Final Renegade Poll & Picks - 2020 NW Indiana High School Football

A Special Report by Mark Smith

December 23, 2020

It was different inside the fence and outside the fence for high school football in 2020. The focus was the Covid-19 virus and things other than the sport. Here's hoping we can see the smiles return for 2021. (Photo by Mark Smith)

Mr. Picker - WEEK (15) FIFTEEN:

INDIANAPOLIS (12-25-2025)
It's almost Christmas, and that means it is time to recap the final High School Football Predictions from Week-15 results for 'Mr. Picker.'


'Mr. Picker' WEEK-15, 2020 Football Picks in Review:
Nov. 27-28, 2020

Wrong - 2 Right - 4 = 66.7%

The Pick The Result

Bishop Luers 35, Western Boone 21  

(wrong) Western Boone 36-35

Roncalli 24, Hobart 17  

Roncalli 49-7

Center Grove 35, Westfield 17  

Center Grove 38-14

South Adams 49, Covenant Christian 42  

(wrong) Covenant Christian 41-40

Bishop Chatard 42, Danville 21  

Bishop Chatard 42-14

Cathedral 42, Zionsville 14  

Cathedral 46-28

ĎMr. Pickerí (by the week)
WEEK ONE (1) 6 of 9, 66.6%
WEEK TWO (2) 6 of 10, 60%
WEEK THREE (3) 9 of 10, 90%
WEEK FOUR (4) 9 of 9, 100%
WEEK FIVE (5) 7 of 10, 100%
WEEK SIX (6) 5 of 7, 71.4%
WEEK SEVEN (7) 7 of 9, 77.7%
WEEK EIGHT (8) 8 of 9, 88.8%
WEEK NINE (9) 7 of 9, 77.7%
Regular season: 64 of 82, 78.0%

WEEK TEN (10) 15 of 17, 88.2%
WEEK ELEVEN (11) 12 of 15, 80%
WEEK TWELVE (12) 9 of 12, 75%
WEEK THIRTEEN (13) 9 of 12, 75%
WEEK FOURTEEN (14) 9 of 12, 75%
WEEK FIFTEEN (15) 4 of 6, 66.7%
Playoffs: 58 of 74, 78.3%

Total (overall): 122 of 156, 78.1%


ANALYSIS: The four Indy-area teams won decisively, if not easily. In the other games, I thought I had Luers-Western Boone correct when Luers was up nine points with two minutes to play. I hated to see penalties decide championship games but three 15-yard flags aided the winners greatly. I didnít have a strong thought on South Adams-Covenant Christian except that it was a shootout.

Note how many points scored once the game moves indoors. Doesnít always work that way but it sure did this time. A season-ended rate of 78% isnít bad, but 80% would have sounded a lot better.
Best pick of the finals was obviously the 14-time state champ Bishop Chatard winning 42-14. My pick of 42-21 was close enough.

'Mr. Picker' (15 Years)
2019 (final) OVERALL: 126 of 166 = 75.9%
2018 (final) OVERALL: 148 of 191 = 77.4%
2017 (final) OVERALL: 137 of 184 = 74.4%
2016 (final) OVERALL: 119 of 170 = 70.0%
2015 (final) OVERALL: 131 of 174 = 75.2%
2014 (final) OVERALL: 131 of 176 = 74.4%
2013 (final) OVERALL: 130 of 175 = 74.2%
2012 (final) OVERALL: 137 of 177 = 77.4%
2011 (final) OVERALL: 134 of 184 = 72.7%
2010 (final) OVERALL: 135 of 184 = 73.3%
2009 (final) OVERALL: 154 of 212 = 72.6%
2008 (final) OVERALL: 145 of 193 = 75.1%
2007 (final) OVERALL: 143 of 188 = 76.0%
2006 (final) OVERALL: 166 of 217 = 76.4%
2005 (final) OVERALL: 170 of 233 = 72.9%

Renegade Poll - FINALÖ a look ahead to 2021:

MERRILLVILLE (12-25-2020)  Can we please look ahead to 2021. Quickly?
2020 was a mess. Iím still not sure we did the right thing by playing the season. We have no idea what the Covid-19 virus has done to people, even the ones we believe are healthy. Most teams played, but almost all teams had players miss games in quarantine. Not being a player, coach or parent, I wasnít sure it was worth the risk. Iím still not.

We don't know if everyone who played is OK. We just think we know. But I was out there, too, and Iím hoping for a mask-free 2021 season. Maybe not a total return to normal but no more masks, please.

In a year where a lot of things have pained me, there has been nothing that has hurt me more than looking at boys and girls wearing masks as if they were fugitives on some infected universe Gilliganís Island. I understand the need for the face coverings and nobody told me they were scared about the Covid-19 virus situation, but everybodyís eyes betrayed them.

On and off the school campus, people wearing a mask seemed afraid and sad. I could see it in their eyes.

I admit it has demoralized me significantly. It's not a world I want to live in. I wonder how many of you have shared these feelings. When you canít speak because your mouth is covered and no one can see you smile, the entire social universe is almost gone, especially with kids. The only emotions that can be emitted though a face mask are to ignore, to dislike and to be isolated.

Athletic events played in such a dangerous atmosphere that no fans can attend are a risk that should never, ever be taken again. No offense to the school people who were in charge of sports in Indiana (they were just doing their job). Football games with limited fans, children wrapped up like inmates in a strange medical concentration camp, 2020 is something I do not ever want to relive.

In 2021, Crown Point high school will have a new head varsity football coach. Kevin Enright, coach of CP for eight years, has resigned. Under Enright, CP won Class 6A season titles in 2016, 2017 and 2108 and they defeated arch-rival Merrillville all three times. I thank him for all he did in helping me follow the Bulldogs in difficult times.

If the school wants to stay in-house to fill this opening, I would like to see defensive coordinator Sean Granger be named the new head coach. The CP defense has been consistently a strength of the teams. But I don't get a vote.

The first of some changes for 2021 have surfaced and the tentative schedule for the consolidated Morton Governors (on John Harrellís web site) says that Morton will play super power Indianapolis Cathedral and the consolidated Elkhart. Morton apparently will no longer play Lowell and the Devils schedule now shows a week three Labor Day weekend game with the New Prairie Cougars.

On paper, this is a great matchup. New Prairie has won four sectionals in the last seven years. Lowell has won 12 sectionals in 20 years. The schools have met only once. In 2014, New Prairie tipped Lowell 28-27 in a regional championship game at New Prairie. Lowell now opens the season with Crown Point, Portage and New Prairie.

Whiting will replace longtime rival Clark with Class 1A Frontier and the Oilers will travel to southern White County to play Frontier on Saturday, August 27.

Merrillville and Valparaiso (and they were 1-2 in this poll all year) have been the top two teams the last two years, but they will be unknown factors with lots of new starting players in 2021. The Vikings and Pirates could still be the top two teams, but let's leave them out for the purposes of this "Look ahead." Same with sectional champs Andrean and Hobart, who were also full of senior stars. Who else could be good in six months? Whoís on the rise? Here are five teams to watch.

I am a pessimist by nature, but we all have reason to hope that in the fall of 2021, the situation will return to normal where schools are concerned. ĎNormalí may return by the spring when we return to outdoor sports. I just hope that I will be around to see you then. That is in no way a certainty as Iím writing this.

1. (2A) Wheeler (7-4)
2019 (4-6), 2018 (4-5)
, 2017 (5-6), 2016 (4-6)

UNION TOWNSHIP Ė It's no bold prediction that the Bearcats should score a lot of points in 2021. The Wheeler offense features halfback Trey Gibson (6-0, 185) who carried 214 times for 1,569 yards and 22 touchdowns in 11 games last season as a sophomore. Quarterback Preston Morris (6-2, 170) was 80 of 164 for 1,193 yards last season with 12 TDs and eight interceptions. Morris also ran 51 times for 347 yards and five TDs in his junior season. Cade Brann (5-10, 175) is also back after carrying 36 times for 282 yards as a sophomore. Blaise Evensen caught 25 passes last fall for 414 yards while Richie Otero grabbed 20 for 316 yards. Add kicker Tyler Cook (37 of 42 on extra points with a 40-yard field goal as a junior) and this team should light up the scoreboard. It won't be easy, but the Bearcats could improve on last yearís 7-4 record.

2.) (2A) Rensselaer (7-5)
2019 (9-3), 2018 (6-5), 2017 (8-3), 2016 (7-4)

RENSSELAER Ė Iíve spoken often of how it's hard to find a time for public schools like Wheeler and Rensselaer to ever get past perennial Catholic school power Andrean in sectional football. But 2021 could be that year. The Bombers appear to have a top senior class. Quarterback Tate Drone (6-4, 180) was 73 of 133 for 13 TDs (5 interceptions) as a junior and he will still have double-threat Kelton Hesson who caught 25 passes for 299 yards and ran 37 times for 309 more yards last season. But they also have Dylan Kidd (5-9, 190), who carried 206 times for 1,323 yards and 23 TDs last fall. Iím not sure Kidd was 100% in the post-season and heíll be back for one more chance.

Many Rensselaer players (including everyone Iíve named here) go both ways
. But defensively, who is Jordan Cree (5-10, 200), a defensive end who led the Bomber defense statistically as a sophomore? Cree was credited with 25 tackles for losses and six quarterback sacks in 11 games. And who is Ayden Randolph (6-5, 340)? In seven games as a sophomore, Randolph had 11 tackles for losses and five quarterback sacks. What Iím trying to say is: Rensselaer had very few seniors on the 2020 roster (I saw multiple versions of the Bombers roster) so the 2020 team is largely the 2021 team. Andrean eliminated Rensselaer 28-14 in Class 2A Sectional 33 in 2020, but the 59ers will graduate some key offensive players. Assuming both Wheeler and Rensselaer are in Sectional 33 for the 2021 season (I do not know that), I think they both have a significant chance to be sectional champs.

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

CHESTERTON - The Ďwindowí for Chesterton to win that first-ever sectional football championship may be about to close. 6A superpower and 6A Sectional 2 rival Penn has been a .500 team (11-10) the last two years and that will not continue. Chesterton has to get past Penn and consolidated Elkhart to win the sectional. Can they do that in 2021? I think so. Back for their senior year comes QB Chris Mullen (147 of 264, 1,902 yards, 12 TDs (in 9 games), receiver/runner Colby Bullock (60 carries, 374 yards and 61 catches, 737 yards) and ĎThe Generalí 6-foot-2 wide receiver Jackson Westmoreland (38 catches, 532 yards, 8 TDs) on an offense that should light up the scoreboard. Hereís where graduation changes things. Mullen will see DAC defenses for a third consecutive year and he will see a lot of rookies. The Trojans will contend for the conference title.

4.) (4A) LOWELL (9-2)
2019 (7-5), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (14-1), 2016 (9-5)

LOWELL Ė Lowell lost the Class 4A Sectional 17 championship game 10-7 at Hobart, but even though they officially forfeited five of those wins due to an ineligible player, the Devils had a good year.
Lowellís defense carried them, allowing just 144 points (13.9 per game) in 11 games. In the post-season, Lowell allowed a total of 24 points and, while the
y played Highland without the Trojans starting QB, thatís 8-points-a-game in the post season. Linebacker Spencer Barta (6-2, 215) led Lowell with 85 tackles and lineman Ray Ambassi (5-7, 205) had a team-leading 17 tackles for losses. 2020 juniors Jae Blank (5-7, 160) and Sean Lamping (6-2, 170) also got a lot of playing time in the defensive secondary.

Lowell has two star runners set to be 2021 seniors in Joe Heuer (219 carries, 1,306 yards) and Ryan Marx (66 carries, 510 yards, 8 TDs)
. But the top offensive question for next season will be at quarterback. The 2020 back-up quarterback Riley Bank (5-10, 180) looked good as a runner in limited offensive play, but Bank will also be a quality returning starter at linebacker (33 tackles, 4 Ĺ sacks, 3 fumble recoveries). I donít think you want a two-way starting quarterback-linebacker.

Senior-to-be QB Johnny Johnson (5-9, 165) is also a good option runner who was used as a wingback and lead blocker late in the season with some success. Dylan Ohlenkamp (5-9, 155) and Brayden Walker (5-11, 155) had a couple of moments on offense and will come back bigger and stronger.

There will be changes. Heuer was a very good safety in 2019. Ambassi was a quality blocking fullback. Lowellís coaching staff seems to do a good job of finding the right fit to fill holes. The COVID-
19 virus tested that ability in 2020 and Lowell went 9-2.

Tackle Adam Maleve (5-11, 226) could anchor the 2021 line and I saw junior Hunter Cross (6-1, 240) on both the offensive and defensive lines this past season. The Devils return 2020 sophomore place kickers Caden Britton (29 of 35 on extra points) and punter Chris Jancosek (26 kicks, 34.3 average).

Some Lowell boys may be asked to transition to a new position and it looks good
, but after a very strange on and off the field 2020, I should guess about anything to far in the future.

5.) (5A) LaPorte (4-7)
2019 (3-8), 2018 (4-7), 2017 (7-4), 2016 (9-2)

LaPORTE Ė LaPorte was 0-4 in September, but they rallied for four wins in the late going, not counting losses to Valparaiso and Merrillville. But Valpo and Merrillville graduate a bus full of stars while most of the Slicers return. Quarterback RJ Anglin (52 of 101, 705 yards, seven TDs, five interceptions) returns with big Grant Ott-Large (6-4, 220), who caught 25 passes (311 yards) in 2020. Double threat Jayden Parks (72 carries, 399 yards plus 15 catches for 256 yards, 4 TDs) also will be a senior in 2021. I donít know the situation up front on offense, but the Slicers do have a lot of big underclassmen on the roster. They could be a force in front of running back Colin Berquist (6-1, 200), who ran 232 times for 1,374 yards and 11 TDs last season. Kicker Jack Doty returns as does punter Jaykob Ruiz. In the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC), you often have to wait your turn to contend. 2021 could be LaPorteís time.

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Revised: December 23, 2020 .