The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2020 NW Indiana High School Football Week-5 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Teams with open dates might be tempted to hop on the highway and find someone to play. But there is an argument for staying at home and resting up for the long run.
(Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (09-14-2020) In the Covid-19 virus era, some schools lose scheduled games. When Michigan City’s football program had to stand down for two weeks, Valparaiso and Merrillville lost scheduled games and had open dates. Immediately, high school football fans like me look around the state to see who the idle teams could schedule in that empty week.


Merrillville has no game for week five (when MC was scheduled) and we quickly look to see who they can match up even though it's not that easy. First of all, Merrillville is Class 6A and most games with schools in Class 1A, 2A and 3A would simply not be worth playing for either side. I know that 2A Pioneer played 6A Chesterton and it was a quality game but Pioneer is a Top-10 2A school and Chesterton is a borderline 6A enrollment-wise.

Another factor is travel. High-scoring Class 6A Columbus North (2-2) wouldn’t get blown off the field by Merrillville and the Bulldogs do not play in week five, but Columbus is three hours down I-65 from Merrillville. That game would have to be on a Saturday and a lot of coaches just do not want to play on Saturday in the middle of the season. It’s a long, long day and it takes away preparation for the next Friday night game. You also have to (or might want to) schedule the Saturday junior varsity game, which matters to the athletic department. JV players want to play and those games bring in money, too.

And in the Covid-19 pandemic era, how much do you really want to go to a place you’ve never been before, take players and a small ‘event staff’ to a school you are unfamiliar with and meet people you do not know.

Somebody has to travel. You can't agree to meet halfway in a field in Boone County.

As much as, on paper, I’d like to see ad-lib scheduling games like Columbus-North vs. Merrillville, I think both sides are better off staying home and resting up for the rest of the season. In reality, the boys play nine Fridays in a row and physically, that’s difficult.

Maybe unexpected off days in the schedule remain off days in the schedule.


Of last week’s Top-7, five teams won and two didn’t play so there’s no change in the names of the ‘7’. But with Hobart playing Lowell, Hobart playing Andrean, Lowell playing KV, Chesterton playing Valparaiso all in the next two weeks, the order of the ‘7’ is going to shuffle. Change is coming.

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


MERRILLVILLE: The Pirates stayed strong, piling up 575 yards in a 58-19 win at Portage. Junior running back Lavarion Logan gained over 100 yards for the fourth week in a row. Junior quarterback Angel Nelson threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns in the first half and the score was 42-13 at the half. Merrillville was 11-2 last season even though they allowed 20 points or more in eight different games. In 2020, the Pirates have yet to give up 20 points in any game. Merrillville lost this week’s game against Michigan City due to Covid-19 virus issues at Michigan City. There is a chance they could travel and play a previously unscheduled opponent this week but I wouldn’t. The Pirates hope to be playing late into November and an extra week off may prove to be of great value.

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


VALPARAISO: Valpo didn't play last week as their game with Michigan City was canceled due to the Covid-19 situation. After four weeks, the Vikings have only played twice and I can't be sure if that’s an advantage or a problem. Valparaiso figures to go far in the Class 5A playoffs, but they’ll get a bye in Class 5A Sectional 9, a third idle Friday this fall. Valpo has back-to-back home games with Chesterton (2-2) and Crown Point (2-2) before they travel to Merrillville in a Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) showdown on October 2. The Vikings have two 18-game winning streaks. Valparaiso has won won 18 regular season games in a row and the Vikings have also won 18 DAC games in a row.


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


HOBART: Hobart’s defense posted a second consecutive shutout, a 38-0 win over the Culver Military Academy. The Brickies have allowed just 33 points in four games, 23 against undefeated Merrillville (4-0). The Brickies have shut out seven teams in the last two years, but that’s not a record. Not at Hobart, anyway. The 1985 Brickies, coached by the legendary Don Howell, shut out eight teams in a 13-1 season. But they did not have the most shutouts in NW Indiana that season. Russ Radtke’s 1985 North Judson Blue Jays shut out the first 10 teams they played. The modern day Brickies now head to rival Lowell (4-0) for the first of what should be two meetings this season. Hobart eliminated Lowell from the state playoffs 20-0 last November.

4.) (2A) Andrean (3-1)
2019 (10-4), 2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-4), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-4)


MERRILLVILLE: Andrean got the best of East Chicago 47-0 last week in EC’s season debut. Only Merrillville (4-0) has defeated the 59ers and no one else has come close to Class 2A’s No. 1 ranked team. Andrean hosts Highland (2-1) this week and they then ride the big yellow bus to Hobart (3-1). But deep in the secret Andrean world headquarters, at a location that remains unknown, somebody in a 59er t-shirt is watching fresh video of 2A No. 2 Eastbrook (3-1), the team that eliminated Andrean 26-14 at the 2A semistate last year. I think Andrean is superior to Lowell and not as good as Hobart. But in November, whether they are better than Eastbrook is probably all that will matter.


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


CHESTERTON: Chesterton rolled past outmanned LaPorte 45-21 last week to get to the .500 mark. QB Chris Mullen completed 12 of 21 passes for 242 yards and three TDs while running 12 times for 86 yards and three more TDs. But the Trojans probably aren't celebrating. Chesterton takes the short ride to 5A No. 2 Valparaiso (2-0) this week for a ‘let’s see what you have’ confrontation. The Trojans have lost five in a row to Valpo and last year’s 40-6 loss was easily Chesterton’s worst loss of the year. For the Trojans' senior class, this is their final chance (Chesterton is 6A and Valpo is 5A) to take out their neighbors to the south.

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


MICHIGAN CITY: The Wolves had to quarantine their team due to a coach testing positive for the Covid-19 virus, so Michigan City lost the chance to play last week’s game with Valparaiso (2-0) and this week’s game with Merrillville (4-0). This is not the worst case scenario because it occurred at mid-season instead of at playoff time. I think the Wolves benefit from not facing a Merrillville team that would have been a prohibitive favorite to beat them. But they need to beat Valparaiso to survive Class 5A Sectional 9 and the chance to play them in September might have helped that cause.
The Wolves, who have still not played a home game, are scheduled to be home on September 25 against Lake Central (1-3). Hard to move MC down. The Wolves’ 41-21 victory over Warsaw (3-1) looks better every week as Warsaw keeps winning.

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


LOWELL: Lowell improved to 4-0 with a 47-28 road win over an outmanned Griffith team. Junior Red Devil back Ryan Marx ran the ball 35 times for a career-best 250 yards and five TDs. Lowell ran for a season-best 411 yards and seven TDs without leading rusher Joe Heuer (78 carries, 413 yards). I think Lowell, at full strength, is a little better than Kankakee Valley (4-0). But that will be decided later. Now the first of what almost certainly will be two games against defending Class 4A local regional champion Hobart (3-1), the team that handed the Devils two losses last year. Lowell will know just how good they are about 10 p.m. Friday night.


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Revised: September 15, 2020 .