A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith
|Kenneth Grant (78) says Merrillville is number one and he'll put it on the line Friday night when the Pirates travel to Crown Point. (Photo by Mark Smith)|
(09-03-2021) Before we do anything this week I must give honor to the boys
at Class 1A South Newton who ended a five-year, 39-game losing streak with a
39-14 victory at West Central last Friday night.
I don’t know if the Rebels have any seniors who played as freshman. Imagine that boy would have gone 0-10 in 2018, 0-10 in 2019 and 0-6 last year in the Covid year.
It's easy to say: ‘Don’t ever quit. Never give up no matter how bad it gets.’
Those are words that sound very strong and proper until it's you facing the losing. You lose again and again and it hurts every time. You take it personally. You hear the ridicule. You never imagined it could be this bad.
I’d have probably quit the team at South Newton. But those boys didn’t. And the long bus ride from Francesville back to Kentland in the dark last Friday must have been like a magic carpet ride.
Downstate, the Friday night monsters again walked the earth. Class 4A No.1 Roncalli put the choke hold on Franklin Central 34-13. Class 5A No. 1 Cathedral body-slammed on 6A No. 3 Brownsburg 20-7 and 6A No. 1 Center Grove laid the smack down on Decatur Central 56-7.
Now, the ultimate steel cage match (don’t you love my wrestling references?) as this week in 6A No. 1 Center Grove (2-0) travels to No. 2 Carmel (2-0).
I’m starting a new feature this week for football addicts only.
It's called the ‘faraway replay game of the week.’
I’ve mentioned before that on Saturday morning, while I’m recovering from walking up and down the sidelines for two hours on Friday night, I kill time watching football games from other parts of Indiana. Lots of games are available. Some are pay-per-view but some still are not.
If you can access the IHSAA network on your app TV, look for Summit City sports and find last week’s game (8-27-2021) between 5A No. 8 Snider and Class 6A (Fort Wayne) Carroll. Good to the last drop.
Again, apologies to Class 2A No. 10 Rensselaer (2-0) which bombed (I love to say the Bombers bombed somebody) North Newton 35-8. Rensselaer has dominated two foes in a row, but I couldn’t slip them in ahead of Lowell. Or Lake Central (2-0). Or Griffith (2-0). I’ll keep trying.
1. (6A) Merrillville (2-0)
2020 (10-2), 2019 (11-2), 2018 (7-4), 2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5)
MERRILLVILLE: I know Valparaiso looks really good and Michigan City’s offense is running wild. But Merrillville is number one right now. The Pirates roasted another decent defense Friday, smoking Hobart 41-7. QB Angel Nelson threw three TD passes for the second consecutive week. The improvement here might have come from the defense, which shut down the Brickies in week two after giving up 300 yards and three TDs in week one to the talent-rich Andrean offense in week one. And it was good to get the Pirate starters out of the heat last Friday night. The Pirates ride the bus for the first time this near, taking the short trip south to arch-rival Crown Point (1-1) in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) opener.
2. (5A) Valparaiso (2-0)
2020 (8-1), 2019 (13-1), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3)
VALPARAISO: After the (non-fatal) shooting of two boys at Hammond high last Friday, Valparaiso and Hammond probably shouldn't have played last week’s nonconference game at all. But they postponed it until Saturday morning and moved it to Valparaiso, where the Vikings won 71-6. The new Hammond Central (basically a consolidation of Hammond and Gavit) shouldn’t be on the Valparaiso football schedule. It's a noble effort by Hammond, but it’s a mismatch. The Vikings got to play all the backups after leading 56-0 at the half and they got the regulars out of the 90-degree heat. So the green boys should be ready to go this coming Friday when they ride the bus east to LaPorte (1-1) to start DAC play.
3.) (5A) Michigan City (2-0)
2020 (4-3), 2019 (4-6), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (9-4), 2016 (7-4)
MICHIGAN CITY: The Wolves looked strong in handling the option offense of Warsaw 35-16, as veteran quarterback Gio Laurent scored three TDs. Michigan City led 21-0 in the second quarter and never trailed, improving to 2-0 on the season for the second year in a row. The Wolves must change focus quickly in week three, going from the run-dominant Warsaw offense to the pass-heavy attack of DAC rival Chesterton this coming Friday in a feature week three game. Michigan City faces a gauntlet of good teams the next three weeks, going to war with Chesterton (2-0), Valparaiso (2-0) and Merrillville (2-0) in a September to remember.
4.) (6A) Chesterton (2-0)
2020 (5-5), 2019 (6-4), 2018 (3-7), 2017 (4-6), 2016 (2-8), 2015 (8-3)
CHESTERTON: When I pick games, I like to say that early in the season, pick the team with the really good passing quarterback. Well, that’s Chesterton's Chris Mullen. Mullen was 17 of 25 passing Friday night for 226 yards and three touchdowns in the Trojans' 42-0 win over TF South. Unofficially in two nonconference games, Mullen (6-4, 190) is 34 of 47 for 450 yards and six TDs. The Trojans' defense held TF South to just 102 total yards and 40 yards rushing on 22 carries. And all those nice things I have just said here mean absolutely nothing starting this Friday when Chesterton opens DAC play against high-flying Michigan City (2-0).
5.) (2A) Andrean (1-1)
2020 (11-2), 2019 (10-4), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-4), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-4)
MERRILLVILLE: I should have know about Andrean. I gave a shady eye to the final score of the 59ers season-opening 47-21 loss to Merrillville, forgetting somewhat that Andrean led 21-20 in the third quarter and the Pirates knocked them out with big special teams plays. That game said more about Merrillville than it did about Andrean. The 59ers came back strong with a 21-7 win at big neighbor Crown Point in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. This game said more about the 59ers. Andrean’s fast, hard-hitting defense nullified the power running game of CP and 59er quarterback Scott Ballentine kept the Bulldog defense chasing. Unofficially, Ballentine is 47 of 69 for 542 yards and four TDs against two pretty good defenses. The 59ers ride the big yellow bus to Grand Rapids, Michigan this Friday. I have no idea who they are, but Central Catholic (1-0) laid the smack down on rival Lapeer high 43-21 last Friday.
6.) (4A) New Prairie (2-0)
2020 (3-4), 2019 (6-5), 2018 (5-7), 2017 (7-5)
NEW CARLISLE: Here’s what I'm thinking here. New Prairie spanked LaPorte 37-21, but LaPorte beat Class 6A Penn 21-14. Twin Lakes turned back Northwestern 38-12 in week one, but then New Prairie put a major league whipping on them, 52-3 in week two. What is going on? Well, there is Hunter Whitenack (6-8, 330), a very large four year starter in the offensive line. And running the ball behind him is junior Noah Muniga (5-9, 195), who is Northwest Indiana’s leading rusher. Muniga has run 57 times for 533 yards and 10 touchdowns. Can he keep it up? Well here comes Lowell (1-1) for the first ever regular season meeting between these two schools.
7.) (4A) LOWELL (1-1)
2020 (9-2), 2019 (7-5), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (14-1), 2016 (9-5)
In week one, Lowell trailed by one point, 7-6 in the third quarter of the home
opener. It didn’t end well. A 28-14 loss to Crown Point. Last Friday, the Devils
trailed 14-13 in the fourth quarter on a hot-humid night at Portage, but they
didn’t let it happen twice. Quarterback Riley Bank ran for two late TDs and the
Devils defense held on for a 26-21 win. Like a few other teams, Lowell has
played shorthanded the first two weeks due to some Covid-19 issues. I am
concerned here about how a team with a relatively small roster survives week
after week playing in ridiculous heat. The goal is to play in November and when
October comes are the boys rejuvenated or are they worn out? And let’s just say
the Devils need all hands on deck this coming Friday when they travel to take on
‘The Big Show’ of 6-foot-8, 330-pound all-state tackle Hunter Whitenack and the
running attack of undefeated New Prairie (2-0).
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Revised: August 29, 2021 .