Week 14 Picks - 2020 NW Indiana High School Football

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

November 16, 2020


There's no place like home and Merrillville is home Friday night with the chance of a lifetime. If the Pirates defeat Zionsville this Friday, they will head for Indianapolis over the Thanksgiving weekend to play for the Class 6A state football championship. (Photo by Mark Smith)

Mr. Picker - WEEK (14) FOURTEEN:

MERRILLVILLE (11-20-2020)
No matter who wins this weekend in the 48th Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state playoffs, the teams won't immediately know when they will kick off in the state finals.

That’s because the IHSAA has decided to book teams in the same region on the same day at the championship games in Indianapolis.

The way I understand it is: Let's say the 4A title game is Hobart vs. Roncalli and the 6A title game is Merrillville vs. Center Grove. Hobart and Merrillville are neighbors in Lake County while CG and Roncalli are almost neighbors at the south end of Indianapolis and in north Johnson County. If you play those two games on the same day (November 27 or 28), you have a lot of people coming from the same areas.

I’ve always thought that any team that plays Friday is at a disadvantage because Thursday is, of course, Thanksgiving Day and it won't be a normal day no matter what you do. And if you play first on Friday afternoon, you will always be at a disadvantage. Nobody ever plays on Friday afternoon at any time during any year until the state finals.

I know. It’s the same for both teams and everybody’s glad to be here. I love clichés, too. But you’re going to want Indianapolis area schools for the opener to limit their travel on a holiday weekend.
If you’re looking for an answer, I don't have one. You can't play Thursday or Sunday and I don't want to play outdoors under any circumstances in late November. The benefits of playing indoors outweigh the tight schedule we have to maneuver.

The semistate games are toughest to pick because you usually have teams on long winning streaks that don’t have common opponents. There is no better moment in high school football than to play a semistate game on your home field.

Let's take a look back at Mr. Picker's Week-13 predictions, and how he did.

'Mr. Picker' WEEK-13, 2020 Football Picks
in Review: Nov. 13-14, 2020

Wrong - 3 Right - 9 = 75.0%

The Pick The Result

Lafayette Catholic 22, Winamac 14  

Lafayette Catholic 37-32

South Adams 28, Southwood 21  

South Adams 48-35

Bishop Luers 35, Tipton 21  

Bishop Luers 36-17

ANDREAN 31, Pioneer 16  

(wrong) Pioneer 24-21

Bishop Chatard 30, Concordia 12  

Bishop Chatard 28-18

Marian 35, Calumet 14  

(Mishawaka) Marian 56-0

East Noble 28, Marion 12  

(wrong) Marion 28, East Noble 20

Hobart 24, Logansport 8  

Hobart 45-14

Bishop Dwenger 35, Zionsville 14  

(wrong) Zionsville 30-21

Valparaiso 24, Mishawaka 21  

Valparaiso 35-14

Westfield 21, Homestead 20  

Westfield 42-9

MERRILLVILLE 41, Elkhart 20  


WEEK THIRTEEN (in review):
The Zionsville win over 5A No. 2 Bishop Dwenger is a major, major upset. If they played again tomorrow, I’d still pick Dwenger. Zionsville (7-5) was 3-5 at the end of the regular season. East Noble losing to Marion was almost as much of a surprise although Marion (10-3) has beaten Delta (8-3) and East Noble (9-4) back-to-back. Marion has only won four regionals in the 48 years of the state tournament. I’m shocked at Andrean losing at Pioneer but many are not. The Panthers are tough at home against everybody. Best pick? Luers 35, Tipton 21. Got that score (36-17) pretty close.

‘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%

WEEK ELEVEN: 12 of 15, 80.0%
WEEK TWELVE: 9 of 12, 75.0%
WEEK THIRTEEN: 9 of 12, 75.0%

Playoffs: 45 of 56, 80.48%
Total (overall): 108 of 138, 78.3%

'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 (14) FOURTEEN:

(1A) No. 1 South Adams (12-0) at Lafayette Catholic (5-3):
LAFAYETTE (11-20-2020)
Double digit win here. Lafayette Catholic has not really stopped very many teams all year and they gave up 32 points last week to a Winamac team that averaged 21 per game. South Adams is 12-0 for the second consecutive season. They are 5-0 on the road. South Adams has never played in the state championship game. Next week, they will. This game isn’t that close.

South Adams 35, Lafayette Catholic 20

(1A) No. 5 Covenant Christian (13-0) at No. 4 West Washington (11-0):
CAMPBELLSBURG (11-20-2020)
A fun game. West Washington was 12-2 last season, losing in week fourteen 49-0. Twelve months later they are back. And the Senators are at home. To be honest, I didn’t know Covenant Christian even had a football team. (This is their 5th full year of varsity football.) The Warriors average 52 points a game and they have scored five touchdowns in EVERY game. QB Austin Frazier has thrown for 36 touchdowns and halfback Micah Williams has run for 1,000 yards. CC has beaten Lutheran (9-2) and South Putnam (12-1) in back-to-back games by scores of 46-38 and 48-7. On a decent November weather night, this is a high-scoring game.

Covenant Christian 34, West Washington 31

(2A) No. 3 Pioneer (12-1) at Bishop Luers (7-6):
FORT WAYNE (11-20-2020)
I sure did not see Pioneer defeating Andrean and now they basically have to do it again. Pioneer has defeated 6A Chesterton and 2A No. 1 Andrean but those games were at home. Luers has played a more difficult schedule and did well to win at Tipton (9-3) last week. Luers is obviously 4-0 in the playoffs after a 3-6 regular season. Pioneer got turnovers from an Andrean offense that had dominated almost everyone. Bishop Luers is the more talented team. Junior QB Chris Clark is 203 of 336, 2,963 yards and 30 TDs. Junior receiver Cody Glen has caught 56 for 1,041 yards and 14 TDs. Can the Pioneers stop a superior offensive team again? It's too much to ask.

Bishop Luers 34, Pioneer 24

(2A) Mater Dei (9-4) vs. Western Boone (9-4):
THORNTOWN (11-20-2020)
Mater Dei was 10-3 last year and they’ve won 13 regional titles. But Western Boone is the two-time defending 2A state champ. Senior WB running back Robby Taylor has rushed for 3,000 yards and 38 touchdowns in his career and this will be his final home game. Mater Dei was 1-4 in September, but they have won eight in a row. I don't have a good pick here. I like Western Boone because of their balanced offense at home, but Mater Dei’s 16-6 win over Triton Central (10-2) was very impressive. Mater Dei is the better team but I’m going with the upset.

Western Boone 31, Mater Dei 28

(3A) No. 5 Danville (10-0) at No. 4 Southridge (13-0):

HUNTINGTON (11-20-2020)
Southridge beat Gibson Southern (7-4), Salem (7-3) and Lawrenceburg (11-2), but Danville has topped Sullivan (8-4), Tri-West (9-3), Ritter (6-3) and 2A power Western Boone (9-4). Southridge has three 1,000-yard rushers in senior halfback Matt Springer (143 carries, 1,022 yards, 17 TDs), 215-pound senior quarterback Chase Taylor (179 carries, 1,099 yards, 15 TDs) and senior wingback Camden Gasser (91 carries, 1,015 yards, 11 TDs). Danville QB Kale Payne has thrown for 24 TDs and just two interceptions. Danville lost the 3A southern Semistate game last year 33-17 to Heritage Hills. Both teams haven’t lost. I honestly don't have a strong pick here either way. To have the Semistate at home is an epic occurrence. In Semistate games, when you don’t know, I almost always take the home team.
Southridge 28, Danville 24

(3A) No. 1 Bishop Chatard (11-1) at No. 2 Marian (11-0):

MISHAWAKA (11-20-2020)
Marian has faced a good schedule and they are 22-2 the last two years. But when the Knights faced Chatard last year in the 3A Northern Semistate, they lost 45-0. Why will it be different this time? But Chatard beat Merrillville (11-1) by 17 points and rolled up 500 yards on the Pirates. Chatard ran over Roncalli (11-1) by 21 points. Chatard’s only loss was 39-20 to Cathedral (11-1). Marian has played big names like Penn and Mishawaka, but they haven't faced anyone the 2020 equal of Roncalli, Merrillville or Cathedral. Chatard is 25-2 the last two seasons with both losses to 5A No. 1 Cathedral. And Chatard is the 14-time state champion. Did I mention that? Chatard’s 14th state championship came last year. Marian is a balanced team with speed and experience. This is a matchup of teams ranked one and two. But Marian isn’t going to win this game.

Bishop Chatard 35, Marian 17

(4A) No. 3 Mooresville (12-1) at No. 4 Roncalli (11-1):
INDIANAPOLIS (11-20-2020)
Mooresville has lost only in overtime 41-35 to Whitehead (9-1) so in some respects, they haven’t really been beaten. Roncalli lost to 28-7 to Bishop Chatard (11-1), but their 10th consecutive win was a 35-14 rout of 4A No. 1 Mount Vernon (12-1) last Friday. Roncalli’s offense is led by ‘The Baron’, senior running back Baron Huebler who has run 261 times for 1,866 yards and 26 touchdowns. Mooresville wants to strike back with sophomore QB Nick Patterson (6-2, 185) who is 133 of 215 for 2,004 yards and 21 touchdowns. You know my rules. When the game seems close, go with what I lovingly refer to as the Indianapolis ‘Catholic Football Mafia’ (meaning Cathedral, Chatard, Brebuef, Ritter, Roncalli, etc.). Close game, but the Rebels reach the state finals again.

Roncalli 28, Mooresville 20

(4A) Marion (10-3) at No. 7 Hobart (10-2):
HOBART (11-20-2020)
It is a surprise that Marion is here after a 28-20 regional upset win at East Noble. The Giants’ three losses, to Eastbrook (9-2), to Lawrence North (7-4) and to Jefferson (10-1) were all by 20 points or more. But big playoff wins over Delta (8-3) and East Noble (9-4) give Marion a chance to reach the state finals for the first time in 30 years. But they may be in the wrong place at the wrong time this Friday night. On November 22, 2019, Hobart was ahead 17-0 in the 4A Northern semistate final game and lost 29-24 at East Noble. I watched the game and I still don’t know how. The Brickies have waited a year for a second chance and they bring in a defense that has allowed just 112 points (9.3 per game) all season. Marion is led by ‘The Mailman,’ senior running back Khalid Stamps (5-7, 165), who has run 174 times for 1,517 yards and 16 TDs. Stamps has four consecutive 100-yard rushing games in the playoffs and he leads a speedy, read-option misdirection running attack. Marion has thrown just 91 passes all season.

Hobart QB Riley Johnston has rushed for 10 TDs and thrown for 15 more. WR Zach Vode has 1,000 yards receiving. The Hobart ‘D’ has 10 shutouts in the last two years. Oh and did I mention that Hobart led the 2019 Semistate game 17-0 and ended up losing? The Brickies have waited a year for this game and unranked Marion is just in the way.

Hobart 31, Marion 14

(5A) No. 1 Cathedral (11-1) at Castle (8-3):
NEWBURGH (11-20-2020)
Castle has a lot of good boys who are good citizens and outstanding representatives of the school. But they have as much chance of winning this game as I do of calling offensive plays next week for the Chicago Bears. Cathedral is a ‘baddest team on the planet’. Most Indiana schools won’t play them. The only loss for the ‘Fighting Irish' was 17-13 to 6A No. 1 Central Grove (12-0) and Cathedral led that game with one minute to play. Cathedral senior quarterback Nathan McCahill has thrown for 32 touchdowns and run for 11 more TDs and they are overwhelming in both lines. The Irish are 3-0 against teams from Cincinnati, Ohio because, again, few teams in Indiana will even think about playing them. Why?

In 2020, Cathedral has beaten 3A No. 1 Bishop Chatard (12-1), 6A No. 6 Carmel (9-3), 6A No. 2 Westfield (10-1), 5A No. 4 Whiteland (9-2), 5A No. 6 Decatur Central (8-3) and the Irish won all those games by 14 points or more. Castle sophomore Peyton Guerzini (5-11, 172) has run 209 times for 1,428 yards and 15 TDs, but the Knights could have Peyton Manning and they would still ride home on the losing bus Friday. Castle is a good team, but they have two chances against Cathedral. Slim and none.

Cathedral 42, Castle 6

(5A) No. 3 Valparaiso (8-0) at Zionsville (6-5):
ZIONSVILLE (11-20-2020)
Here’s another surprise. Zionsville fills the role 5A No. 2 Bishop Dwenger (10-2) was supposed to play on this night, but Zionsville upset Dwenger 30-21 last week. The Zs give the ball to star junior runner Curtis Price (6-1, 190) who has already rushed for 3,500 yards and 30 TDs in his career. QB Josh Stone (127 of 205, 1,525 yards, 16 TDs) plays his final home game and tries to lead his team to the state finals for the first time in 20 years.

But Valparaiso is 31-4 the last three years. Senior halfback Tommy Burbee (6-1, 175) has rushed for 1,000 yards in just seven games. Kicker Liam Shepherd has 10 field goals in eight games. But the strength is up front. Senior ends Dylan Dingman (6-2, 240) and Cooper Jones (6-6, 250) lead the charge on defense while big, John Hofer (6-6, 330) and Michael Boone (6-4, 305) always get a push on offense. Valpo has more anchors than the US Navy. The Vikings are not a particularly spectacular or high scoring team and I believe that Valparaiso is so conservative they may be a little deceptive on film. Almost everybody thinks they’re going to beat the Vikings until the game starts. But they are 21-1 the last two seasons.

Valparaiso 30, Zionsville 21

(6A) No. 1 Center Grove (12-0) at Ben Davis (7-5):
INDIANAPOLIS (11-20-2020)
Center Grove beat Ben Davis 35-12 on September 11. What’s changed since then? Well, Ben Davis shocked favored Carmel 27-21 last week in the regional championship game. Carmel had defeated Ben Davis 31-9 on October 2. So the question is: Since Ben Davis reversed a 31-9 loss and won 27-21 against Carmel five weeks later, can Ben Davis also reverse a 35-12 loss to Center Grove and turn that into a win over CG nine weeks later? The answer is ‘no.’ Center Grove has allowed 80 points all season. Big back Carson Steele (6-2, 210) has 1,408 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns on 206 carries. The ”Man of Steele’ has rushed for 5,656 yards and 77 TDs in four years. Junior defensive end Caden Curry (6-5, 250) has eight sacks and 19 tackles for losses this year. What can Ben Davis do? Hope for a blizzard.

Center Grove 42, Ben Davis 14

(6A) No. 2 Westfield (12-1) at No.7 MERRILLVILLE (10-1):
MERRILLVILLE (11-20-2020)
Why is Westfield rated so far ahead of Merrillville? I don't know. Westfield lost 56-20 to No. 1 Cathedral in August and has now won 11 in a row, including a 42-9 rout of No. 8 Homestead last week. Who is Michael Webster? Merrillville is about to find out. The Westfield junior QB has thrown for 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns while rushing for 700 yards and 15 more TDs. But the Shamrocks' defense has allowed only a total of nine points in four playoff games. They have dominated everyone in the post-season.

Nobody’s holding Merrillville to nine points. QB Angel Nelson has thrown 24 TD passes and running back Lavarion Logan has rushed for 1400 yards. Receivers Marcus Hardy and Jo Jo Johnson have combined for 20 touchdowns. The Pirate defense has held 11 foes to 13.9 points per game. 6A No. 5 Elkhart (9-1) averaged 42 points a game. They scored 24 against Merrillville. 6A No. 3 Jefferson (10-1) averaged 52. They scored 14 on Merrillville.

On the Sagarin computer rankling board, this game is a double-digit win for Westfield. What?? I’m missing something here. Nobody has stopped Merrillville’s offense all game all season. You mean to tell me that Indiana can't beat Ohio State? I don't buy it. Merrillville’s defense wins this game with three turnovers.

MERRILLVILLE 20, Westfield 17

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Revised: November 15, 2020 .