By DYLAN MALONE
Like the baseball teams headed to play at Parkview Field in the spring, the football teams in the ACAC take a trip to “big boy town” to battle at Ball State’s football facility in Muncie for an experience many on the field will not feel again after high school.
There will be four games played on Saturday with the Jets opening up against the Southern Wells Raiders, then Bluffton and Heritage, Leo and Woodlan, and the night cap will be South Adams and Garrett.
Ball State will be out of town taking on Kent State Saturday so the venue is set, the collegiate energy will flow and mix with the raging hormones and testosterone of a few hundred high school boys, oh yeah and…Leo and Garrett get to play games against the bottom of the conference of the ACAC hoping to keep their perfect records.
Not if South Adams has anything to say about it.
The Starfires are desperate for a win. They were desperate last week against Adams Central but the big play-making abilities of a few key Jets pushed them over SA in the second half. Now they’ll be just as desperate against Garrett who has yet to lose in the conference but came close last week in a 30-26 win over Woodlan.
South Adams has been improving in little ways all season long but they are a few leaders short of that breakthrough that they experienced a few years back after losing their first four games only to win their final five and 10 more last season. Each game they have played has brought some new aspect to their game that they have built on and Garrett may be just the team to surprise with a breakout game. If SA can pool together all that coach Jason Arnold has taught this season against the Railroaders, they could really surprise people.
The rise of a familiar last name has Berne abuzz as Derek Wanner got the ball last Friday against the Jets, one year removed from last year’s senior star Dustin Wanner, Derek’s brother. With Wanner at the quarterback position, Corey Seffernick moved to receiver and the Starfires had that familiar run game they featured last season but were a little bit smaller on the line. If the way they played against the Jets is any indication, they could be back in good form Saturday at Ball State if the underclassmen and new seniors can rise to the occasion not allowing nerves to get the better of them.
The other factor will be the Starfire defense. SA plays some stellar, hard-nosed “D” that seems to end when the fourth quarter comes around. The strength and conditioning of these Starfires will be tested against Garrett who look to pound the ball with force so it will be interesting to see what the Berne boys are made of this weekend.
The Jets picked up their first conference win against the Starfires but it was anything but magical, even in the second half. Granted, the rain was coming down and both teams fumbled their opening possessions deep in enemy territory. The Jets use the pass to move the ball a lot and it hurt them in the first half before the delay ended.
For AC to top Southern Wells and beyond, they need to improve their run game like they did against South Adams. Late in the game, the Jets finally figured out the schemes the Stars were running and threw some wrinkles in their run game that led to Blake and Sharp running rampant for a pair of scores.
With a semblance of some rushing in their arsenal, Combs’ deep ball would be that much more effective. It’s a game of chess in high school football. If the Jets pass every play, the defense will play off the line allowing the run game to succeed. By contrast, when Sharp and Blake bulldoze through the line forcing better protection up close, Combs can find his receivers in better time for more explosive results.
South Adams has the perfect chance to turn their season around with a marquee win against Garrett as they will host Woodlan next week and then Southern Wells to close out the season. What poetic justice for coach Arnold in his last year at the helm to take his team roaring into sectionals possibly playing upset for schools who have overlooked them “A la Bellmont” last season.
Adams Central’s schedule is slightly more challenging with a red-hot Bluffton team who can hurl the ball down the field and then a season-finale at Woodlan but the Jets could also make Ball State a message for their sectional opponents...here we come again.
Predictions: Adams Central 28, Southern Wells 7…Heritage 45, Bluffton 20…Leo 42, Woodlan 14…South Adams 21, Garrett 20.