Gridiron Preview: Week Nine

   The final week of the regular season has all three Whitley County teams vying for a conference title. No. 8 Columbia City travels to Norwell for a shot at its first NHC title since 1990. Whitko can lock up an outright title in the TRC at Tippecanoe Valley. No. 5 Churubusco is going for its second consecutive NECC title against Lakeland at home.

No. 8 Columbia City at Norwell

Records: Columbia City 7-1 (5-1), Norwell 2-6 (1-5)
Time: 7 p.m.
Last Week: Columbia City won at home over Carroll 31-24. Norwell fell at Homestead 33-7.
Last meeting: In 2009, Norwell won at CC 48-12.
    Games Notes: It’s just one win away for the Columbia City Eagles.
    A conference championship.
    Already through the best the Northeast Hoosier Conference has to offer, Columbia City takes a 5-1 record to basement dweller Norwell, whose only win came against the Barons, 34-0.
    They head into the final week of the season tied with  Homestead and East Noble. The Spartans have one final test with New Haven at home while the Knights travel to NHC sleeper Bellmont.
    A win for the Eagles guarantees, at worst, a share of the conference title with an outright title with losses from Homestead and East Noble.
    Columbia City’s focus will be on Norwell’s seniors who lead all offensive categories. QB Noah Patten has completed half of his passes this season with fellow senior tight end Jeff Shatto as his top target.
    Running back Justin Shaffer is the top scorer for Norwell this season with nine TDs out of the backfield.
    Strong safety Alex Mills leads the Knights defense with 37 total tackles on the season.

Whitko at Tippecanoe Valley

Records: Whitko 7-1 (6-0), Tippecanoe Valley 5-3 (4-2)
Time: 7 p.m.
Last Week: Whitko clinched a share of the TRC title at Rochester in overtime 27-24. Tippecanoe Valley fell from the top spot with a close 41-39 loss at North Miami.
Last meeting: In 2009, Valley escapes at Whitko 21-20.
    Games Notes: A share of the conference title isn’t going to be enough for the Whitko Wildcats.
    After clinching, at worst, a share of their first Three Rivers Conference championship since 2002, the ’Cats are looking to go a perfect 7-0 in conference play.
    With Rochester standing alone in second place with one loss, Whitko takes on the team right behind the Zebras in rival Tippecanoe Valley.
    The Wildcats hold extra incentive for week nine after the Vikings escaped Whitko in 2009 with a 21-20 victory.
    The annual game between the two conference foes has been close the last two seasons. With each team taking a win, the winner has come out ahead by three points or less in each meeting.
    Whitko has come on as of late with top receiver Derek Snep totaling a conference best 491 yards this season.
    The running game for the Wildcats has been led recently by Dakota Harmon and D.J. Fouce, who put up a season best total of 171 rushing yards and three touchdowns last week.

Lakeland at No. 5 Churubusco

Records: Churubusco 7-1 (6-1), Lakeland 4-4 (4-3)
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Last Week: Churubusco suffered its first loss of the season at Fairfield 52-38. Lakeland lost at SB Saint Joesph’s 63-7.
Last meeting: In 2009, Churubusco clinched an NECC championship at Lakeland 12-7.
    Games Notes: For the fifth consecutive season the Churubusco Eagles enter the final week of the regular season off a loss.
    After starting 7-0 for the four straight season, ’Busco had its winning streak brought to a halt at Fairfield.
    Still in the driver’s seat, the Eagles are the same situation as last season. A win against week nine opponent Lakeland assures them of a conference title.
    ’Busco came through with a close 12-7 win last season.
    Instead of the Falcons and Lakers being a part of the conference title mix, it comes down to Churubusco and Angola with each team standing at one loss.
    Lakeland opened the season 3-0 but have since struggled winning only one of their last five games.
    Despite a defensive game last season, the Lakers found trouble stopping ’Busco running back Kyle Mathewson. The senior comes back against Lakeland looking to duplicate his 32-carry 167 yard performance.
    After losing a large senior class, the Lakers are young in 2010.