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

A Special Report by Mark Smith



It will be 'standing room only' this Friday when unbeaten Merrillville (6-0) travels to Porter County to take on undefeated Valparaiso (6-0) in a game you'd stand to see. These teams have not met in two years and they cannot meet again in the upcoming state tournament. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (10-01-2021) State wide there may be a shake-up at the top of one poll as Class 4A No. 1 Roncalli defeated Class 3A No. 1 Brebeuf 28-10 in Indianapolis.

That might mean that Class 3A No. 2 West Lafayette will step up to the No. 1 slot.

I say ‘might’ because the Indianapolis private schools carry a lot of weight in the state polls.

Bishop Chatard (2-4) is ranked 10th despite four losses because three of the losses are to Brebeuf, Roncalli (6-0) and Cathedral (6-0), all Indianapolis city private schools. Roncalli and Cathedral each have huge histories of state tournament success.
In the public school world, Class 5A No. 12 Concord (5-1) topped Class 5A No. 5 Mishawaka 38-24 and Class 5A No. 6 Zionsville lost 41-21 to 6A No. 7 Hamilton Southeastern (5-1). The 5A poll will definitely change.

This week’s "Faraway Replay"

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 week’s game isn’t a game. It's the new Friday Dan McNeil Tailgate show which airs at 12 noon on WJOB. Many of you know that Dan McNeil is a long time Chicago radio star on 820-AM (now 670-AM “The Score” and ESPN 1000.

Well he’s back. Danny does a two hour, once a week show on Friday (you can watch it anytime after that) and he talks about the Colts and Bears, Indiana University, Purdue and Notre Dame.

The video replay is on ‘Jed-TV,’ a production that is connected to the old WJOB (1230) AM where the show airs live. Danny still has a lot of energy. He’s funny. And if you corrupted your mind by listening to a lots of sports radio in the last two decades, you’ll really enjoy him again. The weekly Dan McNeil TailGate Show, a Jed-TV production that is free (most things are not) every Friday on the Jed-TV app. If I can access it, I know you can.

Okay, here’s the week when I find out if the number one team in this poll (Merrillville) and the number two team (Valapraiso) have been where they should have been all season.

The big winner may be Valparaiso, which has a football field capacity of about 6,000. Slide in some extra bleachers Valpo folks. Any seat is a good seat for the Valpo-Merrillville game.

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


MERRILLVILLE: The Pirates are still cooking with gas after a 54-19 win over LaPorte last week. Pirate QB Angel Nelson threw five first half TD passes, helping the home team to a 54-12 halftime lead. Nelson has 18 TD passes in six games. Merrillville averages 46 points a game and no on has come within 26 points of them this season. So far.

Here comes the show down.

One night only - 6A No. 2 Merrillville and 5A No. 2 Valparaiso (6-0). They cannot meet in the post-season and I don't really believe in ‘making a statement.’ But undefeated teams in the same league want to play each other. And so they shall this Friday, October 1st.

2. (5A) Valparaiso (6-0)
2020 (8-1), 2019 (13-1), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3)


VALPARAISO: Valparaiso had their best game of the season, rolling over Crown Point 56-14. Viking halfback Hayden Vinyard ran for three touchdowns and wide receiver Rickey Hall caught three TD passes. The Vikings attacked CP weaknesses effectively all night long and nothing the Bulldogs did seemed to surprise Valpo in the slightest. If you want to discuss who’s going to win this week’s Valparaiso-Merrillville game, don’t ask the Crown Point Bulldogs, who lost 50-13 to Merrillville four weeks ago and 56-14 to Valparaiso last week.

The Vikings have won 25 consecutive Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) games in a row over four years. I never thought I’d see that. But then I never thought I'd see the St. Louis Cardinals win 15 games in a row either. Let me go out on a limb and say that Valparaiso will allow more than 15 points this Friday when they host undefeated Merrillville in a battle for DAC first place.


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


MERRILLVILLE: I think Andrean would beat Chesterton (5-1) so the 59ers move up to 3rd here. Andrean beat Hobart 31-28 last week on a Nico Toavar 44-yard field goal on the final play of the game. But for purposes of ranking them, the 59ers dominated that game, leading 28-7 at one point. I didn't see that dominance coming. The two teams to defeat Andrean: Merrillville (6-0) and two-time Michigan state champ Grand Rapids, Central Catholic (5-0).


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


CHESTERTON: Chesterton shut out Portage 27-0 last week, the second shutout in six games for the Trojans who are supposed to be an offense-oriented team. But let's take a look at that. Chesterton has allowed just 50 points in six games. That’s the lowest total in Northwest Indiana. And the Trojans have played Hobart (3-3), Michigan City (3-3) and Valparaiso (6-0), teams filled with boys who like the end zone. I’m not certain about the Trojans' defensive dominance, but this team only allowed 160 points (16 per game in 10 games) last season. Again, none of this matters. The state tournament began in 1973 and Chesterton has never won a sectional. That has to end this year.

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


MICHIGAN CITY: Michigan City turned the heat up on Lake Central 49-13 last week, breaking a three-game losing streak. Another very hard team to judge. Merrillville (6-0), Valparaiso (6-0) and Chesterton (5-1) are the teams MC has lost to and those defeats have not seemed to diminish them. Against LC, sophomore quarterback Tyler Bush (6-1, 180) passed for 182 yards (he is 31 of 56 for 535 yards and 8 TDs in 3 games) and sophomore runner Jaden Hart (6-1, 190) carried 17 times for 176 yards.

Can I stop here and say how glad I am that there is a Class 6A in Indiana high school football? Michigan City is Class 5A so they won't see 6A Merrillville or 6A Chesterton again until next season and they can't see 5A Valparaiso again until regional play. These last three games for the Wolves: Portage (1-5), LaPorte (3-3) and Crown Point (3-3) are just warm ups for Class 5A Sectional 10, where Michigan City is one of the favorites. Without a Class 6A (which I know has its flaws) all the above-mentioned teams would be crammed into two sectionals. Michigan City doesn't get a pass come November, but they do get a fair chance.

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


HOBART: Okay, Hobart lost 31-28 to Andrean and I moved them up in the poll. Here’s what it is. Andrean was beating the Brickies 28-7 in the fourth quarter and here’s Hobart scoring 21 to tie the game. Where did that come from? The offense Hobart is producing (165 points in their last 4 games) against Griffith (2-4), Lowell (3-3), Andrean (4-2) and Culver is impressive. At least it is to me. And again, the teams Hobart has lost to: Andrean, Chesterton (5-1) and Merrillville (6-0) are all state ranked. And did you know that Hobart halfback Trey Gibson (6-1, 190) passed the 3,000-yard career rushing mark against Lowell on September 17? I didn’t. This is a team to watch. Beginning with Friday at home against Kankakee Valley (3-3).



7.) (4A) LOWELL (3-3)
2020 (9-2), 2019 (7-5), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (14-1)


LOWELL: Here comes Lowell again after a surprisingly easy 49-7 win on the road at Kankakee Valley (3-3). Halfback Joe Heuer collected 212 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries. Lowell’s losses are to Hobart (3-3) Crown Point (3-3) and New Prairie (5-1). The Devils' offensive line play seems to have improved. Lowell has rushed for 1,500 yards in six games. Their kicking situation is settled.
And quarterback Riley Bank (376 yards passing and 476 yards rushing) seems to be improving. Now the phrase ‘seems to be’ is not worth a gallon of gas, but Lowell scored 54 points in the first three games and 111 in their last two. The Devils are headed for better days. Highland (3-3) seems to be ready to say something about that this Friday.


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Revised: September 29, 2021 .