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Ben Smith

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Today
Class 5A
Carroll at LaPorte, 8 p.m.
South Side at Huntington N., 7 p.m.
Wayne at Kokomo, 7 p.m.
Homestead at Snider, 7 p.m.
Class 4A
Wawasee at DeKalb, 7 p.m.
Angola at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Concord at East Noble, 7 p.m.
Dwenger at Jay County, 7 p.m.
Leo at Columbia City, 7 p.m.
Logansport at Norwell, 7:30 p.m.
Marion at New Haven, 7 p.m.
Class 3A
Garrett at Whitko, 7:30 p.m.
Concordia at Jimtown, 7:30 p.m.
T. Valley at West Noble, 7:30 p.m.
Lakeland at Heritage, 7:30 p.m.
Yorktown at Bellmont, 7 p.m.
Class 2A
Oak Hill at Churubusco, 7 p.m.
Luers at Woodlan, 7 p.m.
Bluffton at Eastside, 7 p.m.
Class A
Fremont at Southwood, 7:30 p.m.
Triton at Adams Central, 7:30 p.m.
Northfield at Central Noble, 7 p.m.
Lapel at South Adams, 7 p.m.
Southern Wells at Sheridan, 7 p.m.

Foes fear Spartans’ dynamic receivers

Griffith
Coate

– They are poison squared, the two of them. You want to double Isaac Griffith, out there on the flank for your Homestead Spartans? Or how about Seth Coate, hunkered down in the slot or split wide on the other flank?

Fine. Pick your poison, then. It’s not going to go down well either way.

“We haven’t had a better pair of receivers come through Homestead,” declares Chad Zolman, Homestead’s football coach.

And, no, that’s not because Griffith and Coate are merely the end product of an offensive system that can put three touchdowns on the board before it gets out of bed in the morning. They are, after all, the fuel that system runs on, along with Frank Martin and Grayson Bastin back there at tailback and Conner Houser at wide receiver and Matt Skowronek at quarterback.

“We don’t see as much double coverage as other teams,” Coate says. “We have not had that all year.”

Well. Once, maybe.

“Carroll tried to do it,” Griffith says. “I was hurt that game but I just went out there and did my job and decoyed, and Seth had a huge game. That’s when defenses really started looking at us and thinking, ‘Well, he’s a threat as well, and we can’t leave him open.’ ”

Yet they have gotten open, the two of them. Between them they’ve caught more than 60 balls, and, of Skowronek’s 1,399 passing yards, Griffith and Coate have accounted for better than 1,100 of them. It’s a big reason 9-0 Homestead comes to its sectional showdown with 9-0 Snider as the state’s top-scoring (44.5 ppg) Class 5A school.

Something else, too, about the two of them: If they’re poison squared, they’re also just squared, period. Or perhaps cloned.

They’ve been tight since third grade, when they played baseball and basketball together. By the time they were in fifth grade, they were playing PAL football together; Coate would play quarterback and Griffith running back, and, then, at halftime, they’d switch.

It was the perfect symbiosis for two kids whose mothers were both teachers and whose fathers were both college football coaches – Shannon Griffith at Manchester, where he has been head coach since 2004, and Doug Coate at Saint Francis, where he’s the Cougars’ running backs coach and director of football operations.

“Our families are basically the same,” says Griffith, Indiana recruit. “We can talk to each other about anything. And we always have each other’s backs on the field.”

“They like each other,” Zolman says. “And they’ve grown up around football and know the ins and outs and have seen their dads teach how to run routes. It’s an advantage to have kids that are football savvy.”

Even the fact they both played quarterback at their respective middle schools – Coate at Summit, Griffith at Woodside – helped when they switched to receiver at Homestead.

“Just the awareness of where I should go, what the quarterback is used to throwing and where they look helped me a lot,” Coate says.

And now?

“I’m a little quicker,” Griffith says. “But he’s big, and he’s got huge hands and he can just grab anything in his area. He’s more of a deep-ball, big-catch guy, and I’m more I get the ball and I’m just going to make a play with it.”

Pick your poison.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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