Week 15 Picks - 2020 NW Indiana High School Football

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

November 27, 2020


The Hobart Brickies will try for the school's fifth state championship Friday at the Lucas Oil Arena this Friday. (Photo by Mark Smith)

Mr. Picker - WEEK (15) FIFTEEN:

MERRILLVILLE (11-27-2020)
The interesting thing about the state football championships in Indiana is: The game changes when you get to the finals.

In Illinois the finals are played outdoors at Illinois State University. It's brutal. Cold. Wet. Misery for everyone.

Let's be clear. No matter what you have heard. Football was NEVER meant to be played at night. Football was invented in the 1800s and they played for half a century before stadium lights were invented.

It was always an afternoon game. Every level of the sport is played in the afternoon.

Also, football was NEVER meant to be played in breezing weather.

Football was an autumn game. College football was never originally played after Thanksgiving and bowl games were all held in warm weather cities. Pro football was originally played Sunday afternoon and it was never played in January.

Which brings us back to the Indiana state finals. After a November of playing ‘caveman football’ outdoors in weather that no other outdoor high school sport would be allowed to be played in, the final championship game moves indoors. Dry field. 70 degrees. Perfect lighting.

It changes the game. The boys can play again. No matter what any boy tells you, the truth is they play better indoors. You see the ball better because the lights in the Lucas Oil Arena are 10 times better than the lights are out behind your school. You don’t slip on the turf because it's not wet. You catch the ball better because your hands aren’t frozen by 35-degree weather.
Good defenses like to be indoors and good offenses love being indoors. Especially quarterbacks. Imagine looking 30 yards down a parking lot as opposed to looking 30 yards downstage in a TV studio.

Passing quarterbacks will like playing indoors.

So the teams that passes 5-10 times a game and runs the ball 1,000 times better be able to do that on Thanksgiving weekend or they will be run out of the building by the pass-happy teams, right?

Let’s see.

Now, a look back at Mr. Picker's Week-14 predictions, and how he did.

'Mr. Picker' WEEK-14, 2020 Football Picks
in Review: Nov. 20-21, 2020

Wrong - 3 Right - 9 = 75.0%

The Pick The Result

South Adams 35, Lafayette Catholic 20  

South Adams 42-9

Covenant Christian 34, West Washington 31  

Covenant Christian 55-8

Bishop Luers 34, Pioneer 24  

Bishop Luers 42-34

Western Boone 31, Mater Dei 28  

Western Boone 42-7

Southridge 28, Danville 24  

(wrong) Danville 30-7

Bishop Chatard 35, Marian 17  

Bishop Chatard 18-13

Roncalli 28, Mooresville 20  

Roncalli 42-14

Hobart 31, Marion 14  

Hobart 49-20

Cathedral 42, Castle 6  

Cathedral 32-7

Valparaiso 30, Zionsville 21  

(wrong) Zionsville 27-9

Center Grove 42, Ben Davis 14  

Center Grove 48-13

MERRILLVILLE 20, Westfield 17  

(wrong) Westfield 41-23

WEEK FOURTEEN (in review):
Clearly my pick of Merrillville was wishful thinking. I heard a lot about how the game wouldn't be close, but I didn’t believe it. I’d seen too much of Merrillville and too little of Westfield. I hadn’t seen enough of either Southridge and Danville, apparently, so I got that one wrong by a significant margin. But I have to be honest about Zionsville. I saw them on tape and if they played Valparaiso again tomorrow I’d still pick Valpo.

Best pick? Other than Cathedral, South Adams and Center Grove winning, which was not in much doubt, I thought Bishop Luers over Pioneer 34-24 (they won 42-34) was the best pick of the week. Pioneer had defeated Andrean, which is a better team that Luers. Looks like I need 6-of-6 in the final week to get to 80% for the state tournament.

‘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%
WEEK FOURTEEN: 9 of 12, 75.0%

Playoffs: 54 of 68, 79.41%
Total (overall): 117 of 150, 78.0%

'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 (15) FIFTEEN:

(2A) Bishop Luers (8-6) vs. Western Boone (10-4)
11 a.m. EST (11-27-2020)
The big question here is the eternal question. When you’ve been outside in cold weather all November, what does your offense look like when you move indoors? Bishop Luers junior QB Chris Clark is 225 of 370 for 3,289 yards, 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. All games played outdoors. Move him indoors in perfect conditions with junior wide receiver Brody Glenn (59 catches, 1,093 yards, 15 TDs) and junior slot receiver Krashaun Menson (30 catches, 524 yards, 7 TDs, 17.5 yards per catch) and what is Western Boone going to do?

They’re going to hand the ball to senior Robbie Taylor (302 carries, 1,645 yards, 19 TDs) like they have the last two years. Taylor is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher who has 42 career touchdowns. The Stars have run the ball 520 times (37 per game) in 14 games. Western Boone’s best defense against Knights’ passing game is to run the ball and keep the Luers’ air force on the bench.

Luers has allowed more points this season (33.2 per game) than they have scored (32.1 per game). I do not ever remember a team that reached the state championship game with that particular statistic. But Luers has played three Class 6A schools and three Class 5A schools. Western Boone have not played any 5As or 6As. I don’t want to over-think this. Move a big-time passing game indoors and they’ll be even more big time.

Bishop Luers 35, Western Boone 21

(4A) No. 7 Hobart (11-2) vs. No. 4 Roncalli (12-1):

3 p.m. EST (11-27-2020)
A ‘legacy match’ here as the nine-time state champ Roncalli Rebels take on the once and future ‘kings of Northwest Indiana,’ the four-time champ Hobart Brickies. This is Roncalli’s 13th state championship game and it is Hobart's 10th. Nobody’s going to make history here.

Roncalli has 53 rushing touchdowns in 14 games and that number is led by Baron Huebler (5-9, 180) who has run 293 times (12 100-yard games) for 2,172 yards and 31 TDs. ‘The Baron’ has 3,900 career rushing yards and I heard he ran for 306 yards and five TDs last week in a 42-14 win over Mooresville. When the ball needed to be thrown, 6-foot-2 junior Aidan Leffler has 113 completions in 177 attempts for 1,508 yards 19 TDs and just five interceptions.
Hobart rides with the defense. The Brickies have shut out five teams and held five others to 17 points or less.

QB Riley Johnston is a true double threat with 97 completions in 161 pass attempts for 1,627 yards and 16 TDs plus 116 carries for 782 yards and 12 TDs. Top receiver Zach Vode likes the end zone and he has 54 catches for 1,042 yards. Halfback Tyler Turley has run 129 times for 794 yards and 14 TDs but the Brickies aren't an offensive machine.

All-state linebacker Bobby Babcock (6-1, 220) has 36 tackles for loss in 12 games. Hobart’s ‘D’ has 24 quarterback sacks and 17 interceptions. Only Merrillville and Andrean have scored more than 20 on Hobart, but Roncalli might be as good or better than Merrillville and Andrean.

The Rebels win a close one

Roncalli 24, Hobart 17

(6A) No. 2 Westfield (12-1) vs. No. 1 Center Grove (13-0):

7 p.m. EST (11-27-2020)
In theory, there’s a large gap between Center Grove, Cathedral and everyone else in the state. That 2020 theory gets put to the test in the Friday evening game as the top-ranked Center Grove Trojans take on 2nd-ranked Westfield, a team on a 12-game winning streak. Center Grove has beaten everyone except Cathedral (a 17-13 win) by 14 points or more. The Trojans' defense has allowed 93 points all year. Senior running back Carson Steele (6-2, 210) will look to reach the 6,000-yard mark for his career. He stands at 5,797 yards and 80 rushing touchdowns on 938 carries.

When they feel the need to throw, junior Tayven Weems (6-5, 190) has been good with 105 completions in just 167 attempts for 1,635 yards and 15 touchdowns.
But CG wants to run. The Trojans have run the ball 555 times in 14 games. Center Grove has also turned the ball over just seven times all season. You don’t beat them because you don’t have the ball.

But Westfield has won 12 in a row since an opening 56-20 loss to Cathedral and quarterback Max Webster (6-2, 225) is a trouble-maker with 2,023 yards (127 of 90, 27 TDs) passing and 813 yards (134 carries and 18 TDs) rushing. Mr. ‘Big Play’ is senior Mason Piening who has caught 43 passes for 946 yards (22 yards per catch) and 12 TDs. Piening has also ruin back 16 kicks for 27 yards a return including a 99-yarder against Franklin Central.

But nobody moves the ball on Center Grove. Class 5A No. 1 Cathedral scored 56 on Westfield and 13 on Center Grove. I just don't think Westfield can stand up to the ’Man of Steele’ and his offensive line.

Center Grove 35, Westfield 17

(1A) No. 1 South Adams (13-0) vs. No. 5 Covenant Christian (14-0):

11 a.m. EST (11-28-2020)
Here’s another game where a top passer moves indoors. Covenant Christian senior Austin Frazier (6-3, 180) has completed 111 of 183 passes for 2,303 yards and 38 touchdowns. To have 38 TDs on 111 completions means he’s throwing it significantly downfield a lot. Not a lot of two-yard passes. Senior basketball player Brian Lomax has 31 catches for 710 yards (a 22.9 yard average) and 13 TDs. Senior Adrian Terry has 27 catches for 619 yards (also a 22.9 average) and 13 more TDs. Micah Wilson has 1,106 yards rushing on 101 carries (an 11.0 average) but CC has run the ball just 284 times in 14 games. That’s not much.

But wait a minute. South Adams quarterback James Arnold (6-3, 185) wants to throw it, too. Arnold has 182 completions in 267 attempts for 3,458 yards and 44 touchdowns and he has five receivers with over 30 catches and 400 yards. Drew Stutzman has 44 catches for 1,075 yards (24.4 per catch) and 18 TDs. When South Adams gets tired of throwing the ball, Chris Summerset has carried 196 times for 1,163 yards and 20 TDs.

But both these teams would obviously rather throw and this will be their first game indoors. The South Adams Starfires have waited a long time. They were 12-0 last year and lost in the regional. This is the first state championship game ever for South Adams. Covenant Christian has only had football for six years so their is also their first-ever state champion game.

I don’t have a good idea about this game except that it will be high scoring

South Adams 49, Covenant Christian 42

(3A) No. 1 Bishop Chatard (12-1) vs. No. 5 Danville (11-0):

3 p.m. EST (11-28-2020)
Here comes the godfather. The 14-time state champ Bishop Chatard Trojans. The 2019 state 4A champ. Chatard is 14-1 in state championship games. Chatard’s only losses in the last two seasons are to Cathedral and Danville is not Cathedral. 4A No. 4 Southridge was 13-0 until Danville beat them 30-7 last week. Danville also stopped 3A No. 8 Tri-West. But the Warriors’ schedule isn’t string. Bishop Chatard has faced 3A No. 10 Brebeuf twice, 3A No. 2 Marian, 4A No. 4 Roncalli, 4A, No. 5 East Central, 5A No. 1 Cathedral and 6A No. 7 Merrillville. The only loss was 39-30 to Cathedral.

I could give you a lot of individual statistics here, but they are misleading because these two are from different scheduling neighborhoods. Yards gained and allowed against Danville’s schedule are not yards gained and allowed against the people who Bishop Chatard plays.

Of the six games this weekend, this is one of the two mismatches. The difference in these two schedules is so vivid that I cannot see Danville staying close in the second half.

Bishop Chatard 42, Danville 21

(5A) Zionsville (7-5) vs. Cathedral (12-1):
7 p.m. EST (11-28-2020)
This is the other mismatch. Cathedral is the big, bad wolf of Indiana high school football. Zionsville is on a nice postseason run and they rallied to beat Valparaiso last week going away 27-9. The Class 5A Eagles have played a tough schedule with seven Class 6A schools.

But Chatard has played an elite schedule. Forget the three Cincinnati schools, one of which won the Ohio state title. The Fighting Irish have beaten 3A No. 1 Bishop Chatard. They lost 17-13 to 6A No. 1 Center Grove. Cathedral beat 6A No. 6 Carmel and 6A No. 4 Brownsburg and 6A No. 9 Lawrence North.

Here’s another pick where I won’t wear you down with individual statistics because Zionsville simply does not play the same type of teams that Cathedral does. You should never pick a four touchdown spread in a state title game. But….

Cathedral 42, Zionsville 14

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Revised: November 28, 2020 .