No. 3 Ben Lippen Falcons (5-1) vs. No. 1 Hammond Skyhawks (5-0)
Today, 7:30 p.m., Edens Stadium, Columbia
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Ben Lippen -- Joey Carter, QB
A senior, Carter makes the Falcons offense go. In six games, he has amassed 1,345 passing yards to lead all Midlands passers and has 11 touchdown throws.
Hammond -- David Nidiffer, QB
The first-year starter is completing 72 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions. He needs 70 yards to reach the 1,000-yard plateau for the season.
We all respond to pressure
Ben Lippen's defense features multiple fronts and blitz packages that confuse quarterbacks. The Falcons have recorded 30 sacks - averaging five per game. Hammond must protect Nidiffer from the likes of Zack Perry (nine sacks), Jonathan Nahlen (seven sacks) and Sammy Joe White (five sacks).
Ben Lippen's penchant for the big play has allowed it to average 25.8 points per game. When he has time, which he usually does, Carter loves to fling the ball around the field to Ross Flemming (24 catches, 367 yards) and Taylor Wilson (32 catches, 480 yards). But Hammond has allowed 31 points this season (6.2 per game).
Ben Lippen's 33-26 victory against Hammond one year ago established the Falcons as a player in the SCISA championship landscape. The Skyhawks have not lost since, winning 12 in a row and their third consecutive SCISA 3A title. The Falcons won't be intimidated walking into Hammond's homefield. But they'll face a Skyhawks' team that knows how to win big games.
"It gives us a mental advantage going in that we've proven we can beat them. They are well-coached and a great team. We still have to line up and play the game. There is nothing guaranteed." - Ben Lippen coach Reggie Shaw
"We are definitely not thinking in terms of a revenge factor. Our team won a championship last year and is proud of that. This year's team is trying to do the same thing. Ben Lippen is a great team and presents a formidable challenge." - Hammond coach Erik Kimrey
THE PICK: Hammond 28, Ben Lippen 22
Unless Hammond uncharaceristically mixes in numerous blitz packages, Ben Lippen will move the ball and score points. How the unflappable Nidiffer handles the Falcons pressure is the key. He's in a good position on his home field, with Kimrey coaching him.