Though Lafayette Jeff could not extend the momentum from its Avon victory last week against Fishers, the Bronchos have an opportunity to finish strong against Westfield.
Lafayette Jeff could win four regular-season games for the first time since 2008, and can secure its highest finish in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference since that season. It would be the latest rebuilding step for a program two years removed from a 20-game losing streak.
“We’d be one win better in the conference than we were last year,” Lafayette Jeff coach Andy Kennedy said. “We could finish sixth in our conference, and we can say we beat one of the top five teams (Avon).”
Yet Westfield is in a similar position and is regarded by other conference coaches as being much better than its 2-6 record shows. The Shamrocks lost to Avon, Brownsburg and Hamilton Southeastern by a combined 11 points.
“They’ve been very competitive with the top teams in our conference and just haven’t gotten over the hump,” Kennedy said.
Last week, Harrison played without starting offensive linemen Alex Harris, Mitchell Kotterman and Parker Senesac due to injuries. Including the offensive line replacements, Raiders coach Tony Martin said 13 sophomores played considerable minutes against Hamilton Southeastern.
But Martin has been impressed by the attitude of the underclassmen who’ve been asked to fill in against tough varsity competition.
“Our protection’s getting better,” Martin said. “It starts with the protection and the players understanding priorities and responsibilities, and the quarterback understanding where we want to put the ball.”
McCutcheon continues to seek improvement from its passing game. While running backs Nate Deno and Blake Elming have combined to rush for more than 1,200 yards, the Mavericks average about 75 passing yards per game.
Lafayette Jeff and Harrison are the only teams on which McCutcheon has scored more than 16 points. Josh Coston (16-152 yards, TD) and John Beeker (10-146, TD) give senior quarterback Matt Marencik a pair of senior receivers.
“Our offensive problem is we have a confidence problem,” McCutcheon coach Ken Frauhiger said. “The problem with our conference is there’s no week to build that confidence.”
West Central hasn’t gone into the final week of the season with a Midwest Conference championship at stake since 2005.
That season, the Trojans lost a 21-20 heartbreaker at Pioneer. The Panthers, now the five-time defending conference champions, are once again in West Central’s way.
Class A No. 4 Pioneer travels to No. 8 West Central tonight. The Trojans seek their first undefeated regular season and MWC title since 1998.
“Everybody’s pretty excited to have the opportunity to be where we’re at,” West Central coach Darren Rodriguez said. “Not very often do you get to play the last game of the year for a championship game-type feel, especially against a team as dominant as they’ve been the last few years in our conference.”
Pioneer senior quarterback and cornerback Mitchell Williams broke his wrist last week against Tri-County and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Freshman Sam Kiser, formerly a running back, takes over.
Linebacker Chantz Marlatt (60 tackles, 7.5 for loss), safety Michael Hamilton (54 tackles) and defensive lineman Rodney Oliver (49 tackles, 11.5 for loss) lead the Trojans defense.
“Over the last two weeks we’ve played better,” Rodriguez said of his defense. “But it’s going to be a whole different thing come Friday night, because their kids know what they’re doing. They run their offense like a fine-tuned machine.”
How other conference races look:
* Hoosier Crossroads: Brownsburg locked up the title with last week’s 14-0 victory over Zionsville.
* Hoosier Heartland: Undefeated Tri-Central will play defending champion Sheridan for the championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.
* Sagamore: Tri-West can wrap up the outright title with a victory at Danville. If the Bruins lose and Western Boone wins at Lebanon, a three-way title would result between the Stars, Tri-West and Danville.
* Wabash River: North Vermillion’s victory over Fountain Central put the Falcons in the driver’s seat. They can clinch the outright championship with a victory at Seeger.
South Newton’s Austin Drinski was officially credited with a school-record 356 yards on 35 carries in last week’s 26-24 overtime loss against North White.