The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2016 NW Indiana High School Football Week-13 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Four Northwest Indiana teams held the sectional championship trophy last week. Hobart, Whiting, Lowell and Donald Schuch (25) and the Crown Point Bulldogs. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LaPORTE (11-07-2016) Some of the bigger names in Indiana high school football left the 2016 state tournament in week 12.

Bishop Chatard, a 13-time state champ, lost to Danville. Bishop Luers, an 11-time state champ, lost to cross-town Fort Wayne rival Concordia 45-22. Write off Bishop Dwenger as well. The 4-time state champ lost 28-23 to New Haven.

With that said, there are some old friends in Class 4A, especially where Lowell is concerned. Among the final eight teams are long time rival Hobart, top-ranked Roncalli (12-0), the team Lowell topped 28-27 for the 2005 state championship. And 4A No. 3 (Evansville) Reitz (11-1), the team that Lowell lost to in both the 2007 and 2009 Class 4A state championship games.

And is Whiting going to get a rematch with Monrovia in the Class 2A state championship game? It could happen. Look closely at Monrovia (8-4) and you see that the losses are 14-13 to Scecina (8-4), 18-13 to Indianapolis Lutheran (9-3), 40-28 at Class 4A Beech Grove (7-3) and 24-21 to defending 1A state champion Linton-Stockton (12-0).

There are only four Northwest Indiana teams: 6A Crown Point (6-5), 4A Lowell (8-4), 4A Hobart (10-2) and 2A Whiting (11-1). When all four South Bend teams in 4A were eliminated in the sectional quarterfinals, we were assured a 4A semistate finalist.

Whiting, Hobart and Crown Point could play semistate games at home if they win on Nov. 11. Lowell is an odd case. The regional title game will be Lowell's third consecutive road playoff game. Has that happened before?

Ask Lowell. In their 2007 run to the state finals, Lowell won the 4A sectional semifinal at Plymouth 14-8. They won the sectional title game at Concord 31-21. The Devils then won the regional title game at Griffith 20-13.

But it's the luck of the draw. The very next season, in 2008, Lowell won the sectional semifinals over Plymouth 20-14 in Lowell. Lowell then topped Clay 49-20 in the sectional title game in Lowell. The Devils then won the regional 19-13 over Griffith in Lowell.

This is (another) one of the problems on an all-inclusive blind draw tournament. Only in Indiana can you go winless during the regular season and be rewarded with back-to-back home games in the post-season.

Looking back to our first poll: Lake Central was No. 1. LaPorte was No. 3 in the pre-season. They stand at No. 1 now. Like LC, Andrean, East Chicago and Merrillville were in the pre-season poll and all have fallen away.

Lowell is No. 2 now and was No. 2 to start the year.

But Crown Point, seventh in the pre-season poll, is sixth this week.

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


LaPORTE: If I downgraded LaPorte for losing 42-21 in the Class 6A Sectional 2 championship gamne to Penn (11-0), I'd have to downgrade a lot of teams. LaPorte won the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) title, but Penn has defeated DAC teams 22 times in a row and that probably says more about Penn than it does about the DAC. What can I say? Penn topped LaPorte 49-21 in sectional play last year. LaPorte defeated New Prairie (9-3) and Hobart (10-2) in nonconference play in August and they were 6-1 in league play. Losing fullback Chris Juskiewicz (95 carries, 771 yards, 9 TDs) to a broken arm in the sectional semifinals didn't help them obviously. The Slicers are No. 1 until someone still playing (read Lowell) can jump in front of them.


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


LOWELL: Lowell beat Munster 41-0 in September and they won the rematch 42-14 last Friday for the 4A Sectional 17 championship. Senior running back Trevor Espravnik (242 carries, 1,570 yards) carried 33 times for 213 yards and scored his 24th touchdown. Junior Jaeger Gill caught two TD passes and junior Jordan Jusevitch grabbed two interceptions. The Lowell losses here are to Hobart (10-2), Portage (6-4), Griffith (8-4) and Crown Point (4-5), all by a TD or less. The losses to CP and Hobart don't look so bad now. And Lowell will welcome a rematch with Hobart this week at Hobart in the regional championship game. The Brickies' 18-12 win over Lowell in September was the only time this season Lowell trailed by more than 10 points.


3. (4A) Hobart (10-2)
2015 (5-5), 2014 (3-7), 2013 (5-5), 2012 (8-3)


HOBART: The Brickies pulled away late to beat New Prairie 35-14 in the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Brickies broke a 19-year streak of not winning the sectional title. Big Nick Ray (200 carries, 1,408 yards, 18 TDs) carried 19 times for 108 yards and two TDs, but it was the Brickie defense that held New Prairie's 300-yard-per game rushing offense to just 131 yards on 29 carries. The Cougers lost four fumbles and committed six penalties, but Hobart QB Mickey Wolfe (8 of 17, 118 yards) completed two TDs to receiver Branden James (6 catches for 65 yards). Hobart has wins over Lowell (8-4) and Griffith (8-4) and the rematch with Lowell for the regional championship is set for this Friday in Hobart.


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


MICHIGAN CITY: Michigan City lost 19-8 at Mishawaka (10-2) as the Cavemen gained 276 yards rushing on 52 carries and MC didn't move the ball like they had in earlier games. The competition caught up to the Wolves, who ended up losing three of their last four. MC lost to LaPorte (9-2), Valparaiso (5-5), Mishawaka and Crown Point (6-5) and the CP loss isn't such a big deal now. The Wolves will return QB Mike McCullough (102 of 212, 1,673 yards, 14 TDs) next season and they may change focus offensively (translated: throw the ball more) as their top two running backs, both three-year starters, will graduate. All eight DAC teams can return the QB who either ended the season as the starter or started most of the season (meaning Merrillville's Cam Wright) for the 2017 season. I don't ever remember that happening before.


5. (4A) New Prairie (9-3)
2015 (6-4), 2014 (13-2), 2013 (12-1), 2012 (12-1)


NEW CARLISLE: I was surprised at the meltdown here. New Prairie, playing at home, committed five turnovers and was kicked out of the 4A playoffs 35-14 by Hobart in the Sectional 18 title game. No lasting shame to get beat by LaPorte (9-2), Hobart (10-2) and Marian (11-1), but the other losses were close games. Losing by 3 TDs at home. It is going to take a while to wash that one off. But once they do, in 2017, here comes starting QB Nick Wilson (285 carries, 1,652 yards, 20 TDs) back to lead the offense. The Cougars are going to need some new starting halfbacks and receivers but when an option offense returns its starting QB, the good times will continue to roll.


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


CROWN POINT: A landmark victory for Crown Point, 24-19, holding off a late Merrillville rally. CP got three TD passes from junior Ryan Bolda and, for the second week in a row, linebacker Caden Watson had a hand in stopping the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. CP was 2-4 at one point before topping Chesterton, Michigan City, Lake Central and a Merrillville team that defeated CP 41-28 in early September. The Bulldogs' defense did give up 400 yards, but almost half of them came in the final quarter as Merrillville rallied. CP's sectional title was the fifth in school history. The Bulldogs try to win the regional for the first time in 28 years, but it's a tall order to win at 6A No. 2 Penn (11-0).

7. (6A) Portage (6-4)
2015 (1-10), 2014 (1-9), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (3-7)


PORTAGE:  I've got to move Portage back into the poll even though they've been eliminated. Why? Follow me here. Two of the teams that Portage defeated, Lowell (8-4) and Crown Point (6-5), won sectional championships last Friday. One of the teams that defeated Portage, Mishawaka (10-2), also won a sectional title. For 2017? Anthony Maceo (238 carries, 1,450 yards, 14 TDs) returns at QB, which means the Indians will be competitive in every game again.

Copyright 2016 and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: November 07, 2016 .