The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2019 NW Indiana High School Football Week-12 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Baby-face Cam Smith (59) and bad boy Bobby Babcock (11) add junior class power to high-flying Hobart. The Brickies try for their 10th win in a row Friday night in the Class 4A Sectional 17 championship game against Lowell. (Photo by Mark Smith)

VALPARAISO (11-04-2019) It's funny how breaks even out.

In Merrillville’s 29-28 loss to Valparaiso in October, the Pirates scored what appeared to be a clinching touchdown late in the game only to have it called back on a penalty that not everybody saw.


Fast forward to last week’s Class 6A Sectional Semifinal with Merrillville hosting Jefferson. With Merrillville leading 7-6, Jeff quarterback Max Grimes rolled out in the final minute of the first half looking to give his side the lead.

Grimes' knee buckled, he fell and lost the ball. Merrillville lineman Khris Walton grabbed the ball and ran 53 yards for a touchdown that gave the Pirates a 14-6 lead. Grimes, the field leader of Jeff’s 55-points-per-game offense, never returned to the game and Merrillville won 27-20.
Luck? Good fortune? Breaks of the game?

All of the above?

I’ve never been of the opinion that lucky plays, pivotal situations or bad calls even out in the long run.

But for Merrillville, they evened out before the season ended.

We have a new cowboy riding with the ‘seven’ this week as the big showdowns have just begun.

1. (5A) Valparaiso (10-0)
2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8)


VALPARAISO – Valpo coasted by Munster 69-6 and now they get a rematch with LaPorte (3-7), a team they topped 35-0 in September. The Vikings just have to avoid injury and they will move on. I know Mishawaka (7-3) or Elkhart Central (9-2) are quality teams that could see Valpo at the regional. Bishop Dwenger (9-1) is a potential semistate foe for the Vikings. 12-time state champion Cathedral (8-2) could derail New Pal. But we need the 1-2 match. The brawl for it all. Undefeated and top-ranked New Palestine (10-0) and undefeated, second-ranked Valparaiso (10-0) are on a collision course for Saturday, Nov. 30 at the Lucas Oil Arena.


2. (6A) Merrillville (9-1)
2018 (7-4), 2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5), 2014 (6-6)


MERRILLVILLE – Class 6A No. 4 Merrillville survived No. 2 Jefferson 27-20 in the first major showdown in Class 6A. Merrillville did give up 250 yards rushing to Jefferson and the Pirates had too many turnovers and penalties. But you don't look too hard at your performance at this point. You just win and advance. Quotes and public comments from the Pirates suggest they very much wanted to play Crown Point and only Crown Point for the Class 6A Sectional 1 championship this Friday. CP has eliminated Merrillville in sectional play in each of the last three seasons. The rematch is Friday at Crown Point.


3. (4A) New Prairie (10-1)
2018 (7-4), 2017 (11-2), 2016 (9-3), 2015 (6-4)


NEW CARLISLE – The Cougars ran all over Culver Academy 49-3 Friday to reach the 4A Sectional 18 title game. The Class 4A No. 4 Cougars’ rough riding running game is perfectly suited for the arctic conditions that are Northwest Indiana in November. The only Cougar loss is 31-28 to Class 5A Elkhart Central (9-2). Its a war of different worlds this Friday when pass-happy Plymouth (9-2) visits the little house on the ‘Prairie’. Offenses that work in September don't always work in November.


4.) (4A) Hobart (9-2)
2018 (7-3), 2017 (6-4), 2016 (10-3), 2015 (5-5)


HOBART – Hobart rolls on with a 35-0 win over Highland, the Brickies ninth win in a row and their fourth shut out this season. Hobart's win this week was so dominant that the Brickies were able to rest the starters in a scoreless second half. Now comes the night that the Brickies have waited for all season. Hobart tries for the school’s 21st sectional football championship this Friday when they host five-time defending Sectional 17 champ Lowell (7-4).


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


CHESTERTON – The Trojans took a hard fall 35-28 in the 6A Sectional 2 semifinals. Warsaw halfback Juan Aramillo ran 34 times for 183 yards and the Tigers overall ran 61 times for 291 yards. Chesterton QB Chris Mullen was 21 of 35 for 307 yards and three touchdowns, but the Trojans just could not stop Warsaw’s option running game. It was a tough draw for the Trojans. Mullen finishes the 10-game season with 25 touchdown passes, but the state tourney will end for a 47th time without Chesterton ever having won a sectional title.


6.) (6A) Crown Point (6-4)
2018 (5-7), 2017 (7-5), 2016 (6-6), 2015 (1-9), 2014 (8-2)


CROWN POINT – Crown Point was able to shut down rival Lake Central for the second time this year in a 22-7 win in the Class 6A Sectional 1 semifinals. QB Will Pettit was 16 of 29 for 231 yards and two TDs. Senior wide receiver David O’Toole had his best game of the year with seven catches for 115 yards. The CP defense held Lake Central to 143 total yards and seemed ready for the sectional challenge. They better be. Here comes arch rival and 6A No. 4 Merrillville (9-1) looking to take the Class 6A Sectional 1 title that the Bulldogs have won the last three seasons.


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


MERRILLVILLE – Here comes the 59ers into the poll with a six-game winning streak. Andrean’s fourth shutout of the season was 27-0 over Boone Grove last Friday. They held Boone’s 1,000-yard rusher Brae’ton Vann to just 43 yards on 13 carries. I also noticed that junior all-stater Nick Flesher returned to action after missing seven weeks with an injury. Flesher ran eight times for 31 yards and caught six passes for 49 yards. There are some heavy hitters left in the Class 2A playoffs, but none look finer than the 59ers. Class 2A No. 10 Rensselaer (9-2) at Andrean (8-3) is one of many prime time games this Friday.

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Revised: November 06, 2019 .