The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2016 NW Indiana High School Football Week-5 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



They're not 'magnificent' quite yet but Lake Station is 2-2 for the first time since 1998. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (9-12-2016) Folks who have read these pages for a long time know that I talk a lot about the weather and its effect on high school football games. That was the undisputed truth last Friday. It simply rained all game at most sites in NW Indiana and it did matter. Teams that couldn't pass and couldn't hold onto the ball couldn't win. Does it mean they are better?

As the season goes by, this type of rainy, damp weather, with temperatures much colder than last week, is the norm in northern Indiana. Teams up here (not so much in southern Indiana) have to be able to play in the rain and cold.

What was deceptive about last week was: It was hot and humid all week and then the rain moved in unexpectedly late Friday. Some teams were ready and stayed steady. Others clearly were not. The trouble is: You rarely get to practice in the rain. The big losers Friday (Lowell, Lake Central, Michigan City, Chesterton) just have to write it off to experience.

Among teams just south of this poll, Hanover Central (4-0) and Whiting (4-0) are headed for a collision in two weeks (Sept. 23) for the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) championship. And all power to Lake Station and coach Adam Hudak after the Eagles' 28-7 win over Boone Grove.

Lake Station was 2-9 last year. They haven't won more than four games in 12 years. The Eagles haven't been 2-2 or better since 1998. And after they get stomped by Whiting next week (let's not get carried away), the Eagles could win their final four games and finish 6-3. It could happen.

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


MERRILLVILLE:  Big win for the pass-friendly Pirates who showed they could run it in the rain on the road with junior halfback Davion Ervin-Poindexter (5-10, 175) , who gained 155 yards on 31 carries in a watery 20-14 win at Portage. 'Depo' looks like a 1,000-yard rusher. That's a bold statement for me to make after he already has 359 yards on 79 carries with at least six games left, isn't it? When you look back at this, Merrillville may have proved they are multi-dimensional and can handle Northwest Indiana weather all in one night. Confidence has to be high here. At least until Michigan City (3-1) gets to Merrillville next Friday.


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


LaPORTE: Here's a team that's perfectly suited to play in bad weather and they showed it last week. The Slicers qualify for the heavy rain Hall of Fame after stomping Chesterton 49-14. LaPorte splashed to a 35-0 at the half as big QB Nolan Lorenz gained 101 yards in six carries. The wetter the better for halfback Jacob Cole who scored a 50-yard TD and fullback Brennan Long who added two more TDs. He has eight touchdowns in four games. LaPorte has three of the last five away from home and they have given up over 20 points a game. But nobody is keeping them from running the ball and shortening the game. Everybody wants a little slice of life, but I don't know if Lake Central welcomes in the Slicers next week.


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


VALPO: Valparaiso was '5th on faith' here last week. Now they're '3rd on the word' of a 23-0 shutout of undefeated Michigan City. I don't actually know who Greg Lichtenberger is, but he scored two more TDs for the Vikings and he now has 44 carries for 283 yards and 4 TDs in four games. But it was the Valpo defense that held Michigan City's 300-yards per game rushing attack to an unofficial 84 yards on 29 carries. In the interest of full disclosure, when the Post-Tribune picked Valparaiso as the pre-season No. 1 team in NW Indiana, I thought some folks over there were rolling and smoking their newspapers. But Valpo's losses to Penn (4-0) and LaPorte (4-0) carry more weight as the time goes by. The Vikings hang around home for back to back games now with Chesterton (2-2) and Crown Point (2-2).


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


PORTAGE: Portage had the lead 14-12 throughout the third quarter, but they couldn't hold it losing 20-14 at home to the Pirates. Portage ran for 211 yards on the Pirates' defense, but very little after halftime when they needed it. The Indians held Merrillville to 26 yards passing. It's a game they should have won. But, to be honest, Portage probably stole last minute wins the previous two weeks 36-33 over Lake Central and 28-27 at Lowell. QB Anthony Maceo (82 caries, 373 yards, 5 TDs) is still on the move behind the Indians' good offensive line. But the lack of a passing game is a concern. As is the fact that they haven't played Valparaiso, Michigan City and LaPorte yet. At DAC schools this semester, bouncing back after a loss is going to be a master class taught every Friday night. The road gets cold for Portage now ... 3 of the next four away from home beginning with a game at Crown Point (2-2) this coming Friday.


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


ST. JOHN:  Sunny days. Everybody loves them. Tell me now, can you stand the rain? LC, which lost games in the fourth quarter in weeks two and three, never led at Crown Point as the Bulldogs' defense floated them back home with just three points and 162 total yards. The Indians, losing 17-3, were held to three points for the first time since 2009. Senior receiver Austin Atkins may be out for the year, but LC still has Josh Benson and Anthony Giles. Giles has 600 yards rushing on 81 carries in four games. Benson has 396 yards receiving on 19 catches. Zach Bundalo (39 of 66, 524 yards) couldn't get going against the CP defense, but he's not the first QB to have that problem this year. He'll bounce back once it stops raining. Here's the darker cloud behind the dark cloud. This is a team with 15 returning starters. I do not believe they are no good. But you are what your record says you are and LC has now lost seven of their last eight games. It simply isn't obvious why. So undefeated LaPorte (4-0) is going to come to LC and smoke 'em this Friday, right? Are we sure about that?


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


CROWN POINT: Okay, I did not have enough faith. Last week, I didn't even have the Bulldogs eighth. I should be thoroughly chastised for not having confidence in Crown Point's defense, before they speed washed away Lake Central 17-3 last week. Tyler Gomez and Griff Govert scored TDs, but the Bulldog defense, which held Lowell to three points and held Mishawaka to 10 points, held LC to an unofficial 162 yards and six first downs. Truth be told, I'm still a little uneasy with an offense that has scored just 60 points (14 by the defense) in four games. Can the CP defense hold down Anthony Maceo and hard-running Portage? Can the offense squeeze out enough points to get the Bulldogs over .500 next Friday? You gotta have faith.


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


LOWELL: I will not drop Michigan City from the seventh spot just because they got smoked 29-0 by Valparaiso. Valpo, as was stated here last week, had played a vastly stronger schedule prior to the meeting. I thought that MC's running attack would play well on the road, but obviously it didn't, with five turnovers limiting them to 111 total yards. Valpo's defense picked off three passes. Michigan City doesn't want to throw it and they wouldn't if the game was even. MC will still have a winning season and, as the only non-6A school in the DAC, they may be playing after the other seven league teams have been eliminated. But you don't go from 'worst to first' in the DAC in one season. Too many good teams. One of which is Merrillville, who hosts the Wolves next Friday.


8. (4A) LOWELL (1-3)
2015 (12-1), 2014 (8-5), 2013 (6-4) 2012 (5-5), 2011 (5-5)


LOWELL: Lowell is in the 'not-so-great-8 spot this week after a 17-9 loss at Griffith (2-2). The Devils led 9-7 at the half and the offense went away... Three turnovers. Just six first downs. Lowell lives to run the ball and they should excel in the rain. I don't know what happened. Losing 9-3, 28-27 and 17-9 has got to be very frustrating on a team that was in the state Top-10 to start the year. Lowell has allowed just seven touchdowns all season. Two of them were turnover runbacks and a third came in overtime when Crown Point got the ball on the 10-yard-line. The Devils have not allowed a passing TD all season. When you have allowed 54 points (13.5 per game) in four games and you are 1-3, you have major issues on the offense. The road has not been kind (Lowell is 0-2 away from home) to the Devils who ride the big, yellow bus again this Friday to Highland (3-1).


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Revised: September 12, 2016 .