The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2016 NW Indiana High School Football Week-12 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Munster will be one of five sites (New Prairie, LaPorte, Griffith and Merrillville are the others) hosting sectional championship football this coming Friday night. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LaPORTE (10-31-2016) State wide in week 11, you may have noticed that 2A No.1 Woodlan lost 20-14 to unranked South Adams. 2A No. 21 Whiting (10-1) noticed.

In a tribute to the size of the state of Indiana, all of the Top-5 teams in Class 1A won and all are 11-0. How can the top five teams in any bracket never meet during the regular season? Lafayette Catholic, Pioneer, Linton-Stockton, West Washington and Monroe Central are near each other.

Monroe Central is on the Ohio state line. West Washington is about 35 miles from the Kentucky border. Linton Stockton is not that far from the Illinois state line southeast of Terre Haute and Pioneer is in the middle of nowhere (just kidding, Pioneer people).

Lafayette Catholic? Please. They're too good to play 1A schools during the regular season.

The top-ranked 4A schools: Roncalli (11-0) and Northwood (11-0) are still alive. Class 5A No.1 Snider (10-0) is still with us, as is 6A No. 1 Warren Central (9-1). Warren has lost only to Colerain high (10-0) of Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 3A No,1 Gibson Southern lost last week. 3A No. 2 Marian (10-1), which plays at Griffith this Friday, is the highest ranked team left.

The rankings locally became even more difficult after week 11.

Stay with me here. Merrillville (5-5) and Crown Point (5-5) are both .500 teams and both are playing without their original starting QB. That's the bad. But both won sectional semifinal games last week and have reached the sectional championship round. Portage (6-4) has two losses to Merrillville (5-5).

Are they better?

Crown Point beat a Lowell (7-4) team that has not been challenged in 4A Sectional 17 as of yet. Are they better?
And if Hobart (9-2) lost by 27 to Andean (5-6), how can Hobart be ahead of Lowell (7-4), which defeated Andrean by two TDs? I don't know the answers to any of these questions. But then, I don't know the names of two thirds of the players on the Cleveland Indians who beat up on the Cubs over the weekend, either.

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


LaPORTE: LaPorte did not come off the 'bye week' well, topping Chesterton 17-7 in the 6A Sectional 2 semifinals. Maybe the Trojans did use the extra time to their advantage. Chesterton brought in a safety, Mason Kaletha to help the offense. He ran for 114 yards in his first start of the season. LaPorte, which averaged 300 yards rushing per game over the nine-game regular season, was held to 136 rushing yards. Slicer junior QB Nolan Lorenz fired a 35-yard TD pass to Scott Cooper for one score and halfback Brennen Long's 15th TD of the year clinched the hard-fought win. Okay now, get ready. The Slicers get their chance against 6A No. 2 Penn (10-0) Friday night in LaPorte. Penn topped LaPorte 49-21 in sectional play last year. Here's my theory. LaPorte spent the last two weeks (and will spend all this week) working on run plays and defenses they think will work against Penn. That's what I'd have been doing.


2. (4A) LOWELL (7-4)
2015 (12-1), 2014 (8-5), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (5-5), 2011 (5-5)


LOWELL: Lowell takes a jump in the poll, but this is where they started the season. The Devils led 28-0 at the quarter and rolled 49-2 over a Morton team they beat 33-6 four weeks ago. Trevor Espravnik ran 30 times for 215 yards and scored three TDs in a second consecutive playoff game that was not close. The Lowell losses here are to Hobart (9-2), Portage (6-4), Griffith (8-3) and Crown Point (5-5), all by a TD or less. Those losses look better and better as time goes by. What is this 'touchdown pass' thing Lowell is doing. Lowell has thrown nine TDs in 11 games. In the past you'd have to watch three years to see eight Red Devil passing TDs. Quietly, Lowell has 21 passing TDs in their last 24 games. And cows are jumping over the moon. The Devils, who have held six teams to 10 points or less, have won five in a row. They now travel to Munster (6-5) to play for the 4A Sectional 17 championship. Lowell beat Munster 41-10 in October.


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


NEW CARLISLE: The Cougars turned back Andrean 28-14 to advance to the 4A Sectional 18 championship game. Junior QB Nick Wilson scored three TDs and ran 39 times for 224 yards. Wilson (271 carries, 1,617 yards, 20 TDs) and senior Garrett Ruiz (138 carries, 1,108 yards, 11 TDs) have truly not been stopped all year. New Prairie has had as good a year as anyone in Northwest Indiana (NWI) this season. (Again, if LaPorte is in NWI, then New Prairie has to be.) And it's not like they haven't been in the post-season much. New Prairie was 13-2 two years ago. Who can stop them? Hobart (9-2)? In the 3A Sectional 18 title game in Hobart next week? It's on.


4. (4A) Hobart (9-2)
2015 (5-5), 2014 (3-7), 2013 (5-5), 2012 (8-3)


HOBART: The Brickies turned down outmanned Kankakee Valley 55-21 for their sixth win in a row. Senior Brandon James had three touchdowns and two interceptions for the Brickies, who have lost only to Andrean (5-6) and LaPorte (9-1). Jared Zanolla added two TDs in a game where Hobart didn't need to run 1,000-yard fullback Nick Ray that much. Hobart has wins over Lowell (7-4) and Griffith (8-3), but the showdown is no longer on the horizon. It's here. The Brickies have been watching New Prairie (9-2) all year long and now they go head-to-head. Hobart at New Prairie. I don't think the two schools have ever met. I still have some doubts about the Brickies. Let's see how they do in their biggest game of the year.


5. (5A) Michigan City (6-3)
2015 (2-7), 2014 (4-6), 2013 (2-8), 2012 (2-8), 2011 (1-9)


MICHIGAN CITY: Michigan City won a Class 5A Sectional 9 semifinal 49-33 over Elkhart Central that might not be as shaky as the final score suggests. MC led 35-7 at the half and they probably started thinking about playing at Mishawaka (10-1) in the sectional title game next Friday. That's when Elkhart's Ross Kirkton got warmed up. Kirkton was 30 of 37 for 318 yards and three TDs. That shouldn't matter because Mishawaka can't throw the ball and doesn't need to. What matters going forward is Aryuan Cain-Veasey, the MC running back, passed the 1,800-yard mark Friday and scored two more touchdowns to give him 18 on the season. Few teams win at Mishawaka. Will Michigan City be one of them?


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


GRIFFITH: The Panthers won a game I thought they would lose, topping Rensselaer 28-21 down in Jasper County. Griffith was outgained 426-270 from scrimmage, but senior Kadafi Coleman scored with 49 seconds left in the game to break a 21-21 tie. The Panthers have wins over Andrean (5-6), Lowell (7-4) and now Rensselaer (7-4) and the losses are to East Chicago (7-2), Hobart (9-2) and LaPorte (9-1). It's going to be standing room only in Griffith Friday night when heavily-favored Marian (10-1) rides in from Mishawaka. The Panthers haven't won a sectional in eight years. Marian is the defending sectional and regional champ. It will be good to see the big game football crowd back in Griffith.


7. (6A) CROWN POINT (5-5)
2015 (1-9), 2014 (8-2), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (8-4)


CROWN POINT: I can't explain Crown Point. I really can't. The Bulldogs' defense has carried them to the 6A Sectional 1 championship game after a 10-6 win over rival Lake Central, the sixth time this fall that CP has held a team to 10 points or less. Junior Ryan Bolda took over at QB for starter Grayson Lynk (Bolda will play this week as well) and while he was just 6-of-20 passing in his debut, he tossed the game winning TD to Tyler Jones in the third quarter. Caden Watson tripped up LC's Anthony Giles on fourth down at the CP 2-yard-line to save the game late in the fourth quarter.

Is CP better than Portage (6-4)? I thought so when they played. IS CP better than Hanover (10-1), Whiting (10-1) or Griffith (8-3)? Next question.

Are they better than Valparaiso (5-5), a team that lost to Penn (10-0) twice? I couldn't swear to it. The Bulldogs have won games 9-3, 17-3 and now 10-6. They've lost 10-6 and 7-3. I don't know if CP had a good chance to win at LaPorte, a 34-16 loss. I don't know if there was any way they could have lost the 28-0 victory over Chesterton. Other than that, any of the other eight games could have gone either way. From a quality standpoint over all, I don't know exactly what the Bulldogs are. But if they win at Merrillville (5-5) in the 6A Sectional 1 championship game this Friday, I know they will be sectional champions.


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Revised: October 30, 2016 .