The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2016 NW Indiana High School Football Week-4 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



After six losing seasons in a row, the arrow is pointing up for Michigan City football after three consecutive wins at the start of the 2016 season. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (9-05-2016) In the two big conferences in Northwest Indiana, there were surprises in the opening week of Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) play, while results in the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) opening week stayed true to traditional form.


Michigan City has never won the DAC and they jumped up to 1-0 with a shutout of Chesterton. Portage was 2-19 the last two seasons, but they're 1-0 after a 36-33 home upset of Lake Central. Even LaPorte (3-0) over Valpo (1-2) goes against tradition.

In the NCC, it was said that Lowell was struggling. But they beat Kankakee Valley by 35. Munster was winless in two weeks while arch-rival Highland was 2-0. But when they met the Mustangs busted out of the barn and 500 yards of total offense later, the wild horses were on the happy side of a 47-6 decision. And Hobart (2-1) got 303 yards passing from Mickey Wolfe in a 22-7 win over Griffith.

It should be noted that playing the DAC might be good for you. Lowell lost to CP and Portage in nonconference play and they won 35-0 over Kankakee Valley, which played two non-DAC schools to start the year. Munster lost to Lake Central and Chesterton and used any lessons learned in a 49-7 win over Highland, which won twice over non-DAC squads in weeks one and two.

This is one of the overall strongest years in recent memory in the DAC. It's not that the top teams in the league are so great. It's that the bottom of the league is very strong. Sometimes the DAC gets judged on how they do against 6A superpowers, which is an unfair barometer. File this note away: Michigan City (3-0) is not 6A like seven DAC teams, they are 5A. Class 5A was the path LaPorte took to the state finals two years ago.  Let's see what MC can do in the post-season with their new coaches, speedy runners and new spirit.

Outside NW Indiana, a note for teams like Hobart, Morton and Lowell.

Class 4A Northwood is 3-0 and averaging 50 points a game. They have rolled over perennial Elkhart area powers Concord and Jimtown. What's going on there?

And this year's tiny town story is from eastern Greene County where the Eastern Greene Thunderbirds are 3-0 for the second year in a row. They're averaging 36 points a game. That's significant because 'EG' only began playing football in 2003 and they were 0-10 in three of the first four seasons. Last year's 8-3 record was the first winning record in the football history of the school of 374. The Thunderbirds (I'm guessing we shouldn't ask about that name) have never won a varsity football sectional.

For reasons known only to them, Eastern Greene has scheduled 2A No.1 Lafayette Catholic for the first time ever on Friday, September 16 in Lafayette. Lafayette Catholic (3-0), a 7-time Class 1A state champ, has scored 155 points in their first three games this season and has won 18 games in a row. Lafayette's version of 'LC' has lost just nine football games in nine years. Now Lafayette is nowhere near Greene County. Their boys may not know where it is (I think it's in Bloomfield, Indiana, loosely suburban Bloomington). Lafayette Catholic is the dominant 1A team sports school in the state at this time. Bloomfield is listed as occupying 1.38 square miles of land. Eastern Greene high school only has five sports for boys. If you don't play baseball, basketball or football or run cross country or track, you go home after school.

I'm just intrigued. Eastern Greene County has played football for 13 years and has lost to Linton-Stockton all 13 years. And now they want to play Lafayette Catholic? You gotta dream big, I guess.
I'm liking the addition of a 'not so great' eighth team to the weekly 'Maginificent 7'. There's always a team that's too small to really be 'magnificent' or much better than their record indicates. In honor of the release of the movie, the new and enhanced 'Magnificent 7' rides again.

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


MERRILLVILLE:  There's not a sure-fire number one this week, but Merrillville has lost only to Penn (3-0) and again displayed a prolific offense in games where they weren't playing Penn. Which, until November, are the only ones that matter. Wins over Andrean 35-7 and Crown Point 41-28 has shown the the Pirate passing attack (7 TD passes by rookie QB Cam Wright) continues its recent tradition of being hard to stop. James Kirklen has 14 catches for 314 yards and 5 TDs. The Pirate defense is more solid than it looks. Remember Wright has had four interceptions run back for TDs. Throw away the loss to Penn and this could be a 'top of the poll' team. One thing that's for sure. The Pirate spread offense 'rides again' with the sophomore Wright taking over for graduated three-year starter DJ Wilikins working with all the quick Pirate receivers. Merrillville travels to Portage (2-1) with first place in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) on the line.


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


LaPORTE: LaPorte's Nolan Lorenz broke out in this game with 42 yards rushing on nine carries and 11 of 12 passing for 209 yards. He ran for the game winning 2-point conversion in the 39-38 win over Valpo. Brennan Long ran 20 times for 149 yards and he's up to 324 yards on 22 carries. Wins over New Prairie (2-1), Hobart (2-1) and Valpo (1-2) are all good and may be prove to be better as the season goes on. The Slicers don't stop the run as well as they need to, but they can run you into the ground. This is a bad weather team that's winning in good weather. The best may be yet to come as the Slicers return home to take on Chesterton.


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


ST. JOHN:  I'm not buying that LC is no good. They've lost the last two weeks 24-21 and 36-33 on late fourth quarter touchdowns, similar to a couple of games they dropped last season, 'coming from ahead' to lose. At Portage, LC halfback Anthony Giles ran 22 times for 233 yards. WR Josh Benson grabbed five passes for 113 yards. Giles has 503 yards rushing on 59 carries in three games. Benson has 336 yards receiving on 16 catches. LC gained 400 total yards at Portage, but they didn't hold on at the end. I can't pretend I don't still think they're one of the top three teams in NW Indiana.


4. (6A) Portage (2-1)
2015 (1-10), 2014 (1-9), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (3-7)


PORTAGE: Portage pulled out another last-second win. After topping Lowell 28-27 on the final minute field goal, the Indians upset Lake Central 36-33 on a 55-yard TD pass from Anthony Maceo to Greg Milledge. Maceo completed only two passes, both for TDs, but he ran 22 times for 171 yards and 3 TDs. Why aren't they rated above LC, a team they just defeated? Because, while it's great to pull the game out at the end, Portage is a very physical, resilient team that is very close to being 0-3. I think they have defeated two teams in the last two weeks that are better than they are. We'll see.


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


VALPO: I tend to discount losses to Penn, whether they are by Merrillville or Valparaiso. And the 39-38 loss at home to LaPorte on a TD with 17 seconds to play. That's a game Valparaiso certainly believes they should have won after gaining 453 total yards and leading 38-24 in the fourth quarter. Valpo senior Jay Bisacky gained 170 yards on 10 receptions. Zack Jones is up to 309 yards gained on just on 27 carries. The Vikings can argue that they're better than LaPorte and better than fifth in this poll, but the only team they've actually defeated so far is Gary West Side (0-3). They're fifth on faith here.


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


LOWELL: Lowell lost 9-3 in 2 overtimes in week one and then 28-27 in week two and I guess they were tired of losing. The Devils rolled over Kankakee Valley 35-0 last Friday, unofficially outgaining KV 299-23. The Devils did fumble twice and that's been a problem, but the Lowell defense has now allowed just three touchdowns in three games. Senior halfback Trevor Espravnik scored a career-best four TDs on 14 carries for 167 yards. Lowell is pretty much in the same place that Lake Central (1-2) is. Lowell has lost two games they should have won and can't get back. The Devils now need to prove they can win back to back games and on the road where they will play four of their final six games, including this Friday night at Griffith (1-2). In Indiana high school football, nobody's going to remember what you did in August.


7. (5A) Michigan City (3-0)
2015 (2-7), 2014 (4-6), 2013 (2-8), 2012 (2-8), 2011 (1-9)


MICHIGAN CITY: Michigan City shut down the struggling offense of Chesterton 20-0 to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2009. Senior halfback Markice Hurt (season: 55 carries, 367 yards, 5 TDs) gained 137 yards on 23 carries. Senior halfback No. 2 Aryuan-Cain Veasey (season: 37 carries, 299 yards, 5 TDs) gained 90 yards and two TDs on 16 carries. QB Mike McCullough (season: 24 of 44, 300 yards) picked up 43 yards on nine carries and doesn't need to throw that much. Why aren't they higher in the poll? The better teams on Michigan City's schedule are still to come. In the last 18 years, Michigan City has been 2-0 a total of 12 times. The Northridge team they beat is 0-3. The Wolves play four of the last six at home, including a matchup with Valparaiso this Friday. Here's another team that has a style of offense that plays well later in the season.


8. (6A) Chesterton (2-1)
2015 (8-3), 2014 (6-5), 2013 (4-7), 2012 (9-2)


CHESTERTON: This week's 'battle' for the not-so-great-8 spot goes to Chesterton over Crown Point after both lost. The Trojans couldn't solve their offensive problems Friday, losing 20-0 to Michigan City. All credit to the Wolves (3-0), but Chesterton is averaging 13 points a game. Going back to the start of the season, this was a team that graduated much of the squad that was 14-8 the last two seasons. Defensively, they're solid. The Trojans will be in most games. If they can score three touchdowns a game, they can beat most teams. But, as is the case with Crown Point (1-2), the Chesterton offense has not been producing points so far. CP, at least has the next two games at home. Might not be the best time for the Trojans to visit undefeated LaPorte (3-0) this Friday and needy Valparaiso (1-2) in back-to-back weeks.


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Revised: September 07, 2016 .