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

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Merrillville seniors Devin Sanders (8) and Armani Glass (11) will get an up close look at Class 3A No. 1 Bishop Chatard this Friday night in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (09-28-2020) It's time we look outside Northwest Indiana at some potential playoff opponents for local teams.

In Class 2A, top-ranked Andrean has rolled to five wins in a row, but piling up the regular season victories probably hasn’t made them forget about that Class 2A Northern semistate loss at Eastbrook 26-14 last year.

How’s Eastbrook doing? The Panthers (5-1), rated No. 2 in Class 2A, laid the smack down on tiny 2A buddy Alexandria 71-14 last week. Eastbrook’s only loss was on opening night 42-28 to Class 4A Delta (4-1).

An Andrean-Eastbrook rematch seems possible.

If Hanover Central (4-2) and River Forest (4-2) are thinking about winning Class 3A Sectional 25 (and they probably are), their thoughts have probably wandered down to Twin Lakes where the Indians (4-1) just lost for the first time 35-14 to Hamilton Heights last week. And all three of those schools have to look east at Knox and coach Russ Radtke, where the Redskins are averaging 29 points a game against a schedule that has included Southwood (6-0), Marian (6-0) and LaVille (3-0). Knox would appear to be ‘danger-Russ’ (sorry) to everyone.

Class 4A seems very unpredictable. Hobart (3-2), Kankakee Valley (5-1) and Lowell (5-0) have hopes, but what is going on at Columbia City (6-0) and Northridge (4-1) in Sectional 19? In Sectional 18, KV is going to have to take out New Prairie (4-2) before they would face the Sectional 17 champ (Hobart or Lowell). In Sectional 17, Morton and Gavit haven’t even played one game yet.

Class 5A seems more settled. Second-ranked Valparaiso (3-0) has lost three games to Covid-19 issues, but unless Michigan City (3-1) can stop them in Class 5A Sectional 9, the Vikings appear headed south in November. The best record in 5A Sectional 10 is Concord (3-2) but the best Sectional 10 team is probably Mishawaka (2-3), which has lost to Elkhart (5-0), Warsaw (5-1) and Marian (6-0).

Class 6A in the north is headed for a showdown. Eventually, Merrillville (5-0) and Jefferson (6-0) have to get together again in Class 6A Sectional 1. Last October, Jeff was 9-0 when they came to Merrillville and lost 27-20. The Jefferson Bronchos have a record of 34-4 since the start of the 2017 season, but Jeff hasn’t survived sectional play in 18 years.

Merrillville’s defense has allowed just 53 points all season. Jeff, led by ‘Touchdown Tommy’ Hogan (115 carries, 1,162 yards, 18 TDs) averages 48 points a game. I’m having a tough time believing this but let the record show: Hogan (5-10, 175) carried the ball 32 times for 474 yards and nine touchdowns in a 76-55 win against Lafayette-area rival Harrison (3-3).

Nine touchdowns in one game? Really?

The pairings for the 48th annual Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state football tournament will be announced on Thursday, October 8.

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


MERRILLVILLE: Merrillville rolled to a 33-7 victory over LaPorte as halfback Lavarion Logan ran 30 times for 170 yards and two TDs. Marcus Hardy caught two TD passes from QB Angel Nelson. Did you know that Merrillville, which has not lost a home game since 2018, is 23-6 in the last three seasons? The Pirates ride the big, yellow bus to Indianapolis Friday to take on Class 3A No. 1 Bishop Chatard (5-1). This game replaces the canceled showdown with 5A No. 2 Valparaiso. Any TV for this game? Inquiring minds want to know.

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


VALPARAISO: It's still the year 2020 and the virus put Valparaiso on the sidelines last week. A positive Covid-19 test cancelled last week’s game with Crown Point (3-2) and this week’s game with Merrillville (5-0). The Vikings will have five regular season games this fall instead of nine. But as long as there are no further cancellations, it should not affect their chances in the Class 5A playoffs. Valpo could pick up a substitute game this week, but I expect them to take the weekend off.

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


MERRILLVILLE: It's been a hard sell for me, but I finally buy Andrean as being ahead of Hobart after the 59ers’ come-from-behind 35-24 home win over Hobart last week. Trailing 14-0, the Niners scored 35 of the next 38 points as halfback Ryan Walsh carried 21 times for 108 yards. Andrean has reason to be very confident after outscoring their last five opponents by the combined score of 204-48. Munster (1-5), unfortunately for the Mustangs, is next.

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


HOBART: Hobart’s 14-0 lead at Andrean last week turned into a 35-24 loss as the Brickies' offense lost three turnovers, one that was run back for a touchdown. Hobart’s losses are to Merrillville (5-0) and Andrean (5-1), two teams they won't see again. Now they see a Class 4A team that is in their way if they wish to make a state run. Hobart at Kankakee Valley (5-1) this week will say a lot about next month. The Brickies are better than a 3-2 team.


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


CHESTERTON: Chesterton shut down Portage 20-0 last Friday to get back to the .500 mark after an 0-2 start. The losses are to Pioneer (5-1), Hobart (3-2) and Valpaariso (3-0) so there is every reason to be optimistic. The Trojans have three league games remaining, but somebody at Chesterton is already looking at video on Elkhart (5-0), the new South Bend area powerhouse in Class 6A Sectional 2.

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


MICHIGAN CITY: Michigan City rolled over Lake Central 48-6, scoring three times on defense and special teams. The Wolves have to look at the final three games of Portage (2-4), LaPorte (1-5) and Crown Point (3-2) as games they can win. Michigan City will play only seven regular season games instead of the usual nine and I see absolutely no downside to that. The Wolves will either defeat Valparaiso in Class 5A Sectional 9 or they won't.

7.) (4A) LOWELL (5-0)

2019 (7-5), 2018 (10-3), 2017 (14-1), 2016 (9-5)


LOWELL: Lowell scored 28 second half points, 21 of them in the fourth quarter to rally past Kankakee Valley 28-21 last week. I’m still looking for the last time any Northwest Indiana team rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit and won that game in regulation time. Is Lowell better than KV, based on a 21-point come from behind win? No.

But Lowell has been shorthanded for Covid-19 virus situations and, barring new developments, they could be near full strength next week at Highland (3-2). The Devils have not been impressive in every game, but let the record show: Of teams that have played any games at all, there are three undefeated teams in Northwest Indiana with three weeks left in the regular season. Those three are Merrillville, Valparaiso and Lowell.


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Revised: September 30, 2020 .