The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2017 NW Indiana High School Football Week-12 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



The Class 5A Sectional 9 championship can only go one way on next week's championship Friday, to either Michigan City or LaPorte. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LOWELL (10-29-2017) Cold weather and cold reality hit Northwest Indiana football last Friday and it was a 'fan free Friday' night at the old football game. The wind chill was about 31 for local playoff games and, from all reports, a lot of local football fans found something better to do on a Friday night.

Can't totally blame them.

Hopefully the fans in the stands come back this week for the sectional championship games which, in NW Indiana, will feature two matchups (Griffith-Lowell and Michigan City-LaPorte) of arch-rivals and a third game (Portage-CP) matching league rivals.

I appreciate that many fans of local high school football could not possibly care less about what is happening in other areas of our state. I am constantly subjected to the Southeast Conference in college football when I want to hear about Notre Dame, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, etc. Nothing in the SEC interests me. Watching Alabama pound on Mississippi State or Vanderbilt every week is a lot like watching cows eat grass. They'll be eating it again next Saturday if you want to come back and watch again.

But late in the year some matchups have universal interest or may affect local teams far down the line.

Around the state, one high profile game in Class 1A will match No. 1 Pioneer (11-0) and 'WonderBoy' Jack Kiser (1,239 yards and 22 TDs rushing; 52-of-76, 855 yards, 15 TDs and one interception passing) vs. the evil empire, 9-time state champion Lafayette Central Catholic in the 1A sectional final game at Pioneer.

In 4A, Angola (11-0) and Culver Academy (10-1) meet in a game that could provide the opponent for whatever 4A team survives the Northwest Indiana regional. One game of larger interest than around the block is Andrean (8-3) trying to stop the freight train that West Lafayette (10-1) puts on the field. West Lafayette has scored at least seven touchdowns every week for seven weeks in a row. They average 52 points a game and they stand as the prohibitive favorite in Class 3A. Andrean has a chance, but there's a chance it will be 70 degrees and sunny next Friday, too.

1. (4A) LOWELL (11-0)
2016 (9-5), 2015 (12-1), 2014 (8-5), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (5-5), 2011 (5-5)


LOWELL: The Devils jumped on Highland early in a 35-0 victory that advanced Lowell to a home Class 4A Sectional 17 title game against Griffith (10-1). This was Lowell's fifth shutout in 11 games and the Devils allowed just one touchdown in the month of October. Lowell is 6-0 on the road this year. The Devils' playoff path has been relatively easy so far, but that ends this Friday as Griffith heads for Lowell with a 10-game winning streak and years of tradition playing the Devils. A lot of 'old friends' of Lowell (New Prairie, Bishop Dwenger) are still alive in the state tournament, but this game is probably what Lowell boys have been waiting for all season. Both sides saw this coming. The sectional championship game against longtime arch-rival Griffith.

2. (6A) LaPorte (7-3)
2016 (9-2), 2015 (6-4), 2014 (8-6), 2013 (1-9), 2012 (1-9)

LaPORTE: LaPorte laid the lumber to South Bend Adams 40-19, the sixth consecutive week that the Slicers have scored five touchdowns or more. LaPorte rushed for 415 yards on 71 carries, including 152 yards on 15 carries by Isaac Alexander. Top scorer Drayson Nespo collected 103 yards and two TDs on 22 carries. LaPorte gave up 200 yards passing and that's a concern as they face Mike McCullough and Michigan City for the sectional championship next Friday. But I've been saying this for two months. Nobody is stopping LaPorte running the football. LaPorte has rushed for 4,000 yards in 10 games and nobody has made them stop. Even with a semi-tough defense, I've got them ahead of Valparaiso. If you can run the ball all night it does not much matter what the other side can do on offense.


3. (6A) Valparaiso (8-2)
2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8), 2013 (3-7), 2012 (3-7)


VALPO: Valpo was shut down and shut out in the rematch with Penn, losing 13-0. Northwest Indiana people forgot somewhat who Valpo was playing. Penn is 25-6 all time against Valpo. All-stater Paul Maola set up one second quarter TD with a punt return and scored the other one on a pass reception. Earlier in the week, coach Dave Coyle resigned for undisclosed reasons. Talk was that many players refused to play for him anymore. Whatever occurred, everybody in the program lost and not just on the scoreboard. Valparaiso football will bounce back, but it was an embarrassing end to what otherwise was an excellent season.


4. (4A) New Prairie (10-1)
2016 (9-3), 2015 (6-4), 2014 (13-2), 2013 (12-1), 2012 (9-2)


NEW CARLISLE: New Prairie rejected the upset bid of Mishawaka 42-21 last Friday. Senior QB Nick Wilson scored three TDs and the Cougars led 35-7 at the half. New Praurie has won 10 on a row since a season-opening loss to LaPorte (7-3). But now, the Cougars face South Bend's 'November men,' St Joseph's (5-6) has made a habit of following losing seasons with significant playoff runs. St. Joe was 3-6 this fall before topping Hobart (6-4) and Riley (7-4). Two years ago, St. Joe was 4-5 in regular games and 4-1 in playoff games. The classic was in 2010 when St. Joe was 0-3 and 2-5 and then advanced to the 3A state championship game. New Prairie is at home for the second consecutive week and, if Lowell beats Griffith, New Prairie will be home for a third week in a row. It helps to play at home.

5. (5A) Michigan City (7-3)
2016 (7-4), 2015 (2-7), 2014 (4-6), 2013 (2-8), 2012 (2-8)


MICHIGAN CITY: I'm a little uneasy about Michigan City after the Wolves' 21-14 win at Munster in the 5A Sectional 9 semifinals Friday. QB Mike McCullough was 6 of 15 for 200 yards and Keyshawn McGill caught five for 171 yards. MC turned the ball over twice, had a kick blocked and gave up 200 yards rushing. But they advanced to the sectional championship game against LaPorte County rival and next door neighbor LaPorte (7-3) next Friday night. Coaches are under absolutely no obligation to tell you or me or anyone else the truth about what they are really doing. So they might never say this. But I am sure that Michigan City has been working on how to stop LaPorte since the Wolves lost to the LaPorte 58-56 four weeks ago. I would be disappointed if they they have not been.


6. (6A) Crown Point (6-4)
2016 (6-6), 2015 (1-9), 2014 (8-4), 2013 (6-4)


CROWN POINT: Crown Point reversed an earlier loss to Merrillville, topping the Pirates 23-14 to reach the 6A Sectional 1 championship game for a second consecutive season. Tyler Gomez ran for over 100 yards for the ninth game in a row. Three of the five teams that have defeated Crown Point (Lowell, Michigan City, and Portage) will play for a sectional title next Friday. The upcoming CP-Portage sectional title game is hard to predict because in the earlier 27-10 Portage win over Crown Point, CP quarterback Ryan Bolda was hurt in the second quarter and did not return. Bolda won't be hurt this time and CP won't lose by 17 this time. But three of the losses for Portage (5-5) have been by three points or less. This might be the most even sectional title game in NW Indiana.


7. (4A) Griffith (9-1)
2016 (4-7), 2015 (6-5), 2014 (10-2), 2013 (8-2)


GRIFFITH: A lot of local football people want to see Griffith play Lowell. Well, here it is. The Panthers won for the 10th week in a row, pulling away from Morton 35-21 last Friday. Halfback Kadafi Coleman scored two TDs and QB Fred Winston threw for two TDs. Griffith has played Lowell every season since the Griffith football program began in the 1930s. This is the first season Griffith did not schedule Lowell and they meet in the sectional title game. Griffith hasn't played anywhere near the schedule Lowell has, but the Panthers surely believe they can win because Griffith defeated Lowell 17-9 last year. Of course, the Cubs won the World Series last year, too.


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Revised: November 06, 2017 .