Week 11 Picks - 2020 NW Indiana High School Football

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

October 27, 2020


Is this the year a sectional football trophy comes to Chesterton? It will be tough. the Trojans host perennial power Penn this Friday in the Class 6A Sectional 2 semifinals. (Photo by Mark Smith)

Mr. Picker - WEEK (11) ELEVEN:

MERRILLVILLE (10-30-2020)
The big schools (Classes 5A and 6A) join the playoffs this week. We get down to the ‘round of 32’, with 32 schools remaining in each class.

But before we do, consider a change that could help the tournament.

I cringe when I see scores from the opening week of the state football tournament and you probably do, too.

St . Joseph’s 66, Clay 6. Monroe Central 72, Taylor 0. Taylor ends the season 1-9. Clay was 1-7 going into their ‘waterloo.’
Beech Grove 61, Shortridge 0 (Shortridge ends the season at 0-9).

Rensselaer 78, Bowman Academy 0. Bowman goes home at 2-7.

I have watched games like this in past years and I have great sympathy for the team that’s down eight touchdowns in a game where they are hopelessly outmanned. That’s somebody’s son on that losing team getting a beat down in the mud. I also have some sympathy for the teams on the good side of such painful scores. It isn’t right and it isn’t necessary.

Let’s assume that St. Joe, Beech Grove, Monroe Central and Rensselaer didn’t want to run the score up the way they did. It was simply playing the game against a defenseless team that made the scoreboard embarrassing. Unless they simply stopped playing there was no way to stop scoring.

Let's all agree that it wasn’t just them. I could read you ten other scoreS from last Friday where one team won by seven touchdowns over a team that had lost most of its regular season games, many by similar lopsided scores. Many coaches have been on both sides of super-slaughters like the ones I’ve listed here.

It is tradition in Indiana that everyone makes the state tournament in football no matter how many games they lost during the regular season. I’ve been around Indiana high school sports long enough to know that the IHSAA does not make drastic changes. So let me suggest a subtle change. Call it ‘The 48 solution.’

There are 318 schools in the 48th annual IHSAA state football tournament. Class 6A has 32 schools and that number needs to remain there so the 32nd team will be somewhere in the same area code enrollment-wise as the No. 1 team, the biggest school in the state.

That’s why there is a Class 6A. So leave 6A alone.

But what if the other five classes had just 48 teams.? What if you eliminated the 46 worst teams in the state? The 0-9s. The 1-8s. Some 2-7s. Lets walk through the numbers: Five classes of 48 and one class of 32 is 272 schools. 318 minus 272 is 46. Take the 46 worst schools, almost all with no realistic chance to win anything, and eliminate them from another cold night beat down. Take each class of 48, give the top 16 teams a bye and have the other 32 meeting in sectional quarterfinal play. Then proceed from the point where we are this week.

Each class has 32 teams to play off with.

Why do this? Football is a violent, injury-friendly game. You can be injured permanently. You can be knocked out of winter sports in your final football game.

It's okay to have every team in Indiana make the state tournament in baseball and basketball and softball. But in football, you’re just hurting kids. And even those who don’t get hurt will have the fragrant memory of a 61-0 massacre as their final football game (if they are seniors) in high school. Where is the positive in that?

What are the other benefits of ‘The 48 solution’?

First of all, 112 teams (including 48 small roster teams in Classes 1A, 2A and 3A) would get a bye week. After playing nine weeks in a row, boys need a week off. The NFL and NCAA don’t have teams playing 15 weeks (the regular season plus the IHSAA tournament) in a row. It would never even be considered.

If you seed the Top-16 in each class, no Top-10 teams could ever meet in the sectional semifinals or quarterfinals. Think about that. The sectional championship games would almost always match winning teams. You make the tournament better.

Teams that have lost every game, probably due to small rosters or multiple injuries would not have to take another inevitable loss, a game in which they could be injured seriously. I don’t believe that it ‘builds character’ to play both ways and break your hand in a 71-7 season-ending loss.

Is it theoretically possible for an 0-9 team with just 17 players in uniform to win three times and take a sectional championship bringing honor and glory to their school?

Sure it is.

Just like that kid from IU actually got into the end zone against Penn State last Saturday. (I don't think he made it!)

We are into the sectional semifinals and this week, I’ll pick one class in 1A, 2A and 3A and two classes each in 4A, 5A and 6A.

But first, a look back at Mr. Picker's Week-10 predictions, and how he did.


'Mr. Picker' WEEK-10, 2020 Football Picks
in Review: Oct. 23-24, 2020

Wrong - 2 Right - 15 = 88.2%

The Pick The Result

Winamac 28, South Central 14  

Winamac 21-14

Culver 20, Lake Station 12  

Culver 48-29

North Judson 35, West Central 8  

North Judson 54-0

ANDREAN 35, Boone Grove 0  


Whiting 26, Noll 20  

Whiting 36-14

Wheeler 28, North Newton 20  

Wheeler 36-27

Rensselaer 42, Bowman 6  

Rensselaer 78-0

Calumet 49, Hammond 6  

Calumet 52-6

Knox 42, Benton Central 0  

Knox 56-22

HANOVER 28, Twin Lakes 24  


River Forest 42, Clark 14  


St. Joe 35, Clay 0  

St. Joe 66-6

Logansport 38, Riley 33  

Logansport 40-3

New Prairie 42, Plymouth 14  

(wrong) Plymouth 36-20

KV 28, Culver Military Academy 14  

(wrong) CMA 21-14

Gary West Side 26, East Chicago 8  


Hobart 35, Gavit 6  

Hobart 56-0

LOWELL 33, Morton 7  


Highland 27, Griffith 24  

Highland 38-21


WEEK TEN (in review):
The two cancelled games do not count, so only 15 picks are correct. I was obviously not anywhere near the farm on the New Prairie pick. If they played again, I’d still pick New Prairie. KV ends the season with four consecutive losses so I might have seen that coming. The pick of the week? Hanover on the road at Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes defeated Hanover easily last year. Highland over Griffith was probably an upset.

‘Mr. Picker’ (by the week)
WEEK ONE: 6 of 9, 66.6%
WEEK TWO: 6 of 10, 60.0%
WEEK THREE: 8 of 10, 80.0%
WEEK FOUR: 9 of 9, 100%
WEEK FIVE: 7 of 10, 70%
WEEK SIX: 5 of 7, 71.4%
WEEK SEVEN: 7 of 9, 77.7%
WEEK EIGHT: 8 of 9, 88.8%
WEEK NINE: 7 of 9, 77.7%
Regular season: 63 of 82, 76.8%
WEEK TEN: 15 of 17, 88.2%
SEASON TOTAL (overall): 78 of 99, 79.8%

'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%

Mr. Picker 2020 WEEK (11) ELEVEN:

Class 1A Sectional 41

Culver (3-7) at North Judson (8-2):

NORTH JUDSON (10-30-2020)
This is a rematch of a mismatch. Culver lost 63-20 at North Judson in August and there’s little chance this game endS any differently. The Jays have lost only to Knox (6-4) and Pioneer (9-1).

North Judson 49, Culver 6

Class 2A Sectional 33

ANDREAN (9-1) at Whiting (1-2):

WHITING (10-30-2020)
An unfortunate matchup. Whiting has no chance against the top-ranked team in 2A. After six Covid-19 postponements, Whiting has played just three games and they got their first win last week. I don’t think they have more than 30 players on the varsity. Andrean has dominated almost everyone the last nine weeks. There’s no need to play this game.

ANDREAN 49, Whiting 0

Wheeler (7-3) at Rensselaer (6-4):

RENSSELAER (10-30-2020)
One of the night’s better games. Both teams run the ball well so the weather will not be a factor. Two of Rensselaer’s four losses have been to Western (8-1) but one of Wheeler’s losses was to Lowell (8-1). Both sides lost to Kankakee Valley. I don't have a deciding factor here so I’m going with the home team in a match of two distant schools.

Rensselaer 35, Wheeler 28

Class 3A Sectional 25

Calumet (3-1) at Knox (6-4):

KNOX (10-30-2020)
This is a rematch of the 2019 3A Sectional 25 championship, won by Knox In overtime at Calumet. I don't know much about Calumet. They have dominated three teams that were totally outmanned and they were rolled over by state rated Gibson Southern. Knox has lost four times, three to state ranked teams 2A No. 3 Pioneer (9-1), 1A No. 3 Southwood (10-0) and 3A No. 2 Marian (8-0). There’s got to be a lot of emotion here, but Knox wins it late.

Knox 28, Calumet 20

HANOVER CENTRAL (8-2) at River Forest (6-3):

HOBART TOWNSHIP (10-30-2020)
This is a rematch of a week four game won by Hanover at Hanover 49-14. It's seven weeks later and the weather has changed dramatically. But is there any way River Forest can close a five TD gap on their home field? A win gives RF their best record since 2011. But Hanover has never won a sectional championship and the Cats have a real chance here.

Hanover Central 28, River Forest 12

Class 4A Sectional 18

St. Josephs’ (3-7) at Logansport (4-6):

LOGANSPORT (10-30-2020)
With KV and New Prairie out, St. Joe is the ‘sleeping giant’ in Sectional 18. Six of their seven losses have been to winning teams. There are no winning teams left in 4A Sectional 18. Logansport has beaten Anderson (2-7) and Riley (3-7) the last two weeks. St. Joe is reportedly playing a younger roster than most, but they win here.

St. Joe 28, Logansport 12

Plymouth (2-5) at Culver Military Academy (4-5):

CULVER (10-30-2020)
One of the biggest upsets in this half of the state was Plymouth running all over New Prairie last week 36-20. Plymouth was 0-5, but wins over Wawasee and New Prairie must have hopes for a sectional title soaring. CMA upset Kankakee Valley last week and they have won three of their last four. And look at the losses: Hobart (7-2), Hanover (8-2). North Judson (8-2). CMA is the better team here.

CMA 35, Plymouth 20

Class 4A Sectional 17

Gary West Side (2-5) at Hobart (7-2):

HOBART (10-30-2020)
Sorry we have to play this one. Total mismatch here. Hobart is the defending sectional and regional champ with losses only to 6A No. 7 Merrillville (7-1) and 2A No.1 Andrean (9-1). West Side got here because East Chicago had to forfeit. Hobart’s defense has nine shutouts in the last two seasons. This will be number ten.

Hobart 49, Gary West Side 0

Highland (4-4) at LOWELL (8-1):

LOWELL (10-30-2020)
I thought Highland’s win over Griffith last week was an upset. The Trojans gained 475 total yards with emergency quarter Nick Steele leading the way. I don't know who will start at QB when the Trojans get to Lowell, but none of the Highland seniors have ever beaten Lowell and this is their last chance. The earlier meeting went to the Devils 27-7, but this one may be closer. Highland was surprising in week 10.

Give me until Thursday to pick this one.

Class 5A Sectional 9

Munster (1-8) at LaPorte (3-6):

LaPORTE (10-30-2020)
LaPorte has come on strong in the last five weeks with wins over Michigan City (4-2) and Crown Point (3-3). The Slicers got the draw they wanted here and they’re ready to win. Munster has less than 30 players on the roster and they have only scored 57 points all year.

LaPorte 35, Munster 8

Michigan City (4-2) at Valparaiso (5-0):

VALPARAISO (10-30-2020)
When the season began Michigan City knew everything would come down to one game in the sectional against Valparaiso and here it is. The Wolves need a good weather night so they can throw the ball. It will come down to MC stopping Valpo’s 260-yards per game running attack. The Vikings are a bad weather team that wants to run the ball and nobody’s stopped them yet.

Valparaiso 30, Michigan City 17

Class 2A Sectional 2

Penn (5-4) at Chesterton (4-4):

CHESTERTON (10-30-2020)
Chesterton takes on a team that has played the toughest schedule in this part of the state. Penn’s four losses are to Valparaiso (5-0), Cathedral (8-1), Elkhart (7-0) and Marian (8-0), all Top-5 teams state-wide. Chesterton, to be fair, has lost only to Valparaiso (5-0), Pioneer (8-1), Merrillville (7-1) and Hobart (7-2), all Top-10 teams. Chesterton has never won a sectional in the 47 years of the state tournament and I’m afraid they won't win one this year, either.

Penn 23, Chesterton 17

Elkhart (7-0) at Portage (3-6):

PORTAGE (10-30-2020)
Big chief Elkhart is about to send the Portage Indians to the happy hunting ground. The Elkhart Lions average 41 points a game, and offensively, they look like a small college team. Portage broke a five-game losing streak with a week nine 34-28 win over LaPorte. But I don’t think they are 100% healthy and all the folks who have been telling them how good Elkhart is are not ‘Lion.’

Elkhart 35, Portage 16

Class 6A Sectional 1


MERRILLVILLE (10-30-2020)
Merrillville stomped on Crown Point 42-7 over the Labor Day weekend and now its Halloween. Could it get scary for CP again? The Bulldogs have had three full weeks off and I think that may be an advantage going in against a superior team. But the Pirates had last week off, too, and they average 36 points a game. I’ve got to think about this one.

Check back Thursday for the pick.

Lake Central (1-8) at Jefferson (9-0):

LAFAYETTE (10-30-2020)
Another mismatch here. The Bronchos average 53 points a game and no one has come within 10 points of them all year. This senior class is 37-4 in 4 years and 27-3 the last three years. Lake Central has lost eight games in a row and they average 10.1 point per game on offense. Unless there is a combination blizzard-ice storm-earthquake, this game won't be close.

Jefferson 56, Lake Central 12

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