The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2018 NW Indiana High School Football Week-3 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Whiting, which has not had a losing season in 11 years, could not have started the season faster with wins over Clark and Griffith. The Oilers are 62-11 in the last seven seasons. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LOWELL (08-28-2018) Watching Class 4A Lowell open their season against two big school teams, Crown Point and Portage, is an example of why polls differ.

Lowell came into the game ranked No. 1 in Class 4A. They weren't. The Associated Press polls begin with the final rankings form last year, I guess, because they don’t have anything else to go on.

Lowell ended the 2017 season ranked No. 1 in Class 4A so they began 2018 ranked second, behind East Central, the team that defeated them in the 2017 4A state title game. The Devils moved up to No.1 with a good 17-7 win on the road against Class 6A Crown Point. But it wasn't real. The state polls aren't based on this season until there’s some of this season to base them on. I think everybody understands that.

But when smaller schools win their first couple of games and larger schools lose one or two, some want to rank the undefeated schools ahead of the one-loss teams.

The argument being: Rensselaer can't beat Merrillville, but if they go 15-0, they should be ranked above them. You can only beat the teams you play.

The ‘curse’ being a big schools is that you only play big schools. What is hard to understand is: There’s no ceiling on Class 6A. 6A schools have few boys going both ways. They have boys who just play special teams. They have second string players who do not play on other units.

Watching up close... Watching 150 and 160 pound boys getting hit by 220-pound defensive ends and 185 pound safeties, it's obvious that teams with smaller rosters, in most seasons, wouldn’t survive the schedule that Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) teams play. They can win one or two at the start of the season when everybody's reasonably healthy.

But by October, they’ll just be physically worn down.

It has nothing to do with coaching or conditioning or pride in the program. It’s the physical nature of football.

So if a poll is based on who I realistically feel has a better chance to beat who, (not on last season or solely on won-loss records), I can't rate Whiting (2-0) over Valparaiso (0-2). And Whiting, I know you guys just beat Griffith by 3 touchdowns after you beat arch-rival Clark by six TDs. I know you’re moving into the state Class 2A Top-10 this week. I’m happy for you. But I can't rate you ahead of Merrillville.


Three state rated No. 1 teams lost last week, but defending state champ Pioneer (2-0) was not one of them. Pioneer has topped Cass 44-0 and Winamac 76-0 in two weeks. Pioneer will almost certainly be 8-0 and carrying a 23-game winning steak the night of October 12 when they play at North Judson (2-0), which has won its first two games 50-6 over Culver and 56-6 over Caston.

And a note for Clark, who topped Lake Station 34-26 last week. For the Pioneers, that is their second win in four seasons (they were 0-10 in 2015 and 2016) of hard time. Clark, which plays a difficult local schedule (Lowell, Morton and East Chicago) has five home games left to try to get that second win, which would be the most for the school since 2014.

1. (5A) Michigan City (1-1)
2017 (9-4), 2016 (7-4), 2015 (2-7), 2014 (4-6), 2013 (2-8), 2012 (2-8)


MICHIGAN CITY – I’ve tried to stay off the Michigan City ‘hype train’ because they have seemed to fall short in the last two seasons in big games. But, even though the Wolves lost 33-30 to south suburban Chicago power Homewood-Flossmoor, I’m moving them into the top spot. Longtime readers of this poll know that a game decided in overtime is a tie for purposes of ranking here. The IHSAA overtime is not a legitimate way of deciding football games. Never has been. For years, Michigan City played weak non-league opponents and began the season with two wins. I can't penalize them, for being willing to lose to Homewood-Flossmoor every year instead of beating Gary Roosevelt by 6 TDs. MC trailed 21-7 at the half and rallied to tie with an 8-point TD in the fourth quarter. Rookie QB Bryce Hayman threw for 141 yards and a 51-yard game-tying TD in the fourth quarter. Hayman also passed for the game-tying two-point conversion. Right now, MC is ahead of Valpo. Until they meet in week four.


2. (6A) Valparaiso (1-1)
2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8), 2013 (3-7)


VALPARAISO – Valpo has lost twice, but I can't ignore the opposition. The Vikings have lost on the road at 6A No. 3 Penn (2-0) 21-3 and on the road at 4A No. 5 Mishawaka by a 29-20 score. All power to Hobart's (2-0) and New Prairie's (2-0) records, but that does not mean they could defeat Valparaiso. Valpo QB CJ Opperman was 17 of 31 for 154 yards and Antonio Osorio caught nine passes for 65 yards, but the Cavemen ran for 250 yards. Valpo posted 20 first downs and led 20-15, but the Cavemen eventually ran them down. Valpo’s home opener is this week against LaPorte (0-2).


3. (4A) Hobart (2-0)
2017 (6-4), 2016 (10-3), 2015 (5-5), 2014 (3-7)


HOBART – A second consecutive one-point win for Hobart on the road, 21-20 at LaPorte. Okay, so the LaPorte kicker missed the extra point that would have tied the game and the Slicers fumbled three times. Hobart played well. Sophomore QB Riley Johnston was 10-of-18 with one TD toss and he also ran 14 times for 78 yards. The Brickies start the home schedule the next two weeks against Culver Academy (2-0) and East Chicago (2-0).


4. (3A) Andrean (1-1)
2017 (8-4), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-4), 2014 (14-1)


MERRILLVILLE – Andrean shut out Hanover Central 24-0 to score their first victory, but I hope the injuries to top linebacker Cam Williams and River Walsh are not serious. Beginning the season, I thought the 59ers had the top defense in NW Indiana. I hope they still do. In truth, the 59ers should beat Hanover and the loss to Merrillville (1-1) doesn't look so bad after the Pirates' good showing against 6A No. 3 Penn. Here comes a third consecutive season-opening road game for Andrean, far from home at New Prairie (2-0).


5. (4A) New Prairie (2-0)
2017 (11-2), 2016 (9-3), 2015 (6-4), 2014 (13-2), 2013 (12-1)


NEW CARLISLE – The Cougars rolled over an outmanned Clay squad 55-0 in South Bend last week. Hold the parade. Clay hasn’t won a game since 2015. New QB Chase Ketterer ran for five touchdowns in the first half (no joke, he really did) and the score was 49-0 at the half. But I don’t have any problem with the Cougars' schedule. New Prairie now plays Andrean (1-1), St. Joseph’s (2-0) and Mishawaka (2-0) back to back. If they’re good, we’ll know soon.


6. (6A) Lake Central (2-0)
2017 (2-8), 2016 (4-6), 2015 (5-5), 2014 (9-2)


ST. JOHN – LC was strong in a 33-13 win over Morton. I thought the Indians would win this game, but not by 20. Alex Del Toro ran the opening kick back 95 yards for an LC touchdown and QB Zach Bundalo was 7-of-18 for 99 yards and two TDs. Cole Rainwater kicked a 48-yard field goal. LC did give up 332 yards to Morton and they led just 14-13 at the half. Here comes the seven-game conference schedule for LC. Lake Central plays at Portage (1-1) and Crown Point (1-1) the next two weeks.


7. (6A) MERRILLVILLE (1-1)
2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5), 2014 (6-6)


MERRILLVILLE – Merrillville’s 28-16 loss to 6A No. 3 Penn (2-0) might have been more impressive than their 20-14 win over Andrean. Pirate QB Aahric Whitehead threw for two TDs, but Penn (2-0) ran two interceptions back for touchdowns in a game that was just 12-9 at hafltime. The Pirates have begun the season with two home games against state ranked teams and they will see another when 5A No. 5 Michigan City visits in three weeks. But there’s work to do before them. Merrillville has six turnovers in two weeks and they know that can't go on if the Pirates are to have a winning season.
The Pirates host arch-rival Crown Point (1-1) in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) opener this Friday.


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Revised: August 28, 2018 .