Final Renegade Poll & Picks - 2019 NW Indiana High School Football

A Special Report by Mark Smith

December 30, 2019

It does appear that 2020 will be the final year for George Rogers Clark High school at the north end of Hammond. (Photo by Mark Smith)

Mr. Picker - WEEK (15) FIFTEEN:

VALPARAISO (12-30-2019)
Valpo, in some respects, beat themselves in the state 5A championship game, but the big disappointment to me was Hobart. The Brickies produced five turnovers from an East Noble team that would lose 21-3 in the Class 4A final.

But both should be strong again in 2020.

In fact, all of NW Indiana should be on the rise in the season to come. Morton, Andrean, Lowell, LaPorte and more all appear to be looking up.

But change is on the horizon off the field.

The announcement of consolidation in Hammond should turn a four school (Hammond, Gavit, Morton and Clark) city into just Morton and Hammond high by the fall of 2021.

If you drive near Hammond high school on a regular basis, go around back and look at the new school. So modern and twice the side of the old Hammond high.

And with similar consolidation complete in Elkhart (Memorial and Central merge into Elkhart high school for the fall of 2020) and some form of consolidation coming in South Bend soon, many things will change, not the least of which will be the football playoff brackets.

Nothing has been announced. I am just guessing. But it would seem that Hammond and Morton will have nearly 1,800 students each and would be Class 5A in football. The new Elkhart high has already been placed in Class 6A. Consolidation among Washington, Clay, Riley and Adams in South Bend would seem likely to create two 5A schools.

To me, that would seem to push some small 5As like Munster down to 4A again.

The sectional to watch in Northwest Indiana includes Class 3A Sectional 25 (which now includes Hammond and Clark in 2020, but cannot have either in 2021) and 4A Sectional 17 (which has Morton and Gavit in 2020, but probably not beyond that), which could also lose Gary West Side and Griffith in the next sectional re-shuffling period (after 2020) through declining enrollment. And obviously, everyone on Gavit and Clark’s schedule in 2020 has a hole in that schedule for 2021.

The only schedule change for 2020 that I am fairly certain of involves Portage, which will drop Mishawaka and play Morton.

The new Elkhart school’s teams will be called the Lions and they will play in football Class 6A Sectional 2.

Finally, as we do this time of year, let's look ahead to 2020 in Northwest Indiana. Not necessarily the Top-5 teams. Just five teams of interest.

But before we do, let's recap the final Week-15 results for 'Mr. Picker.'

'Mr. Picker' WEEK-15, 2019 Football Picks in Review:
Nov. 29-30, 2019

Wrong - 3 Right - 3 = 50.0%

The Pick The Result

Lafayette Catholic 28, Lutheran 24  

Lafayette Catholic 29-28

Bishop Chatard 42, Heritage Hills 14  

Bishop Chatard 34-3

Valparaiso 27, New Palestine 17  

(wrong) New Palestine 27-20

Eastbrook 34, Western Boone 20  

(wrong) Western Boone 44-7

East Noble 42, Evansville Memorial 31  

(wrong) Memorial 21-3

Carmel 27, Center Grove 10  

Carmel 20-17

‘Mr. Picker’ (by the week)
WEEK ONE: 9 of 15, 60.0%
WEEK TWO: 8 of 12, 66.7%
WEEK THREE: 6 of 12, 50.0%
WEEK FOUR: 10 of 10, 100.0%
WEEK FIVE: 8 of 10, 80.0%
WEEK SIX: 5 OF 10, 50%
WEEK SEVEN: 9 OF 10, 90%
WEEK EIGHT: 9 OF 10, 90%
WEEK NINE: 9 OF 10, 90%
State Tournament
WEEK TEN: 13 OF 15, 86.6%

WEEK ELEVEN: 11 OF 14, 82.7%
WEEK TWELVE: 8 OF 10, 80.0%

WEEK THIRTEEN: 8 OF 10, 80.0%
WEEK FOURTEEN: 10 OF 12, 83.3%
WEEK FIFTEEN: 3 OF 6, 83.3%
POST-SEASON: 53 OF 67, 79.1%
SEASON TOTAL (OVERALL): 126 of 166, 75.9%

ANALYSIS: Not a good final week. East Noble should have been better indoors than outdoors and they just weren't. Clearly, I hadn't seen Western Boone play. And I thought Valparaiso outplayed New Palestine, but penalties and turnovers shut them down.

Best pick of the week? The 1A game. Outdoors in sub-freezing weather, Lutheran beats Lafayette Catholic. Indoors in the Lucas Oil Arena, LC was just as good.

The final of 75.9% is down from 2018 and that’s a little surprising, because with more games on TV, I get multiple looks at some teams.

I’m still looking for that 80% season. Maybe next year.

'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 - FINAL… a look ahead to 2020:

1.) Hobart (11-3)
2018 (7-3), 2017 (6-4), 2016 (10-3), 2015 (5-5)

HOBART – Hobart lost in the Class 4A Semistate game, but they bring back eight players on a defense that gave up just 153 points (10.8 ppg.) in 14 games. Returning outside linebacker Bobby Babcock sacked the quarterback 15 times. Quarterback Riley Johnston (70 of 132, 1,183 yards, 9 TDs) also is back after a season where he ran 108 times for 647 yards and 14 TDs. Top receiver Zach Vode (37 catches, 737 yards) also is eligible for 2020.

The state tournament is almost as long as the regular season. The main story in Northwest Indiana high school football for 2020 begins with ‘How far will Hobart go this time?”

2. (5A) Valparaiso (13-1)
2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8)

VALPARAISO – I thought Valparaiso was the better team in the Class 5A state championship game, but New Palestine had the best player in state MVP Charlie Spegal. Can the Vikings get back to the finals? Maybe.

Valpo can return star running back Tommy Burbee (239 carries, 1,781 yards rushing, 23 TDs), wide recover Blake Worthington and big left tackle Ben Scott (6-6, 335). The Vikings return top flight defensive ends Cooper Jones (6-5, 250) and Dylan Dingman (6-2, 250) plus inside linebacker Mason McMullen (5-11, 210). I don't know who the quarterback for the big green team will be in 2020. But there’s too many good players here for the Vikings to fall too far.

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

MERRILLVILLE – I was very surprised that the 59ers didn't get to the state finals, but Eastbrook ran for 295 yards on 45 carries in a 26-14 win. Andrean returns at least two big time offensive players for 2020 in running back Ryan Walsh (228 carries, 2,251 yards and 27 TDs) and all-purpose player Nick Flesher who scored nine touchdowns in six games in an injury-shortened season.
Add receivers Cam Thornton (27 catches, 377 yards) and Alonzo Paul (31 catches, 245 yards) and all Andrean needs in 2020 is a new quarterback and they’ll be deep in the playoffs again. I have heard that Flesher can play QB, but you never know who’s coming to Andrean.

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

CHESTERTON – The Trojans lose a lot on both sides of the ball, but they are a ‘team to watch’ because of one boy who will certainly be back. Chesterton QB Chris Mullen ended his sophomore season with 151 completions in 284 attempts for 2,439 yards and 26 touchdowns. Colby Bullock caught eight 15 passes for 222 yards as a sophomore. Running back Ethan Pickering (5-9, 195) returns after part time duty which included just 27 carries for 122 yards.

On defense, Jackson Fleming (6-2, 190) sacked the quarterback nine times in 2019 as a junior. Safety Kaleb Wymer had 48 tackles at strong safety. But Chesterton will be a high-scoring team in 2020 and a lot of boys are going to be trying out at wide receiver.

Mullen has rare ability and if the Trojans can protect him with a good offensive line, they might finally win the new and improved (Penn, Elkhart, Portage and Chesterton) Class 6A Sectional 2.

5.) Crown Point (6-5)
2018 (5-7), 2017 (7-5), 2016 (6-6), 2015 (1-9)

CROWN POINT – Crown Point should have high hopes for 2020, returning quarterback Will Pettit (137 of 285, 1,766 yards, 14 TDs) plus running backs Matthew Walters (141 caries, 707 yards, 10 TDs) and Davian Lira (110 carries, 417 yards). Tight ends Felix Meeks (14 catches, 179 yards and backup wide receiver Treston Logan (5 catches, 46 yards) can be back for 2020 although Logan (5 interceptions) is also a top defensive back.

CP returns linebackers Reilly Granger (109 total tackles) and Jacob Lopez (62 tackles), but they’ll need new blood at all three levels of the defense. Kicker Sammy Brewer was 22 of 22 in extra points and 5-of-8 on field goals as a sophomore. CP will again be in the same sectional as Top-10 teams Jefferson and Merrillville, but those teams suffer big graduation losses. It might be CP’s ‘turn’ in 2020.

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Revised: January 05, 2020 .