Week 1 Picks - 2020 NW Indiana High School Football

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

August 21, 2020


Good seats may be rare when the Bulldogs play this fall. Stadium capacities will be limited everywhere by the Covid-19 virus concerns which have affected sports at all levels. (Photo by Mark Smith)

Mr. Picker - WEEK (1) ONE:

CROWN POINT (08-21-2020)
Times have changed, haven’t they? In the past six months, I don’t think I have ever said the words ‘I don’t know’ so much.

I don’t know if students will finish the 2020 school year or even the football season due to the Covid-19 virus. Nobody does.

I don’t know much about the Ciovid-19 virus but I think that young folks who, are unlikely to fall victim to it, are still much more likely to catch it and unknowingly pass it on to their dad, their grandma, or their old, Uncle Mark.

When the virus shut down all Indiana high school sports in February, I was shocked to find out how much I missed it. I would have bet you cash money that I would love having Friday and Saturdays off all spring and summer.

Since many August 21 games have been cancelled due to virus problems, I’m only going to predict nine matchups this first week. No matter what I tell you, I have absolutely no idea who’s going to win. Not right now.

And, if I’m being honest, I don't know what will happen to the students, the coaches and the referees (or me) at these ‘virus era’ games. I can't promise you that everyone will be OK. I don’t know. But if it's what you’ve always done, you should pick a game and go watch your neighborhood school. Why?

Probably because it's what you’ve always done.

And I’ll see you there.

'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, 50.0%
Post-season: 53 of 67, 79.1%
SEASON TOTAL (overall): 126 of 166, 75.9%

'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 (1) ONE:

Andrean (10-4) at Merrillville (11-2)

MERRILLVILLE (08-21-2020)
One of two premier week one showdowns. Merrillville lost heavily to graduation, but they benefitted from Morton’s season being cancelled by accepting five transfer players from the Hammond school. The new boy who is worth the price of admission (socially distanced of course) is all-stater JoJo Johnson, a do-everything receiver, cornerback-defensive back who had six interceptions on defense and scored 11 touchdowns on offense in 2019. I’m not sure which Morton boys will be eligible to play against Andrean, but Johnson and and lineman Dierre Kelly will be. WR Armani Glass caught 31 passes for 404 yards last year and big defensive lineman Kenneth Grant (6-4, 350) anchors the defensive line.

Andrean will attack with all-state running back Ryan Walsh, who carried the ball 278 times for 2,251 yards and 27 touchdowns last season and all-state candidate Nick Flesher, a dominant receiver who is as good as Johnson is. Both these schools were regional champs in 2019. This is the game of the night.

MERRILLVILLE 34, Andrean 21

Munster (0-10) at Lake Central (3-7)

ST. JOHN (08-21-2020)
Okay, so nobody here wants to talk about last year. Munster is 2-18 the last two seasons and they reportedly don’t have a lot of upperclassmen. Lake Central will roll out some first-time starters on offense but the defense should control this game. 0-10 is 0-10. So, I’m looking down the schedule for a game or two the Mustangs can win to lift them up. Munster can win and its going to have to be early. In October, the Mustangs finish the season with Andrean, Lowell and Hobart. LC has too much for their next-door neighbors to the north.

Lake Central 28, Munster 6

Hanover Central (6-4) at Portage (1-9)

PORTAGE (08-21-2020)
Both schools here lost their week one opponent for the Wildcats will head to Portage for the first time. Hanover returns 14 starters from last year’s squad, including quarterback Blaze Cano who completed 82 of 158 for 1,360 yards and 17 TDs last fall.

New quarterback Tylee Swopes is a run-pass threat at QB, but the question on this night is: Can HC plays a big school Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) team for the first time since they restarted their program in 2014. I don’t think they can.

Portage 35, Hanover Central 14

Rensselaer (9-3) at Kankakee Valley (4-6)

WHEATFIELD (08-21-2020)
This could be a big year for Rensselaer, which returns 16 starters from a team that lost the regional final 44-34 to Andrean. Running back Addison Wilmington (5-10, 160) gained 1,068 yards last season on 146 carries. Kelton Jessen (5-10, 165) carried 69 times for 592 yards last year. And ‘Double D’, Dangerous Dalton Kidd, a tight end who carried 31 times for 401 yards (12 yards a carry???) in the Bombers’ double-wing mis-direction attack, including back to back 100-yard rushing games against North Newton and Andrean. I read that I should look out for new QB Tim Drone who may soon launch more timely flights than the Jasper County airport. But KV defends the home turf with returning QB Eli Carden (76 of 157, 1,077 yards, 8 TDs) and speedy wide receiver Markus Ritchie (17 catches, 251 yards).

KV was just 4-6 last year, but they should have beaten Lowell and last year’s Rensselaer-KV game was just a 13-9 win in Rensselaer. The Bombers should win but KV will stay close.

Rensselaer 27, KV 17

Hobart (11-3) at Chesterton (6-4)

CHESTERTON (08-21-2020)
Two emotional freight trains get on the track again here. Four-time state champ Hobart reached the semistate last year and had a two touchdown lead before losing. Chesterton has never won a sectional in the history of the Indiana state tournament. Not one. But there is big talk at both schools.

Chesterton returns a future all-stater in junior quarterback Chris Mullen who completed 151 of 284 for 2,459 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. In warm weather early season games, he will be very tough to stop, even with new receivers.

But Hobart returns a state-class defense that allowed only 153 points in 14 games and starting quarterback Riley Johnston who passed for 1,183 yards and nine TDs and ran for 647 yards and 14 more TDs. Zach Vode caught 39 passes for 737 yards and he’s looking for more. ‘Bad Boy’ Bobby Babcock (6-0, 220) was credited with 25 tackles for loss from his linebacker position, but he might have had more than that.

Don’t get mad at me defensive coaches. Everybody is going to have some problems on opening night.

Hobart 28, Chesterton 21

Valparaiso (13-1) at Penn (6-5)

OSECEOLA (08-21-2020)
I’m not sure exactly WHAT Penn has. Penn gave up 238 points in 11 games last year, the most they allowed in 17 years. Question 1: Can Penn tighten it up this season?
Question 2: Does is matter what Penn does? Valparaiso is the big, green team. The reigning two-time champion of the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) has added Jefferson-transfer quarterback Max Grimes (who has thrown for 5,340 yards and 68 touchdowns (9 interceptions) to a team that has at least three other Division I players. The ‘Green New Deal’ rolls on.

Valparaiso 31, Penn 14

Michigan City (4-6) at (South Bend) Riley (5-5)

SOUTH BEND (08-21-2020)
Here I go with ‘I don’t know.’ Riley and Michigan City BOTH lost five of their last seven in 2019. But nothing has changed anywhere since 2019, right? The Wolves open with three games on the road. They need this one for confidence because Warsaw (8-3 last year), Chesterton (6-4), Valparaiso (13-1) and Merrillville (11-2) are next. Riley has to patch a defense which gave up 30 points in five games last year.

But Riley hasn’t played Michigan City in 16 years. No tickets for this one. No fans. I have no idea what’s going to happen at Jackson Field in South Bend

Michigan City 28, Riley 14

LOWELL (7-5) at CROWN POINT (6-5)

CROWN POINT (08-21-2020)
  Both teams have their starting QB, but I don't know who’s playing in the offensive lines. The home team returns two-year starter Will Petit (
137 of 285, 1,766 yards, 14 TDs) and halfback Matthew Walters (141 runs, 707 yards, 10 TDs) but Lowell brings back Cam Stojancevich (58 of 118, 793 yards, 8 TDs). The Devils have a lot of running backs but I’m curious to see if ‘Little Joe’ Heuer can continue his late season success. Heuer scored nine touchdowns in Lowell’s first two sectional games. I just don't know here.

I’ll get back to you with my Lowell at CP Preview Friday on this one.

LaPorte (4-7) at New Prairie (10-2)

NEW CARLISLE (08-22-2020)
LaPorte missed practice time due to the virus and New Prairie has a new head coach and a new starting QB. There’s a lot of questions here, too. Reportedly this game was moved to Saturday because LaPorte needed to get in the correct number of practices, but I like this as a Saturday night intra-country opener. They should leave this matchup on Saturday in future years since neither side opens their conference season in week two.

LaPorte’s offense is their defense, to some extent. They have to control the ball, which they could not do last year. This Saturday is a must-win for LaPorte because big, scary monsters Penn and Valparaiso are next.

LaPorte 24, New Prairie 16

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Revised: August 21, 2020 .