The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2016 NW Indiana High School Football Week-3 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



The top 5 teams in the week three poll are in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC). All eight DAC teams got at east one victory in the first two weeks two weeks of
nonconference play. (Photo by Mark Smith)

ST. JOHN (8-29-2016) When in doubt, go the DAC route. Actually there isn't much doubt that if you picked NW Indiana's top 12 teams, all eight of the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) teams would be in that dozen. This is one of the better years in the DAC, not because of who is at the top, but because of who is at the bottom.

Portage was 1-10 last year and 0-7 in the DAC. Crown Point was 1-9 and 1-6. Michigan City was 2-7 and 2-5. August results can be misleading, but Portage (1-1) and CP (1-1) are obviously improved this fall and Michigan City is 2-0.

Coaches all say there's no bad teams on their schedule, but all eight DAC teams are involved in league play the next seven weeks and there isn't an obvious 'friendly Friday'.

Class 2A No. 3 Whiting (2-0) moves up to No. 2 in Class 2A next week behind No.1 Monrovia (2-0). Whiting and Monrovia met for the 2A state title last November.

The top two teams in Class 3A Bishop Chatard and West Lafayette both lost to bigger schools last Friday. Class 4A No. 8 Lowell will drop out of the state Top-10 in Class 4A because 11 of the top 12 4A schools all won.

Class 6A No. 1 Warren Central, ranked No. 18 in the nation, lost 31-28 to Colerain, the Ohio No. 1 big school team rated No. 7 in the nation. One note to anyone in 6A in Indiana. Warren Central outgained Colerain 436-262 even though they lost. Good luck to the last seven teams on the Warren Central schedule.

This week's '7' has to do with the value of a loss. Mishawaka is 2-0 with wins over Portage and Crown Point. Penn is 2-0 with victories over Valparaiso and Merrillville. Both Mishawaka and Penn are in the top 4 in their class of the state polls.
So what does losing to them mean as far as their ranking is concerned?

The conclusion here is: It's better to lose to a state-rated team than it is to defeat an unranked .500 squad. That's how the four teams that have lost to Penn and Mishawaka are ALL in this week's poll.

1. (6A) Lake Central (1-1)
2015 (5-5), 2014 (9-2), 2013 (9-2), 2012 (9-3)


ST. JOHN: Lake Central led New Lenox, Illinois power Lincoln-Way Central 14-0, but fell 24-21 in the first meeting between the two schools. LWC was 4-5 last year, but they returned eight starters and got added depth when district rival Lincoln-Way North closed last spring. LC's Anthony Giles had a second consecutive 100-yard rushing game. Josh Benson caught five passes for 88 yards and a TD. This isn't the kind of loss that should bother LC because big schools playing big schools (LWC reportedly has about 2,400 students) and the Indians led most of the game. LC now opens Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) play against Portage (1-1), the team that eliminated them from the state playoffs last fall. There's no real debate about LaPorte (2-0) or Chesterton (2-0) being better than LC just yet.


2. (6A) MERRILLVILLE (1-1)
2015 (7-5), 2014 (6-6), 2013 (9-2), 2012 (11-3)


MERRILLVILLE: Merrillville lost 35-2 to 6A No. 3 Penn (2-0) and it should have been 35-0. A late safety simply made the score unusual. New QB Cam Wright threw two interceptions that Penn's Paul Maola ran back for touchdowns that boosted the Kingsmen, who led 21-0 at the half. The Pirate defense wasn't bad, holding Penn to 239 yards, but Merrillville did not move the ball on the defending 6A Northern semistate champs. Bottom line? Merrillville isn't going to see anyone like Penn in DAC play which begins Friday night against Crown Point. Are LaPorte (2-0) and Chesterton (2-0) better than Merrillville? That's yet to be determined. Is Crown Point (1-1) better? We may find out this Friday.


3. (6A) LaPORTE (2-0)
2015 (6-4), 2014 (8-6), 2013 (1-9), 2012 (1-9)


LaPORTE: The Slicers gained 337 yards rushing and dominated a good Hobart team 27-10 last week to improve to 2-0 for the third year in a row. The Slicers did give up 300 total yards, but they led 21-3 after three quarters. LaPorte games don't last that long because they keep the clock rolling with rushing first downs. Who is Jacob Cole? I don't know but he ran six times for 155 yards last week, including runs of 55 and 85 yards. The Slicers lost fullback Chris Jusziekiewicz to an appendectomy and he'll be out until October at least. LaPorte didn't complete a pass last week. They didn't try one in the second half. This is a late-season, bad weather team. But it will be warm and sunny when they kick-off against Valparaiso (1-1) in the DAC opener this Friday.


4. (6A) Chesterton (2-0)
2015 (8-3), 2014 (6-5), 2013 (4-7), 2012 (9-2)


CHESTERTON: The Trojans scored on a 44-yard run by sophomore QB Lyric McFarrin with 1:46 to go in the game to beat Munster 25-22 on the road. The Trojans used three quarterbacks the first week but when you play three quarterbacks, it means you can't decide on one. McFerrin rushed for 102 yards and running the ball boosts the Chesterton defense, which gave up three TDs for the first time in a regular season game for just the fourth time in 2-1/2 years. I'm not sure the Trojan defense, which was the best in the DAC the last 2 years, (13.5 points allowed over 22 games) is still at that level due to graduation losses. If I was, they'd be at the top of this poll. Can they shut down the running attack of Michigan City (2-0) this Friday night?


5. (6A) Valparaiso (1-1)
2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8), 2013 (3-7), 2012 (3-7)


VALPO: The Vikings coasted at Gary West Side 49-0 last week and they let the clock run through stoppages of play in the second half to hurry up and get the game over. If you have to go to a running clock because you're beating your opponent so badly, you shouldn't be playing them. Valpo beat West Side 55-0 last year. This matchup is about as real a the 'fued' between 'The Rock' and Vin Diesel. Valpo shouldn't be playing West Side and, it's my understanding they now won't be. Valpo plays Mishawaka next season in week two. Good news. Why move them up in this poll, other than the fact that Lowell is 0-2 now? Valpo's 27-7 loss at Penn (2-0) doesn't look so bad after Penn won 35-2 at Merrillville. Plus, the questions about new quarterback Jake Leffew appear to have been answered after 2 games.


6. (4A) LOWELL (0-2)
2015 (12-1), 2014 (8-5), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (5-5), 2011 (5-5)


LOWELL: Can you have an 0-2 team in the poll? I guess I can. Lowell led Portage 27-18 and had the ball with 10 minutes to go and still lost 28-27 on a Josh Gonzalez 40-yard field goal in the final minute. I thought Lowell was the better team, but they gave up two turnovers that were run back for TDs and the Indians went home on the happy bus. Lowell has lost 9-3 in 2 overtimes and 28-27 to two teams (Portage and Crown Point) who are 1-1. They are two plays away from being 2-0 but that's like saying the Bears and Colts were just a couple of wins away from making the NFL playoffs last year. It's time to start winning for Lowell this Friday against Jasper County rival Kankakee Valley (1-1).


7. (6A) Portage (1-1)
2015 (1-10), 2014 (1-9), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (3-7)


PORTAGE: After losing 20 of their last 22 games, Portage got back in the game (and this poll) with a 40-yard, last-second field goal from soccer star Josh Gonzalez in a 28-27 win at Lowell last Friday. Option QB Anthony Maceo did his thing with 126 yards and two TDs on 30 carries. The Indians grabbed two TDs on an interception return by Jeremy Torres and a Laron Parker fumble runback. But the bottom line is: In the last four games against Merrillville, Lake Central, Lowell and Mishawaka, Portage is 2-2 and they haven't been overwhelmed by any of the four. The Indians don't have much of a passing attack and they were lucky to win at Lowell, but they are back on the DAC block going into the league opener this Friday against Lake Central (1-1).


8. (6A) CROWN POINT (1-1)
2015 (1-9), 2014 (8-2), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (8-4)


CROWN POINT: I'm giving the Bulldogs a 'not great but 8' nod this week. You've got to be impressed by how Crown Point battled Lowell in a 9-3 double-overtime win and how they pushed and shoved with 5A No. 4 Mishawaka in a 10-6 road loss last week. CP got near the Mishawaka goal line in the final minute but were stopped twice at the 2-yard-line, just short of a game-winning TD. Here's my problem. Last year in a 1-9 season, Crown Point averaged 9.4 points a game. That's all they scored. I've argued that their offense is now better. So far this season, the new-and-improved Bulldogs are averaging 7.5 points per game. CP has faced two very good defensive teams so far, but when are they going to get to the broken down defense teams? Merrillville, Lake Central, Portage the next three weeks? Really? The Bulldogs are just outside 'magnificent'. Maybe '8' is the new '7'. We'll know this Friday against arch-rival Merrillville.

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Revised: August 30, 2016 .