September 6, 2013

Shake-up in the MWC

No. 3 Winamac hosts NW; Pioneer looks to get back on track

By Beau Wicker and Bryan Gaskins

---- — Winamac is looking to return to the top of the Midwest Conference after ending Pioneer’s long MWC winning streak last weekend.

After beating Pioneer the Warriors are now the team to beat in the conference.

But as longtime coach Tim Roth put it: “That win won’t mean anything if we don’t play well again against the Vikings.”

The Warriors (2-0, 1-0 MWC) host North White (2-0, 1-0) tonight.

North White also has two lopsided wins to its credit to start the year. The Vikings defeated Taylor 52-20 in Week 1 and Tri-County 40-0 in Week 2.

“They’re 2-0 and score a lot of points,” Roth said. “We may have our hands full. They’re not as big as we are but they’ve got a lot of quickness we’ve seen on film.

“The [Luke] Diener kid has moved from tailback to quarterback. He’s pretty elusive. Their offensive is pretty simple. It’s a lot of single-back reads with him. They want the ball in his hands as much as possible. It’s kind of like what Pioneer did with the [Sam] Kiser kid. From that standpoint if we shut down Diener we’ll shut down North White.”

The Warriors defeated Pioneer 34-8 last week, their first win over the Panthers in 12 years. In fact it was just the Panthers’ second loss in MWC play over the last 12 years and first since 2006.

Winamac’s reward for the win was the league’s traveling trophy in football, The Bull. The trophy had been in the Panthers’ hands for so long, if they would have kept it no one would have probably known.

“We didn’t even know there was a traveling trophy until we got that on Saturday. We had a couple seniors go, ‘what’s this?’ It’s been with Pioneer so long nobody even knew it was there,” Roth said.

The win over Pioneer was no fluke. The Warriors outgained the Panthers 234-100 on the ground and 158-65 through the air.

“It was nice to finally outrush them and outpass them as well,” Roth said.

The Warriors are led by the 1-2 thunder and lightning punch of Tyler Katschke and Parker Fox. Katschke had 139 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns against Pioneer, and Fox rushed for 155 yards and two TDs and was 6-of-10 passing for 158 yards and two more TDs.

S. Newton (1-1, 1-0 MWC) at Pioneer (0-2, 0-1 MWC)

The Panthers finally got some sustained offense going near the end of the Winamac game last week after struggling moving the ball for the most part against the Warriors and Lewis Cass.

Look for the offensive improvement to continue into tonight’s 7:30 p.m. game as South Newton has split a pair of shootouts this season, losing to North Newton 48-42 in Week 1 and defeating Frontier 33-31 in Week 2.

The Panthers only have 11 upperclassmen including five seniors on the team this year, so they’ve been relying on quite a few younger players. But veteran coach is Mike Johnson is still miffed by some of the mistakes the youngsters have been making in running an offense most of them having been running since they were about 10 years old, as anybody following the local football scene knows the Panthers are a football machine even at the youth and middle school levels.

The Panthers finally met their match in MWC play last week at Winamac, but they’ll try to get another winning streak going starting tonight.

Though the conference may not exist much longer, as it’s been learned that LaVille and Triton will join Caston, Culver, Knox, North Judson, Pioneer and Winamac in a newly formed league. West Central is also considering a move.

Further news on the new conference is expected later this month.

Frontier (0-2, 0-1 MWC) at Caston (0-2, 0-1 MWC)

Things started out well enough for the Comets last week at Class A No. 5 West Central.

“We had made so much improvement,” Caston coach Chris Ulerick said. “We were up 13-12 on a really decent football team. We had moved the ball down the field twice on the first two possessions and had made all kinds of progress.

“Then there was a bad call on an inadvertent whistle and for some reason the kids cashed it in. Until that point we had actually played decent football until that point in the first quarter. ... Everything just fell apart after that inadvertent whistle by the official.”

The Comets are facing a Falcons team that has lost 30 straight games, 21 straight MWC games and four straight to Caston.

But after scoring just 48 points all of last year, the Falcons have already scored 38 this season. They lost 20-7 to Clinton Prairie in Week 1 and 33-31 to South Newton in Week 2.

“I think they’re much improved,” Ulerick said. “I’m sure coach [Jamie] Sailors has been working with them. They line up and get after it. They have decent size. Their backs and quarterback are pretty good athletes. ... They had a chance last week and didn’t pull it off.”

Logan (0-2, 0-0 NCC) at Hunting N. (0-2, 0-0 NCC)

The Berries are playing a Vikings team that likes to throw the ball and then throw it some more.

HN quarterback Keenan Leichty has already thrown 115 passes this season. He is 49 of 115 for 456 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Vikings have played two Class 6A teams to start the season with losses to Homestead (37-26) in Week 1 and Fort Wayne Carroll (41-6) in Week 2.

“I charted the 193 plays in their first game and they threw around 70 times,” Logan coach Brad Urban said. “Watching them play they can run the ball a little bit, but they like to throw the ball and catch it. Their quarterback gets rid of it fast.

“They’ve played good competition. I’m sure they’re looking forward to NCC play and what they can do there as well as we are.”

If the Berries took a big step forward in the season opener against Twin Lakes, they took a giant step back in last week’s loss to Peru.

“We have to play better football. Everyone knows that to a man. We’ve got to get it done,” Urban said.

“I told the kids the Peru game was a big game for us. I was worried all week that we’d be satisfied with the effort on the defensive side we had against Twin Lakes, when we played with a lot of heart and pride and had a chance to win, but that didn’t spill over even after a good start. The defense was very complacent, they didn’t adjust to some formations and things and didn’t tackle real well. They didn’t play real hard. I don’t understand that. We just have to do a better job of getting to the football. I didn’t think we played near as aggressive as we did against Twin Lakes.”

Urban hinted at changes after last week’s disappointment but said this week he will stick with his original plan for now. The only change he mentioned was more reshuffling on the offensive line as Alex Emmerd will be moved to center in attempt to stop disrupting inside penetration by opposing defenses.

Northwestern (2-0, 0-0 MIC) at Cass (1-1, 0-0 MIC)

The first week of Mid-Indiana Conference football play is headlined by Northwestern vs. Lewis Cass. Both teams hope to contend for the conference crown.

Northwestern is 2-0 after non-conference victories over Clinton Central and North Miami. Cass is 1-1 after beating perennial Class A power Pioneer and losing to Class 3A No. 6 West Lafayette.

West Lafayette drilled the Kings 56-8 in a game that was halted after three quarters because of lightning.

“The last thing you want to do is play them after the loss they had last week,” Northwestern coach John Hendryx said. “I’m sure they’ve had a very spirited week of practice. I don’t think that was their ‘A’ game they brought to West Lafayette.”

Hendryx hopes his squad is ready for a big step up in competition.

“[Cass’] competition those first two weeks — no offense to who we’ve played, they’re just better [opponents],” he said. “It seems like some of the years it’s taken us a quarter or more to get up to their game speed and their physicality. We can’t wait until then. We have to be ready to play from the opening kickoff. We have to be ready for their speed and physicality because it will be different than what we’ve seen so far.

“We have an awful lot of seniors, but an awful lot are playing Cass for the first time other than on some special teams here and there. It’s going to be different.”

Cass also is breaking in a lot of new players this season following heavy graduation losses. The Kings went 11-2 and won a Class 2A sectional last year.

“It’s a little different Cass team,” Hendryx said. “They’re not as big as they’ve been, but I think they’re as quick or quicker than I’ve seen them for awhile. They really run to the ball well defensively. Offensively, we run a very similar offense, and I think they have very impressive guards. The [Cody] Campbell kid might be the best lineman in the conference. They present a lot of challenges.

“And I don’t put a lot of stock into last week. I’ve been on the end of those games. Once it starts snowballing, you can’t stop it.”

Northwestern is coming off a 40-6 victory over North Miami. The game was called early because of lightning.

“I’m really pleased with the progression we made from Week 1 to Week 2,” Hendryx said. “We made a lot of changes after the first week. We thought we needed to get more skill guys involved. We now have a freshman quarterback [Trey Richmond]. It’s not because our senior quarterback [Logan Macaluso] was not doing well, it’s because we had a little bit of a problem at the running back spot so we put him there. He’s big and physical and that made a huge difference last week. I couldn’t be any prouder of Macaluso and how he’s taken the change.

“We had five different guys carry the football last week and that’s pretty much going to be our norm. We’re playing with different combinations at different places. Moving him allows us to do that.”