The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2017 NW Indiana High School Football Week-13 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



It's been a whole new thing for Michigan City this month. First. Winning the sectional title. Now. Traveling to the east side of Elkhart to take on tradition-rich Concord. Warm up the scoreboard for this 5A regional Friday night. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LOWELL (11-06-2017) Beyond the sectional level of the state tournament, we have only teams that have had successful seasons.

Going back to the pre-season, Lowell and New Prairie certainly figure to be here. Beyond that, Michigan City had a good chance to make it here. The biggest surprise, to me, is North Newton, which defeated Whiting (6-3) and Boone Grove (8-4) in Class 2A Sectional 23.

The Spartans were 1-3 in September and it's hard to find the one game where they shut down a winning team until the playoffs. To be fair, North Newton was 8-3 last year, losing to Whiting in sectional play. On the computer, North Newton is almost a four touchdown underdog against Woodlan (10-2) in this coming week's regional. But I've always thought that winning the sectional is the universal season goal of all schools. The Spartans have reached their goal.

This is probably the final week of home field playoffs in Northwest Indiana.

Crown Point and Lowell have no chance of playing semistate games at home. Michigan City and New Prairie have 50-50 chances to be home, the most likely one being Zionsville and Michigan City. The Class 4A foe for Lowell or New Prairie figures to be Fort Wayne power Bishop Dwenger and Dwenger would host either one. And, again, the earth is gong to have to shift for North Newton to beat Woodlan.

This is the week when you have to find out how far you want to go. It gets tougher now. With daylight savings time gone, it's dark at 4:30 p.m. You can see both of your schools' basketball teams practicing in the gym. Local media focuses a lot more on your team because most everybody else has been eliminated. Lowell and, to some extent, New Prairie have been through the the last couple of years. It's different.

In 6A, No. 1 Ben Davis (11-0) and No. 2 Snider (11-0) are still alive. In 5A, No. 1 New Palestine has been eliminated but the 'real No. 1', 12-time state champion Cathedral, is still playing. In 3A, four of the top five are still playing while, in 2A, No. 21 Eastbrook (12-0) and No. 2 Scecina (11-1) seem headed for a state final showdown. All of the Top-5 Class 1A teams are still playing.

Class 4A? Six of the Top-10 remain, but not for long. They all face each other this week: No. 3 Evansville Central (11-1) and No. 9 East Central (9-3). No. 8 Bishop Dwenger (9-3) at No. 5 Angola (12-0). And, of course, No. 6 New Prairie (11-1) at No. 1 Lowell (12-0).

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


LOWELL: The Devils rolled over Griffith 42-7 to win the Class 4A Sectional 17 championship for the fourth year in a row. QB Ethan Igras and all-purpose player Jordan Jusevitch scored two TDs each as the Devils held Griffith's high speed offense under 100 total yards for the game. It might have been Lowell's best overall game of the year. Lowell is 12-0 for just the third time in school history, but they probably began the season with higher hopes than this. They've been here before. Here comes another high-powered offense as New Prairie (11-1) heads for Lowell for the first time ever Friday for the regional championship game. Lowell lost the regional championship game 28-27 at New Prairie in 2014. No team has scored more than 14 points on Lowell all year and New Prairie averages 46 points a game. This will be Lowell's final home game of the season.


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


VALPO: Penn and Crown Point, the only teams to defeat Valparaiso this past season, both won sectional championships last week, so this ranking for the Vikings seems justified. The Vikings' season ended in a player mutiny and the resignation of coach Dave Coyle, something that deeply diminished the season. But hopefully there will be no carryover into 2018. QB Jake Leffew, who missed most of 2017 with injury, will be back next season and any team that has a returning QB, has a big head start on the new season.


3. (4A) New Prairie (11-1)
2016 (9-3), 2015 (6-4), 2014 (13-2), 2013 (12-1), 2012 (9-2)


NEW CARLISLE: New Prairie rolled over St. Joseph's 42-7 to win the school's fifth sectional title. I don't think they'd beat Valpo, but I've still got them better than Michigan City and Crown Point. Senior QB Nick Wilson gained 246 yards on 21 carries and broke long runs of 68 and 74 yards. St. Joe was held to 108 total yards as New Prairie posted their 11th win in a row. In six years at New Prairie, former Griffith coach Russ Radtke is 60-13 with three sectional wins. The Cougars now head to Lowell (12-0) for the first time to play for the regional title. I think this is the game the Cougars anticipated in the pre-season. This is where they want to be. New Prairie went to the state championship game in 2014, after defeating Lowell 28-27 at the regional level.

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


MICHIGAN CITY: Michigan City held LaPorte to about 130 yards in a 38-10 win over their neighbors and rivals for the 5A Sectional 9 championship. QB Mike McCullough ran for 123 yards and passed for 103, but the Wolves' defense, which allowed 500 yards rushing to LaPorte in a game last month, jumped to a 31-0 halftime lead and shot down the same team this time. Since the 1985 consolidation of Michigan City schools Elston and Rogers, this was the first sectional title for the combined Michigan City high. MC rides the big, yellow bus to Concord (10-1) for the regional. No common opponents here. But if they could beat Concord, MC would be favored at the semistate.

5. (6A) LaPorte (7-4)
2016 (9-2), 2015 (6-4), 2014 (8-6), 2013 (1-9), 2012 (1-9)

LaPORTE: LaPorte did a lot right all year, but the Slicers did a lot wrong in the 41-10 sectional championship loss at Michigan City. I didn't understand the 4th-and-3 run from their own 28 yard line in the first quarter. It failed and Michigan City scored for a quick 7-0 lead. Also, the Slicers fumbled on the Michigan City 1-yard-line and the Wolves ran it back 99 yards for another TD. But MC was the better team and they should have won the regular season meeting over LaPorte. The Slicers, after averaging 400 yards rushing per game, gained just 173 yards against Michigan City in the championship game as they were behind 14-0 early and had to throw a season high 10 passes. LaPorte loses QB Nick Lorenz to graduation, but they have a lot back on both sides of the ball and they'll be good again next fall.


6. (6A) Crown Point (7-4)
2016 (6-6), 2015 (1-9), 2014 (8-4), 2013 (6-4)


CROWN POINT: The Bulldogs won another close one, edging Portage 14-7 for the 6A Sectional 1 championship. QB Ryan Bolda was 15 of 24 for 154 yards and two first half TDs and the Bulldog defense held on in the fourth quarter as CP won back-to-back sectional titles for the first time in the 45-year history of the state tournament. The Bulldogs survived injuries to tight end and kicker Ben Fridrich and halfback Tyler Gomez. I'm not sure who will be able to go for the regional championship against Penn (10-1) this coming Friday.


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


GRIFFITH: The Panthers were no match for Lowell, losing 42-7 in a game that wasn't that close. Griffith's Cole Cervantes ran the opening kickoff back 90 yards for a TD and that was the highlight of the evening for the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) champions. In truth, we end the season without knowing how good Griffith really was. The Panthers are better than everybody in the GSSC, but they aren't as good as Michigan City (8-3) and Lowell (12-0), the two teams that beat them. But they didn't play enough other teams for me to accurately rank them, to be honest. Most of the Panthers' top players are seniors and there are just 11 players in the junior class. So the debate of 'how good is Griffith' is one we won't be having in 2018.


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Revised: November 06, 2017 .