Week 1 Picks - 2019 NW Indiana High School Football

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

August 20, 2019

Football is back at Bishop Noll. Almost. The Warriors did not play last year because they reportedly had just 17 players. But the schedule shows that Noll returns to the field Saturday, August 31st at Gavit. I'm not sure which games on the Noll schedule are varsity games and which ones are not but Bishop Noll, which began playing varsity football in 1942, is back on the football field. (Photo by Mark Smith)

Mr. Picker - WEEK (1) ONE:

CROWN POINT (08-23-2019)
The first week of the football season is, at most schools, the first week of the school year.

Do I remember my first week of high school?

Oh, yes. It was a century ago. But still, a nightmare that haunts me like a late night phone call from a place you never want to go back to.

I remember struggling to even open the front door of the school on the first day with my little wimpy self. In those days, you almost never set foot in your high school before you were enrolled there. I know I didn't. Not even one time. So ‘day one’ of ninth grade was like a walk in the black forest.

After struggling to get inside the front door on my first day, I remember standing and looking at my new “fellow students.” Everybody seemed so big and they were all walking so quickly. They all knew where they were going and I was in the lost world. They all looked like steelworkers, gangsters or professional wrestlers.

And those were just the girls.

After a compassionate underclassman pointed me to my homeroom, I took a seat as far in the back of the class as I could go until my first teacher called my name for roll call. That was my strategy for the entire debut semester. Sit as far in the back as I could in each class, shut up, keep my head down and wait until the period ends.

In my final class of the first day, a kindly teacher, who may have known my older brother and sister, asked me, ‘Markie, what did you think of your first day in high school?’

I immediately hated her so much. ‘Markie’ is a girls' name (or a magic marker) and, like it or not, I became ‘Markie’, often pronounced sarcastically, on and off throughout that first year. It's 100 years later and I still cannot stand being called ‘Markie’.

My freshman year went downhill from that first day. I ran home from school every afternoon and I pretended I was sick twice a week, trying to con my mom into letting me stay home. At the end of the first semester, I asked my parents if we could move to El Salvador.

I heard a rumor I survived my freshman year in high school but I cannot confirm it. As my sophomore year approached I tried to remember what I’d retained from my ninth grade year. The answer? Nothing. No carryover from the previous year whatsoever. Absolutely nothing.

I get that same feeling again every year now when I try to predict the first week of high school football games on these pages. I’ll leave out Boone vs. John Glenn, Triton vs. South Central and North Judson-Culver. I have more than enough games to take a guess on in week one.

And, without further delay, I’d like to tell you exactly who is going to win all the following Northwest Indiana high school games in the first week of the season. I’m saying that I’d like to tell you that. But with a lot of kids on the field this week who will be scared and just trying to survive their first night of high school football, I again know nothing. No real carryover that I am certain of from last year. Absolutely nothing.

So take these first week predictions with several grains of salt and good luck to everybody who is on the field this Friday night for the first time.

I heard a rumor you will survive this.

'Mr. Picker' WEEK-15, 2018 Football Picks in Review:
Nov. 23-24, 2018

Wrong - 1; Right - 5 = 87.5%

The Pick The Result

Western Boone 38, Eastbrook 28 

Western Boone 34-20

Bishop Dwenger 24, Evansville Central 17

Dwenger 16-10 (4 OTs)

Warren Central 31, Carmel 14  

Warren Central 27-7

Pioneer 38, North Vermillion 23  

Pioneer 60-0

Evansville Memorial 49, West Lafayette 35

(wrong) West Lafayette 47-42

New Palestine 35, Decatur Central 20  

New Palestine 28-14

‘Mr. Picker’ (by the week)
WEEK ONE: 10 of 13, 76.1%
WEEK TWO: 12 of 15, 80%
WEEK THREE: 9 of 13, 69.2%
WEEK FOUR: 10 of 11, 90.9%
WEEK FIVE: 8 of 12, 75%
WEEK SIX: 9 of 12, 75%
WEEK SEVEN: 10 of 12, 83.3%
WEEK EIGHT: 10 of 12, 83.3%
WEEK NINE: 8 of 12, 75%
WEEK TEN: 16 of 19, 84.2%
WEEK ELEVEN: 15 of 16, 93.7%
WEEK TWELVE: 7 of 12, 58.3%
WEEK THIRTEEN: 11 of 14, 78.5%
WEEK FOURTEEN: 8 of 12, 66.7%
WEEK FIFTEEN: 5 of 6, 87.5%

Playoffs (6 weeks) 62 of 79, 78.4%
Season total (15 weeks) 148 of 191, 77.4%

2018 Analysis: I should brag about 77%, my highest correct pick score in six years. But maybe this ‘Picker thing' is more difficult than I suggest it is. You can flip a coin and get 50% right. And if you just pick the larger school, you would be right about 60% of the time. I haven't hit 80%. In all these years, you’d think I could luck into one 80% year. Four out of every five games should not be that difficult.

So that’s my goal. 80%. Are you with me? Really? Then let's see you pick this first week.

'Mr. Picker' (13 Years)
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 2019 WEEK (1) ONE:

Bowman Academy at Calumet:

GARY (08-23-2019)
Calumet is on the rise and Bowman will be looking to stop them. With that said, Calumet better win. Unless I’m reading the schedule wrong, Calumet plays Chicago superpower Mount Carmel in week two. This should be a good year for the Warriors. And maybe, for Bowman, too. After this Friday.

Calumet 30, Bowman Academy 14

River Forest at Wheeler:

UNION TOWNSHIP (08-23-2019)
This matchup has a been one-sided. This is the sixth year that River Forest has played Wheeler to start the season and RF hasn't won any of those games. I saw signs of a good offense from RF last year (they averaged 21 points a game), but I’m not bold enough to pick them to beat Wheeler, which won this matchup 52-20 last August.

Wheeler 35, River Forest 27

North Newton at South Newton:

KENTLAND (08-23-2019)
South Newton, which was 13-1 in 2006 and 11-2 in 2011, has fallen on hard times, losing 21 games in a row. When very small schools (South Newton is 1A) fall down, they fall hard. Sometimes you have to play freshmen and sophomores because you don't have anybody else. I’m giving you a rationale for how South Newton might pull an upset here. The operative word here is ‘might’.

North Newton 27, South Newton 8

Columbia City at Gavit:

HAMMOND (08-23-2019)
Will somebody please find Gavit some school to play that isn't 100 miles from Hammond? Columbia City is right down the road from Warsaw and they’d played the Tigers to begin the season for 22 years. Gavit played Calumet to open the 2018 season and that made sense, too. The Gladiators will be at home on this night, a big advantage. Columbia City hasn't had a winning season since 2011. This is as odd a schedule matchup as I’ve seen in many years. I have no real idea who will win.

Gavit 27, Columbia City 20

Morton at Highland:

HIGHLAND (08-23-2019)
This is the fourth year Morton has played Highland to start the season and the Governors have won the last two. Morton was 9-3 last season with two losses to Lowell and they have to be looking for a big year. I think there may be a significant gap here in these two because this should be another good year for Morton.

Morton 30, Highland 14

Griffith at Michigan City:

MICHIGAN CITY (08-23-2019)
Since they play in the small school Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC), Griffith needs tough nonconference opponents. Mission accomplished. The Panthers now open against Michigan City and Valparaiso, NW Indiana’s top two teams last season. MC won at Griffith 53-0 last year but the Wolves are breaking in a new quarterback so this game will be a little closer.

Michigan City 35, Griffith 20

New Prairie at LaPorte:

LaPORTE (08-23-2019)
This is the 19th consecutive season that LaPorte County neighbors LaPorte and New Prairie have met to start the football season. LaPorte has won 13 of the last 18, but just four of the last seven and the Slicers have a new coach, a new offense and a new defense this season. I’m seeing a very good year for New Prairie and it starts tonight.

New Prairie 31, LaPorte 20

Chesterton at Hobart:

HOBART (08-23-2019)
Hobart is 23-10 the last three years, while Chesterton has had three losing seasons in a row. The Trojans started to play better late in 2018 and the winds of change may be blowing in this rivalry. But not on this night. The Brickies will win the home opener here.

Hobart 27, Chesterton 20

East Chicago at HANOVER CENTRAL:

CEDAR LAKE (08-23-2019)
The first-ever matchup of the Cardinals and the Cats is the best ‘new to the schedule’ opener this season. Hanover also plays in the GSSC so they start the season by stepping out with EC and Andrean (September 30). I’m not sure what EC has, so it's very hard to pick this one. Translated: I have no idea who will win here.

East Chicago 28, HANOVER CENTRAL 14

Kankakee Valley at Rensselaer:

RENSSELAER (08-23-2019)
The Jasper County ‘Super Bowl’ sends the Kougars south to take on what should be a strong Rensselaer team. The Bombers have nine starters on offense and nine starters on defense returning in 2019. This is the 13th year that KV has started the season against the Bombers. Rensselaer is 8-4 in those games but KV is eyeing a turnaround after four losing seasons in a row.

Rensselaer 35, Kankakee Valley 14

Munster at Lake Central:

LOWELL (08-23-2019)
This will be the 13th consecutive season that arch rivals and neighbors Munster and Lake Central begin the season on the same field. The last winning season for either of these schools was 2014 and both the Mustangs and the Indians were 2-8 last fall. Let's be kind and say that maybe fate has lassoed the Mustangs and the Indians. Down with rope. Up with hope. Somebody will be undefeated Saturday morning. I’m going to ride with the wild horses.

Munster 20, Lake Central 14

Valparaiso at Penn:

PENN (08-23-2019)
Valpo defeated Penn in sectional play last season, so unless they all have bad memories, this is a tough assignment for the Vikings. Valpo is the top-rated team in Northwest Indiana, but this one is tough to call. This is the 23rd consecutive season that Penn and Valpo have begun the year against each other and this will be the seventh meeting of the Vikings and Kingsmen in the last four seasons. But this is the only matchup of the Vikings and Penn this year because Valpo has temporarily dropped to Class 5A. Both teams have a lot of good players returning, but I like the green team.

Valparaiso 21, Penn 14


MERRILLVILLE (08-23-2019)
This is just the fifth year that the two Merrillville high schools open the season against each other and they should just sign up for the next 50 years. Nobody listens to me, but I think that the 59er players and the school band should shut down Broadway Avenue and march from Andrean to Merrillville the night of the game. "The Crosstown March." It would make this game unique. Even though this is now a Class 2A school (Andrean) vs. a Class 6A school, this is a natural match. I have a tendency to overrate Merrillville, but I’d be surprised if this game was close.



LOWELL (08-23-2019)
The traditional NW Indiana opener sends the 3-time defending Class 6A Sectional 1 champion Bulldogs south to play the 5-time defending Class 4A Sectional 17 champion Devils. This is the 23rd consecutive year that Lowell and Crown Point have met in the season opener and here’s another game that should be played as long as we have football. Crown Point returns their top receivers and tight ends and quarterback from 2018. Can Lowell overcome that playing at home? I don't know. Give me few days.

Check back for a prediction on Thursday.

Clark at Whiting:

WHITING (08-24-2019)
Note the Saturday 7 p.m. start here as Clark takes the short ride across 119th Street to play Whiting on the lakefront. The Oilers have won seven in a row in this series. This is another game that should be permanently carved into the schedule. As long as there is a Clark high, they should play Whiting. I said that Clark should always play Whiting. I didn't say they should always beat them.

Whiting 28, Clark 7

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Revised: August 20, 2019 .