The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2020 NW Indiana High School Football Week-4 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Merrillville's Jo Jo Johnson wears number one for the number one team in Northwest Indiana. The unbeaten Pirates travel to Portage (2-1) this Friday.
(Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (09-07-2020) Talk about rankings, we get a rare matchup of two teams rated number one this week as two of the charter members of the ‘Indianapolis Catholic school mafia’ go head to head in the big city. Class 5A No.1 Cathedral (3-0) travels to 3A No.1 Bishop Chatard (3-0) in a game that may not be as even as it sounds.

Chatard, a 14-time state champion, has used a tight defense to stay unbeaten topping 4A No. 9 Roncalli 28-7 last week. The Trojans also have a 10-0 win over 4A No. 7 East Central and they have every reason to feel good about the season so far.

At least until Friday. Cathedral, a 12-time state champion, has crushed Class 6A foes Westfield, Carmel and Penn by scores of 56-20, 44-28 and 52-7. Cathedral quarterback Nathan McCahill (6-0, 175) has completed almost 70% of his passes (53 of 77) for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns in three games. On top of that, McCahill has run 14 times for 156 more yards (11 yards a carry) against three large Class 6A schools.

Junior left tackle Owen Wood (6-5, 305), Rylan Mitchell (6-0, 260) and Eli Albers (6-3, 275) are soldiers in a ‘healthy’ sized Cathedral offensive line. Many in Class 5A will take note of the final from Chatard this Friday.

Rankings are a survivor series. You often move up not because you achieve but when the team above you loses. Hobart was No.1 in Class 4A two weeks ago and then they lost 23-7 to 6A No. 4 Merrillville. Last week Hobart dropped to the fourth-ranked position in Class 4A as if losing to a Top-10 6A school made them a worse team.

Merrillville has beaten two 2-1 teams that are ranked in the Top-10 which means that the loss to Merrillville is their only loss to far. Lawrence North (3-0) has beaten three teams with losing records including a narrow 28-21 win over Lawrence Central (0-3). But Lawrence North is rated above Merrillville in the 6A poll. Why?

Probably because Lawrence North began the season rated above Merrillville.

I like polls, obviously. I think they add to interest in high school sports. They do no harm.

But the thought that someone at the bottom of our state knows how good some team is at the top of the state (or the other way around) is a false one. So if want you to read polls, use them for motivation and talk about them.

But don’t believe them. With that said, here’s our poll!

1. (6A) Merrillville (3-0)
2019 (11-2), 2018 (7-4), 2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5)


MERRILLVILLE: Merrillville held arch rival Crown Point under 100 total yards in a 42-7 victory. QB Angel Nelson tossed three TD passes and the Pirate defense just shut down everything Crown Point tried to do. No one has scored on Merrillville in the first half yet this season. Not one point. The Pirates, who have won nine in a row at home, ride the big, yellow bus to Portage (2-1) Friday.


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


VALPARAISO: Valpo rolled over an outmanned LaPorte team 37-7 last Friday for the Vikings’ 18th regular season victory in a row. Liam Shepherd kicked three field goals and QB Logan Lockhart completed five passes for 155 yards. Valpo plays at 5A Sectional 9 rival Michigan City this week in what should be the first of two meetings between those two teams. Did you know that Valparaiso’s last Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) loss was 21-6 at Crown Point on September 22, 2017? I didn’t.


3.) (4A) Hobart (2-1)
2019 (11-3), 2018 (7-3), 2017 (6-4), 2016 (10-3), 2015 (5-5)


HOBART: Hobart rolled over an out-manned Griffith squad 42-0 last week and they finish the nonconference schedule at Culver Academy this Friday before a showdown at Lowell (3-0) in two weeks. The Brickies then start Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) play with three consecutive contenders in Lowell (3-0), Andrean (2-1) and Kankakee Valley (3-0) over the next three weeks. Hobart is 36-14 in the last five seasons, the best Brickie record since they were 42-16 under coach Wally McCormack from 2004 to 2008.

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


MERRILLVILLE: Andrean rolled over New Prairie 42-14 in an impressive offensive showing. The 59ers began the season with 6A teams Merrillville and Lake Central and the New Prairie game begins a string of Class 4A opponents. QB Joe Cimino was 14 of 19 for 238 yards and running back Ryan Walsh carried the ball seven times for 119 yards. The 59ers' season-opening loss to Merrillville looks better and better as the Pirates stomp opponent after opponent. The 59ers host Highland this week and they head to 4A No. 4 Hobart (2-1) in three weeks.


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


CHESTERTON: On strength of schedule (and the strength of a 21-14 win over Michigan City) Chesterton moves back up to where they were at the start of the season. The Trojans jumped to a 14-0 lead and held on in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) opener. Chris Mullen was 12 of 28 for 215 yards and two TDs. Few teams play as tough a schedule as Chesterton. Five road games. Four top-10 teams. Still, the Trojans average only 15 points a game and you won't have a winning record with that production.

6.) (5A) Michigan City (2-1)
2019 (4-6), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (9-4), 2016 (7-4)


MICHIGAN CITY: The Wolves lost the DAC opener 21-14 and now they face the big, scary monsters of their league. MC hosts Valparaiso (2-0) in the home opener and they then head to Merrillville (3-0). MC did gain 368 total yards against Chesterton, but three turnovers hurt the cause. Who is Jonothan Flemings? I don't know but the senior ran 13 times for 78 yards and both MC TDs. Flemings (5-10, 185) also caught six passes for 71 more yards. DAC defenses will want to know about him now. The Wolves’ 36-points-a-game offense gets a major test and results the next two weeks may not be judged totally by wins and losses. This week’s Valpo game is a master class for the post-season because the Vikings and Michigan City are both Class 5A and they will meet again in November.

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


LOWELL: Lowell turned back Wheeler 26-13 last Friday in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The Devils led 18-0 in the third quarter and I don’t think they had any desire to run up the score on the Bearcats, who were a substitute (for Morton) as their week three foe. I still have the Devils seventh because I think they’re a little better than Kankakee Valley (we’ll see about that when they meet on Sept. 25 in Lowell). But I don’t think they’d beat the teams above them here. Lowell is still working on the place-kicking position and the offensive line still seems to be a work-in-progress. Did you know that since the start of the 2015 season, Lowell is 55-15? I did.


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Revised: September 07, 2020 .