The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2018 NW Indiana High School Football Week-14 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



When the Michigan City boys get back home from New Palestine Saturday night will they be Semistate Champions? The moment of truth: Michigan City at 5A No. 1 New Palestine has been set for Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. CST. (Photo by Mark Smith)

VALPARAISO (11-13-2018) Fans of Northwest Indiana football get a break this week when Valparaiso hosts Carmel for the 6A Semistate Championship Friday and Michigan City visits New Palestine for the 5A Semistate title Saturday at 3 p.m. (4 p.m. EST).


You could attend both games if you wished to. Radio stations can carry both games instead of one. Newspapers can feature both game instead of squeezing the stories into one edition.


As someone who went to high school in Illinois, I admit I do not understand the reluctance of Indiana schools to play state tournament football on Saturday.

In Illinois, many of you know that many schools play Saturday, especially when travel distances are great. It's no big deal.
We live in a basketball state, but even in Indiana, regional and semistate basketball are not played on Friday night. Not one game. And they play indoors.

I appreciate that football teams get into a routine of playing every Friday and to break that routine upsets the boys and the coaches.

I understand that if you play Friday, you can spend Saturday preparing for the next game. That makes sense. But in the state tournament, when your season is on the line, I don't know why you would not want an extra day to rest, practice and prepare once you are beyond the sectional level.

Also regional games involve travel and I don’t know why you would want to travel after school on Friday as opposed to a Saturday morning. There is also the issue of the students and parents who want to see you play. They have to travel long distances at night or just not go. There is a safety issue there.


Last week Lowell at Mishawaka and Whiting at Bremen asked their followers to drive 90 minutes to two hours to support them. Let's discuss the argument that the games are not for the fans or student body or even for the community. They are, in the purest sense, for the coaches and players, all of whom wish to play on Friday.

But I suspect there is a macho, tough guy aspect to this. I think that a team that asks for a Saturday game due to travel or (like last week) sub-freezing temperatures, would be seen as weak to the other side. I’m sure that would be said.

But when it's 28 degrees Friday night and it's snowing and the forecast is for mid-30s and sunny the next afternoon, and the visiting teams are traveling 50-100 miles, I think November football games should me moved to Saturday for the benefit of all concerned. How cold does it have to get before a youth football game is postponed?

This is a weekend where the lack of television coverage of Northwest Indiana prep sports really hurts. Two classic games (Valpo-Carmel and Michigan City-New Palestine) will be played and one or both could be televised by Lakeshore Public Television.

But not only has Lakeshore Public TV not aired any games for 10 years, their weekly review and preview shows ended last week.

Lakeshore dropped their nightly news show a few years ago as well. They will have no coverage of the biggest high school football games for Valparaiso and Michigan City, two of the largest cities they serve.

This poll takes next week off but the ‘Magnificent 7’ rides again after the six state championship games. Classes 2A, 4A and 6A are set for Friday, November 23 while 1A, 3A and 5A will be played Saturday, November 24.

The top two teams in our poll play the game of their lives this weekend. Again, note the starting times. Carmel at Valparaiso is set for a 6:30 p.m. start Friday. Michigan City at New Palestine kicks off at 3 p.m. (CST) Saturday.

1. (6A) Valparaiso (10-2)
2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8), 2013 (3-7)


VALPARAISO – Valpo came on strong in the second half to win 23-6 over Crown Point and reach the Semistate title game. The Vikings’ defense has allowed 112 points all season and they have won 10 in a row. It is a major blessing to play the Regional and Semistate at home. The Vikings have lost only to Penn (8-3) and Mishawaka (12-1). Valpo seems ready for the biggest game of the year and they are undefeated at home this year. Here comes perennial power Carmel (10-2) for a showdown.

2. (5A) Michigan City (10-2)
2017 (9-4), 2016 (7-4), 2015 (2-7), 2014 (4-6), 2013 (2-8), 2012 (2-8)


MICHIGAN CITY – MC was tied 21-21 early, but then coasted to a 62-21 win over out-manned Concord. The Wolves rolled up 600 total yards in their final home game. What worries you about MC is the weak competition. They have not seen a team with a winning record since they played Merrillville in September. That ‘yellow brick road’ lets you think you are better than you are. Here comes top-ranked New Palestine (12-0) with a 28-game winning streak and the state’s leading rusher in fullback Charlie Spegal. The Wolves have not seen anyone like Spegal, but I’m sure they’ve been working on defending New Pal for a month now. Last season’s Semistate loss at Kokomo was good experience for this week. Playing Saturday helps the Wolves because they’ll have one more day to prepare and rest. Plus, more Michigan City fans can make the two-hour trip to New Palestine on Saturday.


3. (3A) Andrean (10-2)
2017 (8-4), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-4), 2014 (14-1)


MERRILLVILLE – The 59ers were eliminated in the sectional championship game 42-21 at West Lafayette. WL (13-0) is still playing, so the loss isn't bad for purposes of this poll. The 59ers graduate quarterback Zack Merrill (160 of 221, 2,243 yards, 29 TDs) and a half dozen other key seniors. But they return receiver Nick Flescher (72 catches, 894 yards, 12 TDs) and running back Ryan Walsh (56 rushes, 541 yards, 7 TDs) plus kicker JJ Wadas (55 of 55 extra points, six field goals).

The 59ers are 0-2 the last two years against West Lafayette and 18-4 against everybody else. The big change in 59er football may come when the IHSAA realigns teams heading into the 2019 season.
There is a good chance that Andrean (a 2018 enrollment of 510, according to the IHSAA directory) drops down to Class 2A for the next two years of football playoffs. Rensselaer (528 students), is 2A now, so barring a surge on enrollment, Andrean is about to be in Class 2A Sectional 33 with Boone, Whiting, Bowman and those schools.


4. (6A) Merrillville (7-4)
2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5), 2014 (6-6)

MERRILLVILLE – I'm slipping Merrillville ahead of Lowell this week. I think that Valparaiso (10-2) and Michigan City (10-2) winning regional championships raises the stature of the resume of Merrillville, which lost to both teams. The Pirates lost to MC, Valpo, Penn and Crown Point. All were sectional champs except Penn (8-3), which was ranked in the 6A Top-10. I know that the 17-13 loss to Crown Point in the 6A Sectional 1 championship was the third consecutive season that CP has eliminated Merrillville. It’ll sting all winter and spring.

But the Pirates have a lot returning in QBs Aahric Whitehead (120 of 206, 1,691 yards, 15 TDs) and Peter Rodriguez (81 carries, 469 yards), speedy slot receiver Armani Glass (41 catches, 703 yards, 9 TDs) plus running backs Roderick Bell (157 carries, 709 yards, 8 TDs), and Darius Schultz (105 carries, 340 yards, 11 TDs rushing). Defensive tackle Kenneth Grant (6-3, 336) and offensive tackle Martes Lewis (6-6, 290) both return. The future seems bright.

5. (4A) Lowell (10-3)

2017 (14-1), 2016 (9-5), 2015 (9-5), 2014 (12-1)

LOWELL – Lowell was tied 14-14 in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t stop Mishawaka running the ball and the Devils lost 28-14 in the 4A regional final. The Devils may simply have run up against a better team. The strong Lowell pass rush (33 sacks) was nullified because Mishawaka simply didn’t throw the ball very often and the Cavemen used a ball control game that didn’t give Lowell many chances on offense.

Except for how it ended, this was a great season for the Devils who had just 40 active players most of the year and played five games without their starting QB. The Devils will graduate the entire starting offensive line, plus halfback Tyler Wildman and QB Ethan Igras. But their next QB is already on the roster. Starting defensive backs John Alessia and Adam Bank return as do starting defenders Trevor Mantovina and Aaron DuBord. Despite one of their smallest rosters in years, Lowell is still on a roll. The Devils are 49-10 in the last four seasons.


6. (4A) New Prairie (6-4)

2017 (11-2), 2016 (9-3), 2015 (6-4), 2014 (13-2)


NEW CARLISLE – New Prairie is still here, despite four losses because of who the losses were to. New Prairie lost to St. Joe (7-5), Penn (8-3), Mishawaka (12-1) and Andrean (10-2). I’m big on strength of schedule and when you play tough teams, some years you don’t beat them in league or sectional play. The 2019 Cougars will still have Chris Ketterer (6-1, 175) at quarterback. Ketterrer carried 242 times for 1,602 yards and 21 TDs. Chris Mays (5-9, 170) also returns after gaining 931 yards and 14 TDs on 118 carries. Backup QB Ian Skornog (6-1, 170) had 418 yards on 64 carries in 2018 and he’ll be back for more. The Cougars also have a bright future.


7. (4A) Morton (9-3)
2017 (8-3), 2016 (4-7), 2015 (6-5), 2014 (10-2)


HAMMOND – Morton’s two losses to Lowell (10-3), the second one just 20-14 in the 4A Sectional 17 championship, still have them in the poll ahead of Hobart (7-3), Griffith (8-3), Boone (8-3,) Whiting (11-1) and Crown Point (5-7). Junior QB Credell Prather ended the regular season with 133 of 228 for 2,122 yards and 23 TDs. The Governors' best victories were two wins over East Chicago (6-5) and it's probably clear to them that they need some better nonconference foes. I wonder if a Morton-Andrean game would be possible? The long distance outlook here is that school consolidation is coming to Hammond as early as 2021, which will change everything for Morton athletics.


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Revised: November 13, 2018 .