Gridiron Preview: Week Eight

   Two weeks remain in the Indiana high school football regular season. Each of the three Whitley County teams have conference title deciding games this week with each in the hunt for a championship. Columbia City hosts Carroll on senior night. Churubusco travels to rival Fairfield while Whitko faces its toughest test yet at Rochester.

Carroll at No. 8 Columbia City

Records: Columbia City 6-1 (4-1), Carroll 3-4 (2-3)
Time: 7 p.m.
Last Week: Columbia City won in a shootout at East Noble 56-55. Carroll fell to Homestead 38-10.
Last meeting: In 2009, Columbia City won at Carroll in a dogfight 17-11.
    Games Notes: The target is now on their back. The class 4A No. 8 Eagles have flown under the radar until possibly the biggest game in the program’s history.
    Following up back-to-back wins over ranked opponents New Haven and East Noble can be a dangerous time for any team. The Eagles went 4-1 in the toughest part of their schedule but now face two teams in the bottom half of the Northeast Hoosier Conference.
    Next up is Carroll with a sub .500 record that can be deceiving. The Chargers have lost in blowouts to New Haven, East Noble and Homestead — all teams the Eagles have been within a touchdown or less.
    A run-based offense led by senior back Corey Nelson surprised Bellmont on the road 25-14. Nelson put up 188 yards on the ground. The rushing game is one place the Eagles have given up yards in their big start.
    However, the Chargers have seen their troubles on defense giving up an average of 40 points against the NHC’s top teams. Meanwhile, Columbia City comes off its first 50 point game since 2003 and seats in the driver’s seat for its first NHC title in 20 years.

Whitko at Rochester

Records: Whitko 6-1 (5-0), Rochester 6-1 (5-0)
Time: 7 p.m.
Last Week: Whitko held off North Miami at home 21-13. Rochester beat Tippy Valley in a battle of unbeatens in the TRC 24-13.
Last meeting: In 2009, Whitko lost to Rochester 44-0.
    Games Notes: They’re one of two teams left at the top of the Three Rivers Conference with a 5-0 record.
    The other happens to be their opponent in week eight.
    Rochester has had a stranglehold on the conference and Whitko in recent years. The Wildcats have lost seven consecutive meetings against Rochester.
    The winner of Friday’s game will have more than just a streak to either continue or end. A conference title will most likely be decided.
    Whitko will base its hopes this time around on defense. In seven games, the Wildcats have surrendered only 11 points per game with only one team getting more than 14 points.
    Quarterback Alex Stoddard has come into his own with athleticism complementing a passing attack led by the conference’s leading receiver Derek Snep.
    Each of Rochester’s wins has come by 11 points or more with three shutouts to its credit in the TRC. The road goes through Rochester if Whitko wants its first TRC title since 2002.

No. 2 Churubusco at Fairfield

Records: Churubusco 7-0 (6-0), Fairfield 5-2 (5-2)
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Last Week: Churubusco avoided a scare from Culver Military Academy 24-21. Fairfield won at Lakeland 30-7
Last meeting: In 2009, Fairfield escaped ’Busco 24-22.
    Games Notes: It seems like every year the Churubusco vs. Fairfield game is slated out as the game not to miss.
    The last three meetings between the North East Corner Conference rivals has made it a yearly battle for a conference title. An average of six points separates the two squads in those three games with Fairfield coming out on top with late wins in each.
    For Churubusco, this season could be different. Instead of looking up in the standings at Fairfield, Churubusco is the target as the only undefeated team left in the conference.
    Fairfield, while not the dominate force with two losses this season, has weapons to win a big game.
    The heartbreaker from last season, Tanner Foust, returns as a top receiver for the Falcons. Foust’s touchdown at Churubusco last season handed Fairfield a late 24-22 win.
    Many of those same Eagles are back that remember that tough loss with the likes of QB Kyle Monk, running back Kyle Mathewson and defensive backs Layne Fulk and Josh LeFever.
    Fairfield is vulnerable to high-scoring games with 35 points given up to both West Noble and Angola this season.