept. 14

A

Central Noble

7 p.m.

Sept. 21

H

‘Busco

7 p.m.

Sept. 28

A

Eastside

7 p.m.

Oct. 5

H

Prairie Heights

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

H

Traders Point Christian

7:30 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

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Control what you can Fremont football focusing on bettering itself for 2018 season

BY CHRIS REED

creed@kpcmedia.com

FREMONT — To borrow a phrase from one of the best films ever made, it’s “a tale as old as time.” Or, perhaps more specifically, a mantra. Control what you can control. It’s a favorite of coaches across the globe, in every level of every sport. Simply worry about what you have power over and let everything else fall into place. This fall, those words might as well be etched into the walls of Fremont’s locker room. “Just keep a positive outlook, a positive direction,” said Eagles coach Jim Hummer, who is entering his fifth year as the head of the program. That approach took on a few different roles this offseason, but none impressed Hummer more than his team’s work in the weight room. The Eagles have worked out four days a week this summer under a new “bigger, stronger, faster” program implemented by former Fremont and Trine University track coach Troy Barker. Barker, who spent the past 13 years at Lakeland, is back in the Eagles’ halls as a physical education teacher and is again making his mark on the athletes that walk therein. “This has been the best summer we have had since I’ve been here,” said Hummer. Fremont has also tweaked its schedule again to help ensure a more friendly, but also safer, schedule for its

Our 73rd Year

KPC FILE PHOTO

Fremont coach Jim Hummer said his team is entering this season after its best offseason of commitment in his tenure with the Eagles.

players. The Eagles removed Lakeland, Covenant Christian, Frontier and Colon (Michigan) from last season’s slate and replaced them with River Valley (Michigan), Lenawee Christian (Michigan), Pittsford (Michigan) and Traders Point Christian. “We wanted to find schools of similar sizes to us, so we can put our kids in the best position to have success,” Hummer said. “Despite the challenges, we have been fortunate because a lot of schools our size don’t even have a football team.” Strengths: Experience. Fremont’s returning roster isn’t as bare as some people may think. Connor Kreis and Kameron Colclasure return as the team’s

top two quarterbacks — Kreis started last year but the two took part in a three-way competition for the spot — as well as other notable names such as Kaleb Gannon, Kenny Laws and Clayton Lawrence, among others. On a small team, having a combined 15 juniors and seniors can be big. Key to success: Spring successes. Hummer stressed the importance of having many of his players experience what it feels like to win while on the Eagles’ baseball team. “The key is they can now bring that to the fall season. It’s infectious,” Hummer said. Key game: Oct. 5 vs. Prairie Heights.

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19


garrett railroaders

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the Garrett football team this season include, front row, from left, Ethan Harter and Clay Fielden. Back row, Kraig Smith, Sam Farney and Alex King.

schedule Aug. 17

H

Prairie Heights

7 p.m.

Aug. 24

A

DeKalb

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

A

Churubusco

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

H

Lakeland

7 p.m.

Sept. 14 H

Eastside

7 p.m.

Sept. 21

A

West Noble

7 p.m.

Sept. 28

A

Fairfield

7 p.m.

Oct. 5

H

Angola

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

H

Central Noble

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

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Garrett building for future

BY BRICE VANCE

bvance@kpcmedia.com

GARRETT — With the loss of nine important seniors off last year’s rosters, it’s up to this year’s smaller senior class and larger group of juniors to make sure this rebuild at Garrett doesn’t take long. The Railroaders finished 6-4 and 3-1 in the Big Division of the Northeast Corner Conference and for the second consecutive season their season was cut short by Concordia. “It’s not a reload; we really got to make something out of some young kids who aren’t there yet,” DePew said. “We have to get them there, so it is a rebuild. It truly is.” Garrett will rely on a group of juniors that comes out to about 20 in size to carry the load this season. The senior class is made up of eight seniors and two of them are strictly kickers from the soccer team. “I’ve phrased it as saying they need to think of this (season) as their first of two senior years, because they need to think of themselves that way, and I think they’re capable,” DePew said. The thought of rebuilding sparks the thinking of a down year ahead for the Railroaders, but that’s what DePew wants everybody to be thinking. “You know what’s fun? I already have a feeling other (teams) don’t have high expectations for us,” DePew said. Key returners: QB Levi Follett, WR-DB Tristan Taylor, WR/DB Dane Johnson, WR-DB Kraig Smith, RB/LB Clayton Fielden, FB Warren Joseph, RB/ DB Sam Farney, OL/DL Kobe Lucarelli, K Austin Leech, K Connor Kissinger. Promising newcomers: RB Seth VanWagner, OL/DL Nolan Hathaway, OL/DL Isaac King, OL/DL Alex King, OL/ DL Mateo Fuentes. Strengths: With the return of junior quarterback Levi Follett and most of his receiving core coming back, this feels like a safe bet for numbers to improve on both ends. The question is how

KPC FILE PHOTO

Garrett has quite a few young members returning to its defense in 2018.

comfortable Follett with feel behind a new offensive line that is breaking in some young pieces. Also, most of the back half of the defense comes back from last season. Areas to work on: The offensive and defensive fronts. This very well could turn into a strength once again by the end of the year, but with the youth that is up front, it could be tough sledding slowing down pressure and vice versa on defense. Keys to success: One of the biggest keys for Garrett will be the growth Follett shows going into his second year as the starting quarterback. DePew said that last

season Follett could lean on seniors to help him navigate the season. This year, it will be up to the junior to step up and be the vocal leader, which is something Follett isn’t known for but is something DePew has seen him start to do more of. Key games: The Railroaders’ first two road games — at DeKalb and at Churubusco — will test their depth because of the experience both the Barons and Eagles bring back. In the last three years, each game has been a close contest with the slimmest of margins coming in 2016 when Garrett beat ‘Busco 7-6.

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Page 21


REPLAY

A different feel to Garrett football

KPC NEWS SERVICE GARRETT — He said it and he’s not used to saying it. For the first time in 18 years as a head coach, Garrett football head coach Chris DePew sees a young group in front of him and isn’t trying to sugarcoat it. “You know how coaches try to cliché it out and say we’re reloading,” DePew said. “I’ll honestly say we’re rebuilding.” The Railroaders have six seniors this year and two more that are kickers, so eight in total. In 2017, there were nine, but this feels different. Those nine seniors made up quite a bit of the offensive and defensive lines and in the offensive backfield. “I think it’s going to be different, but I think we’re making the changes necessary for them to succeed,” Clayton Fielden said. “The offensive line we had before, they were a certain way, and now, we’re different. I think Coach has really thought about it, and they changed the offense so that we can succeed with the strengths that we have.” But that doesn’t mean you can count out the Railroaders in 2018. “Now, that doesn’t mean we won’t have a good foundation that is fairly well built by the time we have to start playing games,” DePew said. Garrett’s first game is against Prairie Heights on Aug. 17 at home and they only have four away games this season. “It’s not just insert the next stud and watch him go. We’re not in that position. We have to get some young guys and inexperienced guys ready fast,” DePew said. “And that doesn’t feel like a reload to me. I’ve more questions than I do answers right now, and that’s the truth.” While the Railroaders might not have a lot of standouts coming back, there are quite a few of underclassmen that got experience last year. As sophomores, Dane Johnson and Kraig Smith had productive seasons at wide receiver. Smith led Garrett in receptions and receiving yards, and he led the defense

same the rest of the year,” DePew said.

with three interceptions.

KPC FILE PHOTO

Garrett football coach Chris DePew walks the sideline during a game last season.

“We hit the weight room and got the younger kids bulked up and prepared,” Smith said. “There’s going to be a lot of younger kids playing varsity football this year, and we’re just trying to get them ready for anything that is thrown at them.” That wasn’t the case last year, when expectations were as high as ever coming off a run to the Class 3A semistate game. “What was frustrating last year was we had just come off that semistate season and had a good core of guys back, and literally our two best guys got hurt in the scrimmage and weren’t the

“And it just had a ripple effect on the rest of the season and made for disappointment after disappointment. “The disappointment was that we were 6-4 (last season) and there are a lot of people in this room that’d kill for that.” This season could have a different feel in Garrett, but DePew and the rest of the Railroaders aren’t shying away from it. They are building to be back and better than ever.

601 R.E. Jones Rd. Butler, Indiana Page 22

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What to wear: Friday night football KPC NEWS SERVICE Because football season runs from the heat of August through frosty November, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to wear to a Friday night game. Never fear, we’ve got you covered (pun intended). But first, a couple of ground rules: Check the weather: Always look at the weather before you head out to the field. Nothing is worse than not being dressed appropriately and being too hot or too cold. Look at not only the temperature now but the temperature around when the game will end (account for possible overtimes as well) and be sure to factor in conditions like snow, wind or rain. Dress in layers: You will hear this about any outdoor activity, but you know it’s true. Dressing in layers is a good way to hedge your bet against anything Mother Nature can throw at you. This is especially important if the temperature drastically changes throughout the course of an evening or if it will be cold. Show your support: Don’t go to the game dressed in just anything. Show your pride for your local team

NICOLE MINIER

by wearing some team gear, such as T-shirts, hats or sweatshirts. Even if you need to bundle up and don’t have something to go over your layers, incorporating team colors (facepaint, anyone?) in your outfit can be a little thing to show your support. Now, for the gear: Jersey: If you’re lucky enough to have access to a practice jersey from one of players, wear it with pride! Sweatshirt: If it’s going to be chilly but not too cold, a sweatshirt with the team’s logo can be perfect. Comfy jeans: Jeans are generally warm, but wear a pair that you can sit,

stand and move around in comfortably. A beanie or other hat: Team colors are a perk, but if it’s going to be cold you’ll keep yourself a lot toastier by wearing something on your head. Comfy shoes: Gameday often involves a lot of walking, from the parking lot up the bleachers and back again. Wear something comfortable that won’t kill your feet. The cold essentials: If you’re a dedicated fan and it’s going to be really cold, make sure to don all the gear: gloves/mittens, scarf, hat, long socks and lots of layers. Seriously, the game’s not much fun you’re too cold to enjoy it.

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Page 23


lakeland lakers

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the Lakeland football team this season include, front row, from left, Keaton Fleeman, Austin Albert and Bailey Schlabach. Back row, Austin Collins, Adam Kreider and A.J. Poe.

schedule Aug. 17

H

Wawasee

7 p.m.

Aug. 24

A

Churubusco

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

H

Prairie Heights

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

A

Garrett

7 p.m.

Sept. 14 H

Angola

7 p.m.

Sept. 21

Central Noble

7 p.m.

West Noble

7 p.m.

A

Sept. 28 H Oct. 5

A

Fairfield

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

A

Bluffton

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

lakeland High School

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Lakers stressing defense BY KEN FILLMORE

kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

LAGRANGE — A key step in solving a problem is admitting its existence. And Lakeland coach Keith Thompson is not denying it and fixing it is his biggest priority. “Our offense will be OK,” Thompson said. “We have to make our hay on defense. We’ve been absolutely horrible there.” The Lakers (5-6, 2-2 Northeast Corner Conference Big School division last season) has had trouble stopping people the last couple seasons, allowing 33.3 points per game in 2017 and 35.2 ppg in 2016. Thompson said the defensive issues do not have much to do with schemes. “It’s a matter of playing with attitude and taking ownership of our responsibilities,” the coach said. “The thing is, go out and play football. We had too much paralysis by analysis.” Senior Adam Kreider leads the Laker rushing attack. He ran for 1,450 yards and 15 touchdowns last season while averaging six yards per carry. Lakeland set a program record for total yards in a season in 2017 at 4,274. Seven offensive starters return for Lakeland, including three offensive linemen and tight end Coby Mitchell. “I’ve coached for over 30 years and Coby is the best down blocker I’ve ever had,” Thompson said. Key returners: Senior RB-LB Adam Kreider, senior RG-NG Brian Bergman, senior LG-DE Brandon Bergman, senior TE-LB Koby Mitchell, senior center Pierce Edsall and junior FB Gage Paulus. Promising newcomers: Seniors Bailey Schlabach and Austin Collins in the slotback position replacing graduated big-time playmaker Nolan Isaacs. Strengths: The running game by committee and the size in front of it with Brian Bergman around 270 pounds, Mitchell around 235 and Brandon

KPC FILE PHOTO

Adam Kreider (34) will lead a strong Lakeland rushing attack in his senior season this fall.

Bergman well over 200 pounds. Areas to work on: The defense. The Lakers have a solid reputation over the years on that side of the ball within the NECC. But they have to regain the aggression and nastiness on defense. Senior AJ Poe returns as the starting quarterback. The experience should be helpful in his growth from one season to the next. Lakeland speaks about winning championships, but needs to be better against winning programs in order to be in championship contention, whether it be in the NECC Big School division or beyond. Its last victory over a team

that finished with a winning record was at Heritage in a Class 3A sectional first-round game in 2015. Keys to success: Run, run, run and be better at stopping offenses on the other side. And continue having the resilience the Lakers showed in the second half of last season. Key game: Let’s go with the first two. Hosting Wawasee on Aug. 17, then traveling to Churubusco on Aug. 24. The Warriors will want to throw it around the yard, then the Eagles will want to run it down your throats. Defensively, will the Lakers be the windshield or the bu

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25


prairie heights panthers

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the Prairie Heights football team this season include, front row, from left, David Murley, Derek Tubbs, Clay Schenkel and Zach Wiseman. Back row, Kole Schrock, Gavin Culler, Quintin Ross, Elijah Malone, Ethan Hoover and Seth Metcalf.

schedule Aug. 17

A

Garrett

7 p.m.

Aug. 24

H

Tri-State Homeschool

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

A

Lakeland

7 p.m.

H

Central Noble

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

prairie heights High School

Sept. 14 A

Churubusco

7 p.m.

Sept. 21 A

Eastside

7 p.m.

Sept. 28 H

Angola

7 p.m.

Oct. 5

A

Fremont

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

H

West Noble

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

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Culture change underway at Prairie Heights BY CHRIS REED

creed@kpcmedia.com

BRUSHY PRAIRIE — Prairie Heights football coach Patrick McCrea makes no bones about how the Panthers have fared in recent memory. Heights holds a 2-38 record over the last four seasons, and McCrea, in year two of his tenure, stands at 1-19. He readily admits the challenges that come with his coaching gig. Prairie Heights is a small school, so players are sometimes hard to find. Many players need to play two ways out of sheer necessity, a reality that some larger schools aren’t tasked with facing. And the fact that the program has had just three five-win seasons since 1994 presents a challenge of its own. However, McCrea notices something a little different this time around. A change most noticed not on the field, nor just in the locker room, but in the attitudes of his players. “The past two years have been rough, no doubt about it,” McCrea said. “But we started to find something toward the end of last year. It didn’t result in a lot of wins, but you could see it in practice and on the game field. We started to find ourselves.” McCrea also made note of something else. Something that gives him more hope that his team will begin to trend upward in 2018. “These kids hate the fact that they have lost so much,” McCrea said. “They

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are real competitors, and we have seen that this summer. They are determined to do better this year, and that is the type of player you want on your team.” Heights has also seen an uptick in the amount of players participating in offseason workouts. The Panthers fielded just more than 30 players in total in 2017. So far, McCrea said there have been 40 or more players participating. “On a team this small, 10 more players is a huge difference,” he said. Will these positive changes lead to more wins in 2018? Maybe. Heights performed well against some NECC rivals last year, including games against Lakeland and Central Noble, the latter of which still haunts McCrea, but there is still a lot of work to be done. One thing is certain though. McCrea thinks his team is heading in the right direction. Strengths: The team’s two most important players return. Quarterback Ethan Hoover and linebacker Seth Metcalf will be tasked with anchoring their respective units. Metcalf, one of the area’s hidden gems, recorded 104 tackles and two sacks in 2017, second in the area only to graduated EN linebacker Kenny Cook. Areas to work on: Hoover was not tasked with throwing much in 2017, only accumulating 107 attempts for the season. The problem, he completed just 46 of those attempts (43 percent).

KPC FILE PHOTO

Junior quarterback Ethan Hoover will lead a young Prairie Heights football team this fall.

Heights will get its share of rushing yards in it’s run-heavy sets, but for the team to take the next step, Hoover needs to get that percentage up to greater than 50 percent. This will lead to sustained drives, which will lead to a chance for more points on the board, which is never a bad thing. Key to success: Embrace the grind. McCrea is not shy about his team having it harder than some others. But he also says his team needs to make that their identity. “Almost every player will need to play both ways,” he said. “Embrace that, be tough, have grit and use it as a chip on your shoulder when you play those bigger schools.” Key game: Sept. 7 vs. Central Noble. Heights led the Cougars, who played in the Class 2A sectional title game last year, 6-0 at halftime. CN won the game 34-12. Can they clean things up this time around and come out on top in the rematch.

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27


west noble chargers

MEGAN KNOWLES

Leading players for the West Noble football team this season include, front row, from left, Nick Mora, Neal Kathary and Raven Slone. In the back row are, Chase Stoner, Braeden Hilbish, Brandon Pruitt and Turner Patrick.

schedule Aug. 17

H

Central Noble

7 p.m.

Aug. 24

A

Wawasee

7 p.m.

Aug. 31

H

Eastside

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

A

Angola

7 p.m.

Sept. 14 H

Fairfield

7 p.m.

west noble High School

Sept. 21 H

Garrett

7 p.m.

Sept. 28 A

Lakeland

7 p.m.

Oct. 5

H

Churubusco

7 p.m.

Oct. 12

A

Prairie Heights

7 p.m.

It’s a Touchdown

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West Noble hopes to add pieces around Pruitt in 2018 BY TAYLOR LEHMAN

tlehman@kpcmedia.com

LIGONIER — West Noble head coach Monte Mawhorter and the Chargers are preparing for a philosophical change at the quarterback position for the 2018 season, Mawhorter said. Since 2015, Chase Wroblewski has been West Noble’s leading passer and was the sole starter for his junior and senior seasons. As a senior, he passed for 1,215 yards, and as a junior and senior, he was one of the leading rushers on the team, combining for 122 rushes during those two seasons. Now, there’s a change of hands at the position with Wroblewski graduated. With the offensive weapons Mawhorter anticipates having, along with junior receiver Josh Gross and junior running back Brandon Pruitt already proven to be reliable weapons, the Chargers are seeking a distributor under center. So far, it’s Mawhorter’s son, Kyle, that has proven to work into that role, Mawhorter said. Despite the major offensive shifts in personnel, Mawhorter said he hopes for the team to be defensively driven, as all but two 2017 starters will return for 2018 on the defensive side of the ball. That includes Pruitt, who was the team’s leading rusher and tackler as a sophomore last year. Key Returners: Junior RB/LB Brandon Pruitt, junior WR Josh Gross, senior S Nicholas Mora, senior DL

Braeden Hilbish. Promising Newcomers: Kyle Mawhorter will have all eyes on him with West Noble finding success with him at quarterback in 7-on-7 tournaments. All-NECC basketball honoree Trevor Franklin will be at the wideout position in 2018. Junior linebacker Raven Slone has played himself into position to see more snaps next season with his four tackles for loss and two sacks in 2017. Strengths: Anywhere that Brandon is located is a strength for the Chargers, meaning running back and linebacker will be strong positions for West Noble this season. West Noble also has shifty and tall weapons to work with at the wideout position, which can be tough for defenses to contain. Experience on the defensive side of the ball is huge for the Chargers, especially given the amount that Mawhorter will need to trust in his defense this year. Areas to work on: While the front seven appears to be a strength for the Chargers, the secondary is losing its biggest contributors in Kyle Mawhorter as he transitions to quarterback and Tad Airgood. It does retain Gross and Mora, but the two returnees will feel more pressure if the front seven falters at all. Depth at offensive line has been and will continue to be an issue for West Noble heading into 2018, Mawhorter said. The Chargers don’t have the same size as other schools in the area, which places more

KPC FILE PHOTO

Running back Brandon Pruitt is part of a strong group of skilled players for the West Noble football team this season.

pressure on linemen like two-way lineman Neal Kathery to stay healthy. It’s not a problem that can be directly addressed but is something the program will face this season. Keys to success: Staying healthy on the inside will be crucial for West Noble this season, as well as executing on the defensive end. The Chargers will need reliability on that side of the ball with some uncertainty at important positions on the offensive side. Get the ball to Brandon Pruitt as many times as possible in significant situations. Key game: There are three games that West Noble could win that didn’t look as promising two years ago when it went to the sectional semifinal. The Chargers lost badly to Eastside, Lakeland and Garrett two seasons ago, but last year, they lost to those three teams by a total of four points. If they won those three games, they’d have finished 7-3 rather than 4-6. West Noble will have a chance to do the same thing in 2018.

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29


REPLAY

Mawhorter takes over at quarterback for the Chargers

BY TAYLOR LEHMAN

tlehman@kpcmedia.com

LIGONIER — West Noble football coach Monte Mawhorter said if there was a season to welcome in a new quarterback into his offense, it’s the 2018 season. He returns most of last season’s defense that recorded 33 sacks, brings back junior running back and linebacker Brandon Pruitt, who led the team in rushing yards and tackles, and adds other pieces into the offense that Mawhorter believes will create a surplus of playmakers. That’s why Mawhorter and his players are confident in the addition of Kyle Mawhorter, Monte’s son and brother of former West Noble standout and Trine University safety Erik Mawhorter, into the backfield. “There’s not going to be a lot on the quarterback to win ball games,” Monte said. “Mostly just distributing.” That’s where Monte already believes Kyle is the strongest in his arsenal anyway — an academic of the game that understands distributing the ball to playmakers is a significant part of playing quarterback. The coach said he trusts that Kyle can make the right plays too. That’s where three-year starter and recent graduate Chase

KPC FILE PHOTO

West Noble’s Kyle Mawhorter defends a pass during the 2017 season. Mawhorter was a cornerback for the Chargers last season and will start at quarterback for West Noble in 2018.

Have A Great Season!

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Wroblewski often proved flawed, as his career touchdown-to-interception ratio was 20-to-39, and as a senior, it was 10-to-16. While he was second on the team in rushing yards (149) and passed for 1,215 yards, Wroblewski could never avoid the interception plague. Kyle grew up with his father being the head coach of West Noble football, as Monte has coached for what will be his 20th year for the Chargers and 10 years prior to that. Kyle has always had football in his life, Monte said. That “coach’s son” mentality provides an advantage for the junior quarterback in that he won’t need to spend as much time shaking off growing pains that other young quarterbacks spend some time juking. “There are a lot of kids that play football, but there are very few kids who understand football,” Monte said. “When you tell them it’s 3rd-and-4, you’ve got to get the first down.You can’t be trying to score a touchdown. It makes it a lot easier to coach. You can’t take a sack when it’s 4th-and-3. Just the little things like that.” For his teammates, Pruitt spoke for the team in support of the new field general, who has played quarterback with these same teammates since the third grade. Pruitt was the team’s most significant producer on offense, with 1,062 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 163 carries. He’s also working to be more productive in the passing game, which creates yet another target for the junior. “He’s a great guy,” Pruitt said of Kyle Mawhorter. “He’s really good at making the right read and the right decisions. He gets along with everybody. He kind of picks everybody up on the team. I think it’ll be a great fit this year.”

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Physicality a common theme among grid teams BY BRICE VANCE AND KEN FILLMORE bvance@kpcmedia.com kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

FORT WAYNE — Hitting the weight room and training during the offseason are always keys for all sports. And it’s even more important when the style of play that a team wants to have is being physical. That was an overarching theme among some area football teams that traveled to the expo hall at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum for the 2018 Northeast Indiana High School Football Media Day on July 20.. For DeKalb, being physical will be an even bigger priority due to the amount of experience it returns for the 2018 season. The Barons bring four of five starters on the offensive line and the majority of their defense returns with some playing time under the belts. “This year we have a different approach,” Barons coach Pete Kempf said. “On offense, we were really quick. This year, we are focusing more on power. We have a good offensive line and big guys to be behind. We’re going to focus on running the ball, something we haven’t done as well as I’d hoped to in the past two years.” Also, Kempf has noticed a different vibe in practice and around the program going into this year. Even in some of the scrimmages DeKalb has been the last couple weeks, Kempf has noticed his team’s ability to take a hit and bounce back. “It’s amazing how well we respond when we are punched in the face and teams are aggressive with us. We’re back at it and we’re going to take it to them,” Kempf said. “We’ve got to figure out how to come out, be ready to play and bring it to teams. And I think if we are able to figure that out, if that’s kind of our X-factor and we execute, we’re going to be a team that contend on almost every Friday night.” Page 32

The change in approach can also be traced in part to how the Barons train in the weight room, and that part comes from strength and conditioning coach Josh Collins, who was hired by DeKalb before last season. Collins is big on lifting the right way and helping with stability in the knees and ankles and flexibility and lateral movement in the hips. “We make sure we do it right. We’re all about technique, and then everything after that is bonus,” Collins said. And in Collins’ eyes there has been some growth in just the one year he has been in Waterloo. “Absolutely,” Collins said on if he’s seen gains in the weight room. “In discipline and the consistency.” At Fremont, a new teacher, sort of, is also getting the Eagles in bigger, stronger direction. Troy Barker returns to Fremont as a physical education teacher after spending the past 13 years at Lakeland. He has expertise in weightlifting, strength and conditioning. Barker was a track and field head coach at Fremont and an assistant track and field coach at Trine University for short periods of time before going to Lakeland. “Troy is certified in the Bigger, Stronger, Faster program. He will be a key for us staying healthier because we will be stronger and more flexible,” Eagles coach Jim Hummer said. “We’ve been lifting four days a week,” Hummer added. “This is the best offseason we’ve had since I’ve been at Fremont. The commitment level is far better.” At Lakeland, being physical is more about a mindset than hitting the weights. That’s especially a concern on the defensive side of the ball for Lakers coach Keith Thompson. Last season, Lakeland allowed 33.3 points per game while setting a season program record for total

KPC FILE PHOTO

DeKalb’s Tylar Pomeroy engages with a Garrett defender during last season’s game in Garrett.

yards in a 5-6 season that included a Class 3A sectional win. The Lakers allowed 35.2 points per game in 2016 during a 4-5 campaign. “It’s a matter of playing with attitude and taking ownership of our responsibilities,” Thompson said. “We simplified things. “The thing is, go out and play football. We had too much paralysis by analysis.” The Lakers return seven starters on the defense from last season. “We have to make our hay on defense. We’ve been absolutely horrible there. That’ll be our major focus when practice starts.”

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