A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith
|Merrillville boys have adopted wearing the 'championship belt', earned after a good game. That's Marc Guererro (30) with the belt, and teammates William Fulton (6), Anthony Atria (55) and Justen Ramsey (57). Merrillville is taking steps towards acquiring the Duneland Conference championship 'belt' after wins over Crown Point and Portage in the last two weeks. (Photo by Mark Smith)|
(09-10-2018) At the start of the season, you always have an idea of who is
strong and who is not.
At least you think you do.
In Northwest Indiana this season, Valparaiso and Michigan City were ‘projected’ to be strong in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) based on the players they had returning.
In the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) Whiting and Hanover looked relatively strong. In the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NWC), Hobart and Andrean seemed to be set to rule. Morton looked like the top team in the South Shore Conference.
As the season goes along, you have to decide if one game changes your opinion on what you thought at the start of the year.
Consider Morton. The Governors began the year with a win over Highland (2-2) and a loss to Lake Central (2-2). In hind sight, those results probably told you nothing long term. The 16-6 win over Highland was hardly the offensive display you expected from Morton, based on the skill players they had returning on offense. The 33-13 loss to LC seemed to tell some truth until you note this was 19-13 games well into the second half against a much larger school.
Morton then lost 38-0 to Lowell, another head-scratcher. Morton gained 245 total yards and didn’t allow Lowell a completed pass and lost by 38 points.
This last week, Morton threw three interceptions, lost a fumble, gained only 57 yards rushing on 29 carries and still won over Munster 25-13.
I had Munster in this poll, but I no longer do because I have no idea what’s going on in those four games.
Every time someone questions this or any poll, suggest that they try ranking teams. It's like being mayor or governor. Everybody knows how to do the job until they get the job.
1. (6A) Valparaiso (2-2)
2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8), 2013 (3-7)
VALPARAISO – Valpo won the head-to-head showdown with Michigan City in the DAC, holding the Wolves to 178 yards in a 14-7 victory. And as someone who had Valpo as No. 1 in the pre-season poll, I have to correct the mistake of dropping them to No. 2 two weeks ago. The Vikings' losses to 4A No. 3 Mishawaka (3-1) and 6A No. 6 Penn (3-1) should have been rated more highly than other teams' victories over lesser teams. The Vikings now go home to take on Chesterton (1-3) and Crown Point (2-2).
2. (5A) Michigan City (2-2)
2017 (9-4), 2016 (7-4), 2015 (2-7), 2014 (4-6), 2013 (2-8), 2012 (2-8)
MICHIGAN CITY – MC jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and then got shut down in a 14-7 home field loss to Valparaiso. The Wolves were held to 56 yards rushing and 45 yards passing. Hopefully, the Wolves didn’t invest too much in the pre-season hype that had them sweeping all seven DAC games. Valparaiso is a Class 6A team and Michigan City doesn’t have to beat them to win the Class 5A playoffs. Everything is a warm-up for the post-season. Unfortunately for MC, that warm-up includes a trip to Merrillville (3-1) this Friday.
3. (6A) Merrillville (3-1)
2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5), 2014 (6-6)
MERRILLVILLE – Merrillville is the fastest rising team in the poll. The Pirates rolled over Portage 39-0 last week and the ‘body of work’ is building. The Pirates lost to Penn (3-1), but have beaten Portage (2-2), Crown Point (2-2) and Andrean (3-1). Junior QB Aahric Whitehead was 11 of 13 for 179 yards and two touchdowns and Merrillville outgained the Indians 412-61. The Pirates have been a very difficult team to run the ball against. CP was held to 21 yards. Andrean was held to 26 yards. Portage was held to 51 yards. The next team to try to run the ball on Merrillville will be Michigan City (2-2) this Friday night.
4. (4A) Hobart (4-0)
2017 (6-4), 2016 (10-3), 2015 (5-5), 2014 (3-7)
HOBART – So
Hobart won 52-0 over East Chicago and they drop a spot in this poll? Life is
rough, boys. The drop has more to do with Merrillville playing very well than it
does Hobart doing anything mediocre. The Brickies gained an unofficial 318 yards
rushing on 40 carries. Sam Valle carried 18 times for 170 yards, but the
Brickies committed 12 penalties in a 52-point win. What’s up with that?
The Brickies will need to cut that out when they face Andrean (3-1) this Friday.
5. (3A) Andrean (3-1)
2017 (8-4), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-4), 2014 (14-1)
MERRILLVILLE – The 59ers out-scored out-manned Hammond 59-0 last week. Nothing much to say about that except that it’s the kind of game that a smaller school (Read: small roster) needs when they hope to be playing into November. QB Zack Merrill was 11 of 11 passing. Hammond (0-3) has only scored eight points all season. In defense of the Andrean schedule, there aren't a lot of nonconference teams for the 59ers to play after DAC play starts in week three. NWC teams need four nonconference games and sometimes you have schedule a team you know can't beat you. The way it sounds, the 59ers will be without senior linebacker River Walsh (6-1, 210) until the playoffs at least. Let’s see if that matters this week when the 59ers ride the big, yellow bus to play at undefeated Hobart (4-0).
6. (4A) New Prairie (3-1)
2017 (11-2), 2016 (9-3), 2015 (6-4), 2014 (13-2)
NEW CARLISLE – The Cougars are back in the poll for two reasons. Injured QB Craig Ketterer wasn't hurt that badly. He came back last week against (South Bend) St. Joseph’s. 2.) New Prairie stopped St. Josephs in South Bend 42-28. Ketterer was 7-of-7 passing for 180 yards and two touchdowns, while running for two more TDs. The Cougars led all the way and lay that victory next to their blowout wins over LaPorte and Clay and the Cougars are worthy. New Prairie has scored 166 points in four games and at least 28 in every game. Here comes 4A No. 3 Mishawaka (3-1) this week in what may be a preview of a 4A Sectional 18 matchup.
7. (4A) Lowell (3-1)
2017 (14-1), 2016 (9-5), 2015 (9-5), 2014 (12-1), 2014 (8-5)
LOWELL – Lowell dominated Clark 51-0 last week as expected. The win followed the 38-0 victory over Morton on Aug. 31. Just ‘taking care of business’. The best thing for the Devils, who play at least seven boys on both sides of the ball, is that they haven't had to play the starters into the fourth quarter the last two weeks. Lowell has allowed just 14 points all season, seven against Crown Point (2-2) and seven against Portage (2-2). The 89 points Lowell has scored the last two weeks without two year starting QB Ethan Igras (right hand injury) is a little misleading. I’m guessing Igras will be back at QB as soon as his hand is OK. Lowell will get much more of a test this week against Jasper County rival Kankakee Valley (2-2).
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Revised: September 09, 2018 .