Fort Wayne Bishop Luers is looking to make history before moving from Class 2A to 3A next season due to the Indiana High School Athletic Association's tournament success factor.
Luers (10-4) is seeking to become just the second school to win four consecutive state titles. Warren Central won four straight 5A championships from 2003-06. Top-ranked Cardinal Ritter (14-0) figures to present quite an obstacle with an offense averaging 50.9 points per game. Here are five things to watch:
1. Offensive opposites collide?
"(Ritter has) a wide-open offense and throws the ball all over the field," Luers coach Steve Keefer said. "We're a little bit more control-oriented, power football and try to dominate the line of scrimmage."
The Knights average just 82 passing yards per game, less than half of Ritter's 197. However, the Raiders still average more rushing yards (212) than passing, behind junior Logan Beaman (1,333 rushing yards).
"When someone is geared up to take one away, we're going to try to use the other one to get things accomplished," Raiders coach Ty Hunt said. "We try to keep that balance."
2. Can Ritter slow down Luers running back Jaylon Smith?
Smith, a top candidate for IndyStar.com Indiana Mr. Football, has made his name as a linebacker. However, the Notre Dame recruit also is Luers' top playmaker on offense.
Since Keefer took over the program this season after Luers fired long-time coach Matt Lindsay for violation of school policy after five games, Smith has been running the ball more.
"He's a huge impact on the offense and he's really fed off of it," Keefer said. "There's been a few times he's made long runs and we took him out and he's been begging to get back in. He's a five-star athlete."
The 6-3, 219-pound Smith has rushed for 1,115 yards on 155 carries and 15 touchdowns.
"We're going to see how we match up and fare against another young man of that talent," said Hunt, who adds his team has faced Speedway receiver Justin Brent, an Irish recruit, twice. Brent had 8 catches for 196 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 62-38 loss Sept. 8 but was held to 4 catches for 49 yards in 49-21 sectional loss.
3. How will Ritter handle a close game?
The Raiders have outscored opponents 257-64 in their five postseason games. Since slipping past Heritage Christian 41-40 in the season opener, Ritter's next small margin of victory was 18, 36-18 over Scecina on Oct. 5. Luers has had some closer calls of late, including topping Tipton 22-12 in the regional and a 10-7 loss to 5A finalist Fort Wayne Snider in the season opener.
4. Containing Purichia key for Luers
Ritter junior quarterback Jake Purichia has completed 159-of-215 passes for 2,717 yards and 42 touchdowns.
"We have to keep him in the pocket and get him off his rhythm," Keefer said. "We have to get some great pressure on him. They have great receivers so limiting yards after catch is going to be big."
Alex Parrett (69 catches, 1,346 yards, 26 touchdowns) is the Raiders' top receiver but was injured in semistates and his status for Friday's has not been determined. Jake Hagen is the team's No. 2 receiver with 40 catches for 714 yards and 8 touchdowns.
"(Luers') team speed is something we're going to make sure we corral and fly to the football," Hunt said. "We have to prevent the big play."
Keefer is just as concerned about the Raiders' big-play potential. Both defenses have good speed.
"But I think we have a little more power up front," Keefer said.