The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2019 NW Indiana High School Football Week-14 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



As Hobart battles for a berth in the 2019 Class 4A state championship game, the ghosts of the past will be on the Brickies sidelines. (Photo by Mark Smith)

VALPARAISO (11-18-2019)It's said a lot that teams ranked number one at the end of the regular season rarely win the state championship. But that’s misleading. The IHSAA state tournament is five or six weeks, depending what class you play in, and it's a lot to ask, even for a 9-0 team, to win five consecutive games against better and better competition. This year, the No. 1 label has not been a curse or a blessing in hindsight.


Class 6A Avon (9-1) went down in the sectional semifinals. Class 4A East Central (11-1) lost a sectional semifinal 17-14 to Mooresville. Class 2A No. 1 Lewis Cass lost by 22 at unranked Andrean last Friday.


There’s a good ‘throwback’ story in the 3A bracket. Back near the turn of the century, many of us old folks remember that Bishop Chatard of Indianapolis and deep south public school Heritage Hills were on a collision course seemingly every year.

From 2001 to 2007, Heritage Hills played Chatard at the Semistate level six times in seven years with Chatard winning five of the six games. Chatard is a 13-time state football champion. Heritage Hills’ only title came in 2000 when they went 15-0 and defeating a Roncalli team that beat Chatard 29-28. After 2007, the two schools did not meet for 12 years. The ‘November rivalry’ died due to natural causes. The schools are 100 miles apart and never would think about scheduling each other during the regular season. Both would have to reach the Semistate (winning four playoff games) for them to ever see each other.


I bring this up because 3A No. 1 Bishop Chatard (12-1) and 3A No. 2 Heritage Hills (13-0) are one win away from meeting for the 3A state championship. The kids playing now won't understand the tradition of the Heritage Hills-Chatard matchup game, but their parents will.


The top two teams in this week’s poll stay the same, but two other teams are fast risers.

1. (5A) Valparaiso (12-0)
2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8)


VALPARAISO – Valpo overwhelmed outmanned Mishawaka 49-0 in a game that was over early. The Vikings shut out a playoff foe for the second week in a row and Valpo scored 40 or more for the fifth week in a row. They’ll face a stiffer challenge this week against the top-level defense of 4th-ranked Bishop Dwenger (11-1), but everybody knows the countdown is on. It's less than two weeks until the game of the year. Dragons and Vikings will again walk the earth when undefeated, top-ranked New Palestine (12-0) faces undefeated and second ranked Valparaiso on Friday, November 29 on the floor of the Lucas Oil Arena. At least, that’s the game I hope happens.


2. (6A) Merrillville (11-1)
2018 (7-4), 2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5), 2014 (6-6)


MERRILLVILLE – The Pirates rallied from deficits of 14-0 and 21-7 to overtake Warsaw 42-28 for the 6A Regional title. It was again the Pirate defense which grabbed up four Warsaw turnovers to turn the game around. Merrillville is so frustrating. They commit so many penalties, it's hard for us to think of how good they really are. This week: It doesn't matter what we think. Merrillville travels to the land of milk and honey to take on eight-time state champion Carmel (10-3).


3.) (4A) Hobart (11-2)
2018 (7-3), 2017 (6-4), 2016 (10-3), 2015 (5-5)


HOBART – Hobart laid the smack down on New Prairie 36-7 last week for the school's first regional championship since 1996. The Brickies chilled the 400-yards-per game attack of New Prairie in a surprising rout of a New Prairie team that had seemingly faced a very tough schedule. Senior defensive back Matthew Benton has 10 interceptions and linebacker Bobby Babcock has nine QB sacks.
It's easy to be emotional when you are winning, but I’ve rarely seem a team play with as much intensity as Hobart has right now. Now the Brickies head east to face ‘Wonderboy’ Bailey Parker (6-2, 170) and No. 1 East Noble. Parker has thrown for 37 touchdowns and 2,500 yards while running for 1,000 yards and 15 more TDs. No one has stopped him. Not at least, until this coming Friday.


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


NEW CARLISLE – The Cougars just got run over by Hobart and they aren't the first victim. It was 7-7 early, but once the Cougars trailed by two TDs early in the second quarter, they were forced to throw in must-pass situations, which is not what they do. The Cougars had a very good season with wins over both Penn and Mishawaka, but they couldn't hang with Hobart on a cold night on the road. This was to be the Cougars’ year. They have a lot of quality seniors who produced three (30-8 the last 3 years) very solid seasons. There’ll be some new faces on the Prairie in 2020.


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


MERRILLVILLE – Andrean pulled away from top-ranked Lewis Cass 36-14 last week in a rout that was predictable. Cass hadn't played anywhere near the schedule that Andrean had. Not this year. The 59ers' losses are to New Prairie (10-2), Hobart (10-2) and Class 6A Merrillville (10-1). There are great similarities between Andrean and Valpo. Both play ‘up’ during the regular season and now are facing playoff teams in their class that they are superior to. So when we see that the 59ers are heading to Eastbrook (11-2) for the 2A Semistate, take a close look at Eastbrook’s schedule and make your pick.


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


CHESTERTON – The Trojan s losses to Valpo (12-0) and Merrillville (11-1) stand tall this week as does the win over Hobart (10-2). Chesterton QB Chris Mullen ended his sophomore season with 151 completions in 284 attempts for 2,439 yards and 26 touchdowns. Four of the five teams I have ranked above the Trojans here are regional champions and the other (New Prairie) probably has the edge on Chesterton at this point.


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


CROWN POINT – Crown Point’s two narrow losses to regional champ Merrillville (11-1) and the fairly close loss to Valparaiso (10-1) keep them in this poll. QB Will Pettit finished with 137 of 285 for 14 TDs. Junior halfback Matthew Walters ran 141 times for 707 yards and 10 TDs. Senior David O’Toole made 40 catches for 509 yards, ran 16 times for 112 yards and returned 11 kicks for a 22.9 average. Graduation will take a little more than half of the starting lineup before CP gets back on the field next August.


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Revised: November 17, 2019 .