The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2020 NW Indiana High School Football Week-2 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



The Merrillville flag is flying high this week as the Pirates stand as the Number one team in Northwest Indiana. Merrillville travels to 4A power Hobart this week.
(Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (08-23-2020) Iím glad I donít write a pre-season poll because, as it turned out, I didnít know who would be playing who or who would be playing at all.

A lot of Indiana high schools will play just seven or eight games (the normal schedule limit is nine) if they are lucky with the Covid-19 virus that we all have to be concerned with. Also, Morton, which would have been in this poll, had their entire season postponed when the Hammond school board decided not to take the risk of fall sports.


Iím trying hard to find a good football side to this virus nightmare but one is, local teams will have to play some new opponents.

All praise to Chesterton for signing up small school power Pioneer in week two and to be willing to go on the road to play them. Andrean and Lake Central have never met, to my knowledge, but they will share the same field this Friday.
Good to see.


Hanover has no game on October 2. Lowell plays at Highland. Now, I wish Highland no ill will. The Trojans had their week one game postponed. But from what I understand, Highland is 100% ready to host Crown Point in week two.

Now if, for some reason, Highland could not play Lowell in week seven and the Devils need a game, they would not have to go far. Hanover and Lowell are sister schools (Hanover is the old Lowell school district prior to 1967) and, since HC restarted their football program seven years ago, there has been the question of ĎWhen would Hanover play Lowell?' Lowell is Class 4A and Hanover is 3A. It will happen someday.

I would pay to see it.

1. (6A) Merrillville (1-0)
2019 (11-2), 2018 (7-4), 2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5)


MERRILLVILLE: Merrillville got off to a big start with a 40-13 win over cross-town rival Andrean. Morton-transfer JoJo Johnson scored two TDs and Joliet Catholic transfer Lavarion Logan ran for TDs of 1, 55 and 70 yards. Logan ran 18 times for 232 yards for the Pirates who led 28-0 after three quarters. Johnson scored on a 93-yard kickoff return to start the second half. Merrillville got five transfers from Morton when the Governorsí shut down their football program for 2020. None of them were scrubs. This looks like a rare team talent-wise and they are headed for a Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) showdown with defending DAC champ Valparaiso on October 4. It could be a very purple season. That does not mean the Pirates will win on the road at 4A No. 6 Hobart this week.


2. (5A) Valparaiso (1-0)
2019 (13-1), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3)


VALPARAISO: Valpo got a last-second miracle kick from Liam Shepherd with three seconds left to win the 2020 season opener 17-16 at Penn last Saturday in an early 6A showdown. The Vikings outgained Penn 322-109 and rolled up 21 first downs, but they were very sloppy on offense and were lucky to win.

Iím dropping Valpo to No. 2 in the poll because of an injury to starting QB Max Grimes, who did not play in the second half. All credit to backup Logan Lockhart who was 14 of 29 for 141 yards rallying his team from a 16-7 deficit. But the Valpo team that played Saturday won't beat Merrillville again. Hereís a notice I will make several times this year. Valpo lost their week two game with Griffith. So as Iím writing this, they have an open date. That date could be filled late in the week, so be alert.


3.) (4A) Hobart (1-0)
2019 (11-3), 2018 (7-3), 2017 (6-4), 2016 (10-3), 2015 (5-5)


HOBART: The defending regional champ Brickies spotted Chesterton a 7-0 lead before they smacked down Chesterton 24-7 last Friday. Hobart gave up 265 yards to Chesterton all-area passer Chris Mullen, but the Brickies were able to grab five turnovers including a game-changing 95-yard interception return by two-way star Zach Vode. Itís a big week for Hobart as they host old school (when Hobart was in the DAC) rival Merrillville for a big-time battle for region supremacy (outside of Valpo). What to watch: The souped up Pirate offense against the speedy and experienced Hobart defense. This game will speak loudly to the 2020 future of both teams.


4.) (6A) Chesterton (0-1)
2019 (6-4), 2018 (3-7), 2017 (4-6), 2016 (2-8), 2015 (8-3)


CHESTERTON: I know the Trojans lost 24-7 to Hobart in week one. But they outgained the Brickies 265-155 and collected 17 first downs on the hard core Brickie defense. So what, you say? Iíd bet that Trojan QB Chris Mullen (19 of 32 for 171 yards) will lead an offense that wonít be held to 10 points again this year. The Trojan defense was good, holding Hobart to 11 first downs and 155 yards. But forget about all that for a second.

Chesterton had a week two game cancelled, so they have agreed to play a team they have never faced before, the Class 2A No. 5 Pioneer Panthers. And whatís even better? Chesterton is going to the sweet, little country town of Royal Center, Indiana. This is a true Hoosier experience. Iíd bet cash money that most Chesterton folks have never been to Royal Center, population 861.

It ainít Michigan City. Go early. You gotta stop by the ĎRoyal Blue Grocery Storeí. Donít drive too fast in Royal Center past the grain silos because if you do, youíll be out of town before you know it. The first (and unfortunately, probably the last) ever meeting of Pioneer and Chesterton is 7:30 p.m. EST start (6:30 p.m. Chesterton time) in northwest Cass County. Trojans fans, you should go.


5.) (5A) Michigan City (1-0)
2019 (4-6), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (9-4), 2016 (7-4)


MICHIGAN CITY: The Wolves laid the smack down on Riley 55-0 last week in South Bend, a promising start. Junior quarterback Giovanni Laurent was a double (run-pass) threat and the visitors scored at will. I donít believe that Michigan City was as mediocre as they appeared last year with four wins in 10 games. But weíll know quickly. MC is at Class 6A Warsaw this week and they face DAC superpowers Valparaiso and Merrillville in weeks four and five.

The Wolves begin the season with three road games and then they get back-to-back fun nights with 5A No. 2 Valparaiso and 6A No. 7 Merrillville so theyíre on a hard ride down a dusty road. But last weekís start was strong and, win or lose, Michigan City will be fun to watch.


6.) (2A) Andrean (0-1)
2019 (10-4), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-4), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-4)


MERRILLVILLE: Andrean got smoked 40-13 by Merrillville last week to start the season, but the 59ers got jacked up 48-20 by Merrillville last season and they finished with a 10-4 record. Andrean, with the roster as small as they have, shouldnít beat Merrillville. Iím writing that game off. Assuming that hard running Ryan Walsh and versatile Nick Flesher are healthy after week one, the 59ers won't be held to 13 points again this season.

Itís always good for us to keep in mind that Andrean is a Class 2A school now and they play ONLY 4A, 5A and 6A schools during the regular season. Andreanís week two game was canceled, so they hooked up with neighbor and rival Lake Central for a first time meeting. The 59ers also have an opening in week four. So does Penn. How many 6A schools does Andrean want to play?


7.) (4A) LOWELL (1-0)
2019 (7-5), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (14-1), 2016 (9-5)


LOWELL: Lowell beat Crown Point for the fourth year in a row, this time 6-0 at CP last week. The Devils' defense held the Class 6A Bulldogs to just 121 total yards and the secondary grabbed two pass interceptions to save the day. So why donít I have them ranked higher than seventh?

Letís just say that the offense can do nothing but get better. QB Cam Stojancevich fired an 18-yard TD pass to tight end Caleb Miranda for the game winning TD. But if you know a Red Devil offensive player, donít ask him about the second half. He won't want to talk about it.

Hereís something that applies to all teams in the Covid-19 era. Boys may miss games because they show virus symptoms even if they don't test positive. Lowell reportedly was short a couple of players Friday. The smaller the school, the more that matters. Bottom line: The Lowell offense, which gained 116 total yards, has to be better than they showed.


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Revised: August 23, 2020 .