The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2017 NW Indiana High School Football Week-14 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Top-ranked Lowell was undefeated, but if they are to reach the state championship game, it will be after a road trip to Fort Wayne. Lowell takes on Bishop Dwenger next weekend in the Class 4A Northern Semistate. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LOWELL (11-12-2017) Rankings held up here and around the state in the 13th week of high school football. At least the No.1 teams did.


In Class 1A, Pioneer went to 13-0 and top-ranked Eastbrook won for the 13th week in a row to reach the Class 2A Semistate. In 3A, No. 1 Gibson Southern lost in week 12 but Class 4A No. 1 Lowell also put that lucky number 13 in the win column.


In 5A, New Palestine lost in week 12, but 6A No. 1 Ben Davis went to 12-0 (they had a bye week) with a 50-7 stomping of suburban Indianapolis challenger Fishers. If you've read these pages for many years, you know that I don't like early round state tournament upsets. I don't think it's a 'great tournament' when 'surprise teams" or 'cinderellas' shake up the playoff brackets. To me, all that means is that the rankings were wrong. It ruins the tournament.


I want to see the high-rated teams walking into the late November games. Carmel vs. Penn. Lowell vs. Bishop Dwenger. Columbus East vs. Cathedral. These are the big dogs that have played all season with the burden of high expectations.

To me, you have to carry the weight to call yourself great. You have to pay the cost to be the boss. To be 'the man', you have to beat 'the man' (I can't think of any more cliches'). I'm just pleased that many No. 1 and No. 2 teams are still alive in the 2017 IHSAA state tournament.


I don't want my team to defeat an unranked, unknown, underdog to win a post-season championship.

1. (4A) LOWELL (13-0)
2016 (9-5), 2015 (12-1), 2014 (8-5), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (5-5), 2011 (5-5)


LOWELL: Lowell was challenged and they met the challenge, topping 4A No. 6 New Prairie 25-20 for the school's sixth regional title last Friday. Wide receiver-running back Jaeger Gill threw a TD pass to wide receiver running back Jordan Jusevitch for what turned out to be the deciding TD in what might have been the play of the year. Lowell has defeated No. 10 Griffith (10-2) and No. 6 New Prairie (11-2), but now they travel to face 4A No. 8 Bishop Dwenger (10-3), a runaway 34-0 winner over No. 4 Angola last week. This will be the fourth semistate level meeting between Dwenger and Lowell. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, Lowell had to beat Dwenger to get to the state championship game. The Devils were 2-1 in those matchups.


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


VALPO: Every time Penn wins, it makes Valparaiso's season look better, because Valpo is the only team to defeat the Kingsmen. So Penn's 33-3 regional win over Crown Point put more shine on a VHS season that ended in ugly fashion with the resignation of coach Dave Coyle after VHS players refused to continue to play for him. QB Jake Leffew, who missed most of 2017 with injury, will be back next season and hopefully, the end of the 2017 season will be forgotten. Leffew was 113 of 204 for 1,355 yards and nine TDs in 2016.


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


NEW CARLISLE: Many of you thought I had New Prairie rated too highly all year. Maybe not. The Cougars took 4A No. 1 Lowell to the wire last week before losing 25-20 in the 4A regional championship game. The Cougars led Lowell 14-11 late in the third quarter before the Devils rallied to take a 25-14 edge. The Cougars got in a late TD and an onside kick before they lost after 11 consecutive wins. The loss evened the score for the 2014 New Prairie 28-27 win over Lowell in the regional final game. New Prairie should play Lowell every year. Would the Cougars have defeated Michigan City? Good question. It would be a good game.

4. (5A) Michigan City (9-3)
2016 (7-4), 2015 (2-7), 2014 (4-6), 2013 (2-8), 2012 (2-8)


MICHIGAN CITY: Michigan City reached the semistate for the first time in the consolidated school's history with a 21-7 win at Concord last Friday. QB Mike McCullough led three TD drives as the Wolves continued down the same 5A path that LaPorte took to the state finals in 2014. Remember, Michigan City used to have to get by Penn in the playoffs. The Michigan City defense, a problem area for the first half of the year, has held the last four opponents to a combined 46 points. On paper, the Wolves are better than Kokomo, the team they meet in this week's 5A semistate. Kokomo was down 21-0 last week and rallied to win. If they fall down 21-0 to Michigan City, they won't be coming back. The great news is: Michigan City is favored to reach the Class 5A state championship game. The bad news is: Who they might play if they get there.

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

LaPORTE: LaPorte is watching arch-rival Michigan City take the path the Slicers hoped to take downstate. I'm sure they're happy for them. Maybe. The Slicers were kicked out of the tournament 38-10 by the Wolves after a successful regular season. But the final numbers had the Slicers averaging 388.5 yards rushing per game and they may not fall off that number in 2018. LaPorte loses QB Nick Lorenz to graduation, but they have a lot back on both sides of the ball, including offensive tackle Brandon Seibert (6-3, 323) and top tackler (13 tackles for loss) linebacker Noah Perez (5-10, 190).
LaPorte just has to avoid bumping up to Class 6A in 2019.


6. (6A) Crown Point (7-5)
2016 (6-6), 2015 (1-9), 2014 (8-4), 2013 (6-4)


CROWN POINT: The Bulldogs lost the regional championship to Penn for the second year in a row. It was not a surprise. The Bulldogs were shorthanded due to injury and Penn simply hasn't allowed many points to anyone all season. The 33-3 defeat was CP's worst of the season. Penn has now won all five Class 6A regionals since Class 6A was instituted in 2012. But Crown Point won the Bulldogs' second consecutive Class 6A Sectional 1 championship and halfback Tyler Gomez ran for over 1,600 yards. The future is uncertain. CP has some starters returning on defense, but top linebacker Caden Watson will graduate. On offense, CP graduates almost everybody who started. Backup QB Dew Horton did play a little and backup halfback Scott Mills looks like he can be effective in a starting role.
But CP is going to look a lot different on the football field in 2018.


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


GRIFFITH: Griffith did not play last week, but the Panthers' season took on a little more shine. The two teams that defeated Griffith, 5A Michigan City (8-4) and 4A Lowell (13-0), both won regional championships. Everyone in the Griffith football program certainly noticed that and it will make them hurt a little less about those two defeats. As I said last week, most of the Panthers' top players are seniors and there are just 11 players in the junior class. Griffith will be all-new in 2018. A note about Griffith: They are very close to being a 3A school which would give them a much better playoff path, the next time classifications change in 2019.


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Revised: November 12, 2017 .