A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith
|Valparaiso, the only NWI team to reach the state finals was the number one team every week in all 2019 football polls. (Photo by Mark Smith)|
(11-29-2019) It won't be breaking news that Valparaiso is the Number one
team in this poll for 2019 since Valpo is the only Northwest Indiana team that
reached the state finals.
Looking back, Valparaiso and Merrillville were 1-2 in the first poll of the season back in August.
Michigan City was miscast as the Number three team, but New Prairie was 4th in this poll in August. I had Lowell over-rated as the No. 5 team, but Crown Point was sixth, very close to where they finished.
Don't ask me how I had Lake Central rated seventh back in August. Blind faith which ended up just being blind.
And where was Hobart in my August poll?
The final poll for 2019 will project the Top-5 Northwest Indiana teams for 2020 and I’ll tell you right now, in the warm vision of a distant future, 2020 looks like a very good season.
1. (5A) Valparaiso (13-0)
2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8)
VALPARAISO – Valpo won a defensive struggle from Class 5A No. 4 Bishop Dwenger 10-7 to reach the state championship game for the third time in school history. The big green defense held Dwenger’s 30-points per game offense to just seven, but the Valpo offense was slowed for the first time this season. Until last week, the Vikings scored at least four touchdowns in every game. But it doesn't matter. Because we now have the game that was projected back in the pre-season. No. 1 New Palestine, with 27 victories in a row, against a Valpo team that is truly a 6A squad. Friday at 5 p.m. on the floor of the Lucas Oil Arena. The best matchup of the season. Win or lose, Valpo is the number one team in this poll for the 2019 season.
2. (6A) Merrillville (11-2)
2018 (7-4), 2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5), 2014 (6-6)
The Pirates took a hard ride down at Carmel, losing 38-17. In truth, the Pirates
struggled through the playoffs, rallying from 14-down to beat Warsaw after
nipping Crown Point 10-9.
Carmel’s strength in the lines and overall talent was too much. But there’s no doubt Merrillville is number two in this poll with losses only to Carmel (10-3) and Valparaiso (13-0), two teams that could win state titles this weekend. Merrillville will need to replace much of the offense for 2020, but WR and kick runner Armani Glass should be back on offense and big nose guard Kenneth Grant is back on the defensive front.
3.) (4A) Hobart (11-3)
2018 (7-3), 2017 (6-4), 2016 (10-3), 2015 (5-5)
HOBART – This one is going to hurt for a while. Hobart led 17-0, but lost the Class 4A Northern Semistate title game 29-24 at No. 1 East Noble. A half dozen pivotal plays went for the home teams in a dramatic rally that stopped Hobart from reaching the state championship game for the first time since the 1990s. But the Brickies return many key players for 2020 and they’ll get another good chance to ride down I-65.
4. (4A) New Prairie (11-2)
2018 (7-4), 2017 (11-2), 2016 (9-3), 2015 (6-4)
NEW CARLISLE – I’ve still got New Prairie above Andrean based on that early season 33-10 New Prairie win over the 59ers. The Cougars also have those wins over Plymouth (9-3), Penn (6-5) and Mishawaka (8-4) and they do end up with the 4A Sectional 18 title. New Prairie ran for 4,562 yards and 63 touchdowns on 610 carries but most of their top skill position players on offense were seniors.
5.) (2A) Andrean (10-4)
2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-4), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-4)
MERRILLVILLE – I was very surprised that the 59ers didn't get to the state finals, but Eastbrook ran for 295 yards on 45 carries in a 26-14 win. Andrean returns at least two big time offensive players for 2020 in running back Ryan Walsh (228 carries, 2,251 yards and 27 TDs) and all-purpose player Nick Flesher who scored nine touchdowns in six games in an injury-shortened season. Add receivers Cam Thornton (27 catches, 377 yards) and Alonzo Paul (31 catches, 245 yards) and all Andrean needs in 2020 is a new quarterback and they’ll be deep in the playoffs again.
(6A) Chesterton (6-4)
2018 (3-7), 2017 (4-6), 2016 (2-8), 2015 (8-3)
CHESTERTON – The Trojans' badges of honor are still losses to Valpo (13-0) and Merrillville (11-2) and that win over Hobart (10-3). Chesterton QB Chris Mullen ended his sophomore season with 151 completions in 284 attempts for 2,439 yards and 26 touchdowns. The 2020 opener matching Chesterton and Hobart already looks interesting. The bad news is that 6A Sectional 2 rival Penn figures to be much stronger in 2020.
(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 (11-2) and the fairly close loss to Valparaiso (13-0) keep them in this poll even though none of the six wins came over a team with a winning record. QB Will Pettit finished with 137 of 285 for 14 TDs. Junior halfback Matthew Walters ran 141 times for 707 yards and 10 TDs. CP graduates Pettit’s top pass catchers, but I’d like to see the Bulldogs try to to make a slot receiver out of Walters (5-10, 155) who has breakaway speed. Linebacker Reilly Granger (team leading 109 tackles) and quality pass defender Trestan Logan (5 interceptions) return along with top placekicker Sammy Brewer (22 of 22 extra points, five field goals) all will return for a team that will gear up to take on Merrillville for the 6A Sectional 1 title.
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Revised: December 01, 2019 .