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  • Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
    East Noble quarterback Andrew McCormick has thrown for 1,092 yards in just four games. He also has 13 touchdown passes and 203 yards rushing.

  • Receiver Dylan Hunley, right, has been McCormick’s favorite target. Hunley has 39 catches for 677 yards and nine touchdowns.
September 23, 2016 1:02 AM

High School Football: Week 6

Surprises, highlights galore

Column by Greg Jones

Tonight

Bishop Luers at Northrop

Concordia at Bishop Dwenger

North Side at Homestead

Snider at Wayne

South Side at Carroll

Huntington North at DeKalb

Leo at Bellmont

New Haven at Columbia City

Norwell at East Noble

Adams Central at South Adams

Bluffton at Southern Wells

Heritage at Culver Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Woodlan at Jay County

Churubusco at Fremont

Fairfield at Angola

Garrett at West Noble

Lakeland at Central Noble

Prairie Heights at Eastside

Goshen at Warsaw

Southwood at Whitko

Wawasee at Plymouth

- Games at 7 p.m., unless noted

The play on the field has been overshadowed through the first half of the season by the tragic circumstances of the deaths of DeKalb players Lucas Oberkiser and Derek Padilla. 

The deaths have put a somber mood around the region and also caused the Barons to cancel two games, an almost unheard-of situation.

But over the first five games (for most teams), football has resulted in the usual steady play for teams such as Snider and Bishop Dwenger, the defending Class 5A and 4A state champions, as well as a handful of other teams also enjoying near-unbeaten or undefeated records. 

It has also included some big-play capabilities of several players and practically the entire Woodlan team. 

Here is a look at a sample of some of the top players and teams around northeast Indiana at the midway point of 2016.

Pass-catching combo

Andrew McCormick and Dylan Hunley, East Noble: When looking at the gaudy numbers for this pass-catching combination, you start with the number of games played. The Knights are a game behind most teams, which makes what the quarterback and receiver are doing even more impressive.

McCormick has thrown for 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns and run for 203 yards and a score. Most of his completions have gone to Hunley, who has caught 39 passes for 677 yards and nine touchdowns. 

Hunley leads the area in receptions, and McCormick is No. 4 in passing yards. More importantly, East Noble is 3-1, and its only loss came against Class 6A top-ranked Indianapolis Cathedral. 

Making the plays

Garrett Elder, Whitko: The senior, who was moved full-time to running back this season, has been a model of efficiency. He has carried the ball 52 times and has 15 touchdowns. Those 52 carries have also netted 984 yards, 18.9 yards per carry. 

Elder’s 984 rushing yards ranks No. 1 in northeast Indiana, by 140 yards over second place.

After playing quarterback last year, Elder has become even more of a threat for the 2A No. 8 Wildcats (5-0).

Showing depth

Woodlan: The Class 2A No. 2 Warriors (5-0) might be even better than a year ago when they lost in the semistate to Whiting. They are better because of balance. 

Mitchell VanBrocklin, arguably the top player to ever lace up cleats at the school, has graduated but taking his place is not just one player but a more complete unit with Jack Rhoades, Justin Durkes and Trevon McCarter. 

Teams in the playoffs won’t be able to key on one guy.

Statement game

Carroll 36, Bishop Dwenger 21: The defending Class 4A state champion Saints went to the Chargers’ house with an 18-game winning streak and left with their first loss since Week 1 … of 2015. 

Carroll exposed some weakness in Bishop Dwenger this season and got itself back into the SAC race. The Chargers sit a game behind Snider in the conference but are more like two games back because of a loss in Week 2. 

Carroll used creativity and solid quarterback play from Jack Miguel to beat Dwenger and knock some holes in that vaunted defense. And maybe, it was the wakeup call the Saints needed. We see what a loss did for them last year when they opened the season by falling against Bishop Luers and ran the table, and then some.

Showing leadership

DeKalb coach Pete Kempf: His sensitive handling of a team in mourning after the deaths of two players has arguably made him the Coach of the Year despite the team’s 0-3 record. 

The DeKalb players have lost a couple of friends, but as close as coaches get to their players Kempf has lost two sons. It has to be hard on the coach, but as a role model, others look to his strength to help guide them through this tough time. 

Kempf has been an example of dignity in a time of tragedy for the DeKalb community.

Greg Jones is the assistant sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1998. He can be reached by email at gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax, 461-8648.