The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2021 NW Indiana High School Football Week-6 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Andrean's Drayk Bowen will be a factor this week when Andrean takes the home field against Hobart in a battle for first place in the Northwest Crossroads Conference. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (09-24-2021) Private schools rule the polls again last week as 3A No. 1 Brebuef (5-0), 4A No. 1 Roncalli (5-0) and 5A No. 1 Cathedral (5-0) continue to walk tall.

Bishop Luers (5-0) is No. 1 in 2A and Indianapolis Lutheran (5-0) will be top-ranked in 1A this week.

In 6A, the powerhouse Center Grove (5-0) boys won their 19th game in a row. Center Grove vs. Cathedral is the week nine highlight game in Indianapolis.

This week’s faraway replay is the Hammond-Pioneer game. Look for the IHSAA Champions Network on the web and find it on RTCTV Channel 4. (

The broadcast isn’t great. The camera almost never focuses on the ball so you can't identify individuals. You get a great view of the farm-filled countryside behind the visitors’ grandstand.

I do not know why it's so hard for camera people to focus in on the ball on every play. There are no announcers for the first six minutes of Pioneer-Hammond on what they call ‘Pioneer TV” and the color commentator’s microphone is so low you can hardly hear him for the entire game. You can hear everybody in the press box but him.

But Pioneer football is charming. A hard running team of about 35 players playing on a home field they call ‘The Pit.’ The home folks get so excited in the press box when the Panthers do well. It seems like the locals are where they want to be and where they’ve always been on Friday night.

I’m glad Hammond Central is playing them. It's an experience.

For you newcomers, the ‘faraway replay’ is the non-Northwest Indiana football game I watch Saturday while I’m laying on my back and recovering from walking the sidelines on Friday night. This Pioneer-Hammond game is more ‘feel good’ than a really good game, but it's better than the Bears.

1. (6A) Merrillville (5-0)
2020 (10-2), 2019 (11-2), 2018 (7-4), 2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5)


MERRILLVILLE: The power of the Pirates jumped up again against Michigan City. It was 14-13 in the second quarter, as the Wolves had hope on their home field. But Merrillville stirred it up with 27 points in a row for a 40-14 victory. Lavarion Logan gained 142 yards and three more TDs on 29 carries. QB Angel Nelson was 12 of 19 for 198 yards and three more TDs. The ‘red flag’ here is that Michigan City is a very athletic team defensively and the Pirates still had their way. Merrillville has scored 40 points or more in every game so far this year and at least 20 for 17 games in a row. Merrillville, which has won 26 of their last 30 games, hosts LaPorte (2-3) this week with 5A No. 2 Valparaiso (5-0) waiting in week seven.

2. (5A) Valparaiso (5-0)
2020 (8-1), 2019 (13-1), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3)


VALPARAISO: Valparaiso turned on the defense to turn back Chesterton 10-7 in a matchup of unbeatens. Halfback Hayden Vinyard (6-0, 175) and the VHS offensive line kept control of the game with 34 carries for 174 yards but VHS’s ‘second option’, the quarterback Logan Lockhart, carried 13 times for 95 yards and the only Valparaiso touchdown. Lockhart (6-2, 195) has 332 yards rushing (7.5 per carry) on 77 carries in five games. Vinyard has 1,090 yards on 150 carries. That’s 227 runs by the quarterback or halfback (45 per game) in five games. Valpo, which has won 26 of their last 28, led 10-0 for much of their game and held Chesterton QB Chris Mullen to a reasonable 184 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Valpo didn't shut Mullen down, but they shut him out of the end zone. The Vikings travel to Lake County to play Crown Point (3-2) this Friday.


.) (6A) Chesterton (4-1)
2020 (5-5), 2019 (6-4), 2018 (3-7), 2017 (4-6), 2016 (2-8), 2015 (8-3)


CHESTERTON: I can't drop Chesterton in the poll for a 3-point loss to a team ahead of them in the poll. Middle linebacker Gage DeMarco had 20 tackles in a losing cause. The Trojans take the short trip to Portage (1-4) and then come home to take on Lake Central (3-2) and Crown Point (3-2). It's time again to remember that, while Chesterton is in 6A Sectional 1, which has just three other teams: Penn (1-4), Portage (1-4) and an injury limited Elkhart (2-3) team. Nothing in the 10-7 loss last week indicated to me that the Trojans won't win that playoff.

4.) (2A) Andrean (3-2)
2020 (11-2), 2019 (10-4), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-4), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-4)


MERRILLVILLE: Andrean came on strong in the second half to turn down Highland 38-14 in the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) and Andrean will have one less non-league game. The two teams to defeat Andrean: Merrillville (5-0) and two-time Michigan state champ Grand Rapids Central Catholic (4-0). Here comes a big one in the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) as the 59ers host fast-rising Hobart (3-2) this Friday.

5.) (5A) Michigan City (2-3)
2020 (4-3), 2019 (4-6), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (9-4), 2016 (7-4)


MICHIGAN CITY: That's three losses in a row to the top three teams in this poll, including a 40-14 loss at home to Merrillville last week. The truth? I still don’t know how good Michigan City is. So what if they’ve lost to Merrillville (5-0), Valparaiso (5-0 and Chesterton (4-1). They still are making changes and additions to the lineup,. At least on offense. The Wolves did give up 49 points to Valpo and 40 to Merrillville, but all the losses are to ranked teams. I’m breaking a rule here. I’m dropping Michigan City after losses to teams ranked ahead of them. One note. In two starts, sophomore Michigan City QB Tyler Bush has thrown for just short of 600 yards. Obviously, the Wolves’ schedule gets easier now. Lake Central (3-2) this Friday, and Portage (1-4) and LaPorte (2-3) are the next three opponents. It should be noted (and I didn’t know) that Michigan City is now in 5A Sectional 10. MC is not in the same sectional with undefeated Valparaiso. Sectional 10 has Concord (4-1), Mishawaka (4-1), LaPorte (2-3), Goshen (2-3) and Adams (3-2).


6.) (6A) CROWN POINT (3-2)
2020 (3-4), 2019 (6-5), 2018 (5-7), 2017 (7-5)


CROWN POINT:  Here comes Crown Point after a 27-6 victory over Portage in week five. The Bulldogs earned 26 first downs and ran 55 times for 326 yards. Junior Elijah Tiawhan has 82 carries for 519 yards while QB JJ Johnson has rushed for 347 yards (on 77 carries) and passed for 524 yards (39 of 72 passes). The Bulldogs’ losses are to 2A No. 7 Andrean (3-2) and 6A No. 2 Merrillville (5-0). There is a feeling that Crown Point is improving, but Valparaiso gets to Crown Point Friday and they won't care how folks feel. Crown Point still has Michigan City and Chesterton left to play.



7.) (4A) Hobart (3-2)
2020 (11-3), 2019 (11-3), 2018 (7-3), 2017 (6-4)


HOBART  The Brickies jump into the poll with their third win in a row, 39-27 over rival Lowell. I don't know about the Brickies, but the offensive combination of halfback Trey Gibson, freshman QB Noah Ehrlich and good hands receiver Miki Djankovich (6-1, 180) create a lot of problems for your defense. In truth, the Brickies probably should have been in the poll earlier. Their only losses are to Merrillville (5-0) and Chesterton (4-1). Big game time: Hobart travels to Andrean (3-2) this week. If Crown Point is on the rise, then Hobart is right there in the elevator with them.


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Revised: September 20, 2021 .