FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Previewing the Allen County Athletic Conference at high school football media day.
Adams Central Flying Jets
Head Coach: Michael Mosser
2016 overall record: 12-2
2016 conference record: 5-1
2017 Opener: Aug. 18, 7 p.m., @ Bellmont
Outlook: The Flying Jets didn’t win the ACAC title last season, but they did play until the semi-state round, losing to Pioneer one game short of the state championship game. Much of the credit goes to the 3-headed monster along Adams Central’s defensive line. Three all-conference seniors led the way, including WANE-TV Fab 15 selection Brandon Schoeneman. How head coach Michael Mosser and the Flying Jets replace their star-studded defensive line will be crucial in finding their way back to semi-state. While they Jets must replace 4-year starting quarterback Andrew Hammond, Drew Schultz is back after rushing for 1,468 yards and 23 touchdowns last season while speedster Logan Macklin returns as well.
Head Coach: Brent Kunkel
2016 overall players: 2-8
2016 conference players: 1-5
2017 Opener: Aug. 18, 7 p.m., @ Northfield
Outlook: Bluffton hasn’t had a winning season since 2003 — its only winning season since 1994. But its 2-8 season in 2016 can be attributed to a simple scapegoat: youth. Aside from quarterback Timothy Davis, tight end Decorion Eskridge and a few others, the Tigers return the majority of their starters for the 2017 season. The 2016 Bluffton Tigers were among the youngest teams in Northeast Indiana, so the physical and mental development of his players will determine whether new head coach Brent Kunkel (who takes over for Randy Hudgins) can guide the program the dreaded 8-loss mark its been stuck at for the last three seasons. All-conference running back Brandon Lockwood and standout receiver Reid Wenger are good places to start.
Head Coach: Nico Tigulis
2016 overall record: 3-7
2016 conference record: 2-4
2017 Opener: Aug. 18, 7 p.m., @ New Haven
Outlook: Many of the players who were instrumental in the Patriots’ last winning season in 2015 are now gone, and with them, goes former head coach Dean Lehrman’s era as well. In Nico Tigulis’ first season as head coach, he needed to replace most of the starters on both sides of the ball. Now, Tigulis and the Patriots continue to implement the new system, with junior quarterback Walter Knapke already with a year under his belt at the position after missing most of last season with a broken leg suffered in week three. Blake Rhymer will be looked at to lead on both sides of the football as the Patriots return 13 total starters.
Jay County Patriots
Head Coach: Tim Millspaugh
2016 overall record: 6-4
2016 conference record: 4-2
2017 Opener: Aug. 18, 7 p.m., vs. Blackford
Outlook: Before 2016, Jay County hadn’t had a winning season since head coach Tim Millspaugh’s first season in 2013. Now, the Patriots could push for an ACAC championship in 2017. Senior quarterback Holton Hill is going on his third year at the position, and his supporting cast has played along with him from a very early stage in their high school careers. The challenge for the Patriots though will be replacing the talent they lost at the linebacker and defensive line positions. Jay County lost three senior defensive linemen and three linebackers to graduation. If they can find answers at those two positions and drop their points allowed per game below 20, then they can compete for a conference position higher than third place. Watch out for running back Cole Stigleman – last year as a junior he racked up 1,049 yards and 10 TDs on the ground.
South Adams Starfires
Head Coach: Grant Moser
2016 overall record: 8-5
2016 conference record: 3-3
2017 Opener: Aug. 18, 7 p.m., @ Winchester
Outlook: South Adams finished fourth in the ACAC last season, but the Starfires advanced all the way to the Regional Round, which included defeating conference-champion and 2A no. 1-ranked Woodlan in the sectional championship. In a season with major transitions at multiple positions on the offensive side of the ball, South Adams was able to put up an average of 26.2 points per game in 2016. The Starfires will likely play the bulk of the season without star Isaiah Baumgartner who is injured. Baumgartner set the school record for tackles for loss as a junior. Receivers Terry Dawn and Andre Martinez will be relied upon, as will senior running back Joe Stuber. However, the entire starting offensive line graduated. In order for the offense to continue moving forward with youth-coupled-with-experience at the skilled positions, the Starfires need to find a solution to replacing their entire offensive line.
Southern Wells Raiders
Head Coach: Steve Yencer
2016 overall record:
2016 conference record:
2017 Opener: Aug. 18, 7 p.m., @ Fremont
Outlook: The loss of some of Southern Wells’ biggest playmakers made a bigger difference than first anticipated in 2016. As the Raiders were coming off 8-4 and 7-4 campaigns and one trip to the sectional championship in 2014, they lost quarterback Bryce Bonewit, running back Gavin Barcus and several other key, two-way players. A 1-win season was never an expectation for the Raiders, but now head coach Steve Yencer must rebuild a program that he once built into a sectional championship contender.
Head Coach: Sherwood Haydock
2016 overall record: 10-1
2016 conference record: 6-0
2017 Opener: Aug. 18, 7 p.m., vs. Eastside
Outlook: The stage was set for Woodlan to make a run for a Class 2A State Title in 2016. The Warriors returned 17 of their starters that took the program to a semi-state appearance, and they got through their first 10 games unscathed. All it took was one game though, for the state title hopes to vanish, as Woodlan was defeated by South Adams — a team it had beaten, 36-3, during the regular season — in sectional play. While there are question marks along the trenches, as far as replacing graduated players, Woodlan returns most of its skilled offensive players and the majority of its starting defenders. However, senior receiver TreVon McCarter – a WANE-TV Fab 15 selection last year – will miss the first nine games of the season. Still, with quarterback Justin Durkes, running back Jack Rhoades, and receiver Donald Guerrant among the returnees, the Warriors have plenty of offensive potential in 2017.