The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2020 NW Indiana High School Football Week-10 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



If you are watching a high school sports event on TV, folks like this are making it happen. As we enter the football post-season, I want to thank everyone who is allowing me to watch playoff games from all over Indiana on my TV at home. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (10-20-2020) Some schools get a break before the 48th Indiana State High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) begins, so I thought I’d share my limited knowledge of the next generation of high school football TV.

Back in the old days (my time), we had a Game-of-the-Week on what was then WYIN Channel 56 (now Lakeshore Public TV) or on the dearly departed UC Cable on Merrillville. Games were tape delayed and shown at 10:30 p.m. on Friday night.

That’s so 1980s.

Now, if you can't make it to a game or can only go to one game, there are other football options when you get home.
Most of you know that The WJOB Network, The Regional Radio Sports Network (RRSN) and the Region Sports Network (RSN) all are on the case each week with games you can access at any time on your home computer or "App TV" systems like Roku. But for those of you more adept in cyberspace than I am, there are a half dozen other Indiana high school football games available every Friday, not to mention past games.

Again, I’m older than dirt and not adept at the Internet at all. Some of you may already know everything I’m saying here. But if you access the ‘IHSAA Champions Network’, you can scroll down to ‘Favorite Channels’. That’s your door to the rest of the state.

I watch the Game-of-the-Week on WHME Channel 46 in the South Bend/Mishawaka area and the Game-of-the-Week on Hamilton County TV Sports. WHMS Channel 40 airs game from the Indianapolis area. Porter County TV airs most Valpo high school games. Many individual schools carry sports from that school and many games are now pay-per-view because schools can't draw as many fans as they used to in the Covid-19 virus era. It's my understanding that schools share in the profits from ‘their’ network. If you can pay for the games, you’re helping out.

But if you can access the game on TV stations, you can watch for free. A few high school networks are still free. Some broadcasts are very raw. One camera. No replays. Folks doing broadcast for the first time. So what? I don't watch a high school game for broadcast quality. I want to see the boys play and all these Internet based production efforts let me do that.

Local announcers give the true flavor of that area. If you can dial up the Pioneer-Chesterton game through the IHSAA Network by accessing ‘Pioneer high school’ or RCT-tv4, you get a real feel of Pioneer football.

I have long thought this is the future of high school sports coverage. Every school should produce its own local broadcasts or contract with someone who will. Involve kids from your school in the broadcast as camera people, announcers, sideline reporters, even as sales representatives to go in the community and try to see ads on the games. It’s being done now but every school should do it and eventually will, especially in our new virus world. There’s no downside that I can see.

This is a tough time for broadcast sports. Small businesses are suffering and failing. Those restaurants and stores were main sources for local high school broadcast radio and TV advertising. The virus affected schedules are another chain on TV and radio sports. If you promised an advertiser nine games and your school only plays six, you can't go back to that organization with anything but a refund.

Those of you who have seen me hanging around the high school football games on Friday nights the last 30-40 years must know that I enjoy being on the sidelines with the coaches and the boys and girls. Always have. But I also wish I was upstairs broadcasting the games on the radio, something we at had to halt temporarily this season after many years. The virus and its aftermath made the choice for me this season.

I commend EVERYONE who is still out there broadcasting high school events at this crisis time. The sports and schools need you. Moms and dads (and grandmas who live five states away) need you.

Especially the new TV crews. You are opening the door to a new era of high school sports coverage. Keep it up.

I want to thank Pete Koulianos, the varsity coach of Highland who made sure I got every box score from his team's games this fall. Box scores don’t get in the newspapers that much anymore and one box score is worth a 10-paragraph story. Mentioning the name of a player and what he or she did is still the foundation of high school sports coverage.

As some of you remember from past years, this poll always runs through the state finals. But because Class 5A and Class 6A do not play this Friday, the next poll will wait until after the sectional semifinals on October 30.

1. (6A) Merrillville (7-1)
2019 (11-2), 2018 (7-4), 2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5)


MERRILLVILLE: The Pirates won the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) championship with a 34-10 win at Chesterton Friday. Even though Valparaiso is also undefeated, it reportedly has been ruled that since Valparaiso lost three games including the game at Merrillville to Covid-19 issues, that Merrillville’s 6-0 DAC record becomes 7-0 in league play. The Purple boys got another big numbers game from QB Angel Nelson who was 10 of 13 for 297 yards and TDs by Pirate stars Lavarion Logan, Marcus Hardy and Jo Jo Johnson put the game away in the second half on the road. I still don’t know how this team gave up 45 points to Bishop Chatard (in a 45-28 loss) in week seven. I still don't think there’s as big a difference between those two teams. But the Pirates have this week off before they get arch rival Crown Point (3-3) in the Class 6A Sectional 1 semifinals.

2. (5A) Valparaiso (5-0)
2019 (13-1), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3)


VALPARAISO: Valpo put the lid on Lake Central 44-17 last week to finish the season at 5-0 with four games lost to the Covid-19 virus. Valpo kicker Liam Shepherd booted a 45-yard field goal in a game that was 37-3 at the half. I see no indication that all the extra time off has hurt the Vikings. Valpo gets another week off to prepare for Michigan City in the Class 5A Sectional 9 semifinals.
When you put on the green glasses and look ahead in the Class 5A regional you see Mishawaka (5-4). When you look ahead at the 5A Northern Semistate you see Bishop Dwenger (8-1). And when you look ahead at the state finals and see top-ranked Cathedral (8-1), you stop looking ahead.

3.) (2A) Andrean (8-1)
2019 (10-4), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-4), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-4)


MERRILLVILLE: Andrean looked good in a 35-14 shut down of the Devils from Lowell last week. The 59ers rolled up 385 total yards and QB Joe Cimino threw four TD passes. It was 28-0 Andrean at the half and Lowell went home with their first loss of the season. Okay, now teams that face Andrean in the Class 2A playoffs are going to have to be REALLY creative. If it was my team, I would ask if our side could use 12 players and maybe let our parents be referees. I think Andrean should only get three downs instead of four and 59er touchdowns should only count as five points. No? Well, then here comes the pain. Because Andrean has outscored its last eight opponents 318-72. The 59ers open at Boone Grove this Friday in the Class 2A Sectional 33 quarterfinals. Andrean beat Boone 27-0 last year.

.) (4A) Hobart (6-2)
2019 (11-3), 2018 (7-3), 2017 (6-4), 2016 (10-3), 2015 (5-5)


HOBART: Hobart seems ready for the playoffs after a 53-0 walk over out-manned Munster last week. The Brickies have lost only to Merrillville (7-1) and Andrean (8-1), neither of whom is in Class 4A Sectional 17. I haven’t asked, but I’d bet Hobart believes they should have won the 4A state title last year because they had a two touchdown lead on East Noble in the 4A Northern Semistate before they lost 29-24. That memory (and nine returning starters on defense from that team) makes them hard to beat. And Gavit (2-1), Hobart’s 4A Sectional 17 quarterfinal foe this Friday is about to find that out.


5.) Chesterton (4-4)
2019 (6-4), 2018 (3-7), 2017 (4-6), 2016 (2-8), 2015 (8-3)


CHESTERTON: The Trojans got shut down by Merrillville 34-10 last Friday and it was just a case of facing a superior team. QB Chris Mullen was 17 of 41 for 223 yards and the Pirates led just 14-10 in the third quarter before the better team pulled away. The Trojans gained just 37 yards rushing on 22 carries. Chesterton gets a week off to prepare for Penn (5-4), a very difficult Class 6A Sectional 2 semifinal game. I still think they are better than Michigan City and Lowell despite the .500 record. Trojan losses are to state-rated teams Merrillville, Valparaiso, Hobart and Pioneer.

6.) (5A) Michigan City (4-2)
2019 (4-6), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (9-4), 2016 (7-4)


MICHIGAN CITY: Michigan City was at home in week nine and they will be home in week 10 before facing Valparaiso (5-0) at Valpo. QB Giovanni Laurent is 55 of 97, for 690 yards passing and has rushed 33 times for 200 yards and four more scores. Running back Jonothan Flemings has carried 66 times for 470 yards and 8 TDs. MC’s season is going to be hard to judge because they defeated Warsaw (7-2) but lost to LaPorte (4-5) in overtime. I rate Michigan City over Lowell and Kankakee Valley.


.) (4A) LOWELL (7-1)
2019 (7-5), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (14-1), 2016 (9-5)


LOWELL: Lowell was overwhelmed in the first half by 2A No. 1 Andrean trailing 28-0 after two quarters of a 35-14 loss. In two of their biggest games of the season, the Devils trailed KV 21-0 and Andrean 28-0 at halftime. I don't have a reason for that, but it can't happen again or they’ll be moving on to basketball and wrestling. Lowell halfback Joe Heuer passed the 1,000-yard mark on the season and the Devils did rush for 250 yards against Andrean, mostly in the second half. But they need a strong game this week against a Morton team that has had a lot of success the last three weeks.


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Revised: October 27, 2020 .