The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2016 NW Indiana High School Football Week-8 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



The Griffith Panthers are on a hot streak with consecutive wins over Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) rivals Lowell, Kankakee Valley, Munster and last week, Highland 24-6. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LaPORTE (10-03-2016) In the big game around the state, 1A No. 1 Lafayette Catholic (7-0) topped 3A No. 2 West Lafayette 28-25 last Friday and 3A No. 3 Mishawaka Marian (7-0) scored in the final minute to win at New Prairie (5-2) by a 21-17 score.

The biggest upset was 6A No. 3 Cathedral losing 27-17 at sub-.500 Fishers (3-4). Fishers, with Rick Wimmer, the old Merrillville coach of a decade ago, had lost four in a row, but they intercepted Cathedral star QB Quincy Keller three times and won with a sophomore QB Jon Vore staring his first varsity game.

Next week, the big game is in LaPorte County where Michigan City (6-1) hosts next door neighbor LaPorte (7-0). The state tournament draw will be Sunday night and I'm writing this poll Saturday night, so I don't know who plays who in week 10.

There's no rush in Class 6A where week 10 (Friday and Saturday Oct. 21-22) will be a welcome bye week for the 32 Class 6A schools. In Class 5A, there are several 5-team sectionals so more than half of Class 5A will also be idle in week 10. I've said many times that I like the bye week in high school.

I think it's very difficult to do school and practice all week and play Friday night for three months in a row and then start what could be a 5-6 week post-season. There won't be anyway to know of the 'bye' benefits, but I'd bet that all Class 5A and 6A players are very happy to get one week off after nine games and a scrimmage.

Some of the best football nights are in October as the heat and humidity is gone and student interest in the teams is at a peak. Rensselaer (5-2) is the next team to try to slow Lafayette Catholic (7-0) this Friday, while Hanover Central (7-0) takes the long ride to South Central (5-2).

1. (6A) LaPorte (7-0)
2015 (6-4), 2014 (8-6), 2013 (1-9), 2012 (1-9)


LaPORTE: LaPorte turned back Crown Point 34-16 last week as QB Nolan Lorenz completed TD passes of 53 yards to 'Super' Scott Cooper and six yards to Brennen Long. Lorenz has carried the ball 50 times for 357 yards in seven games even with two other runners in Drayson Nespo (98 carries, 507 yards) and Brennen Long (100 carries, 616 yards). Some teams value the conference championship more highly than others. LaPorte (7-0, 5-0 DAC) has never gone 7-0 in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) and they can do that if they win at Michigan City (6-1, 4-1 DAC) next Friday. But win or lose, they must take on Penn (7-0) in Class 6A, Sectional 2.


2. (6A) Valparaiso (5-2)
2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8), 2013 (3-7), 2012 (3-7)


VALPARAISO: Valpo fought off the Pirates and the weatherman to turn back Merrillville 20-15 in the rain to stay one game back of first place LaPorte in the DAC. Big Zach Jones carried 18 times for 92 yards and now has 688 on 91 carries. This was a game Valpo should have won after Merrillville QB Cam Wright left the game with an injury, but the Vikings did what they had to do. LaPorte defeated Valparaiso 39-38 on Sept. 2 and who the better team is seems to be about that close. If Valpo wins over Portage next week while Michigan City defeats LaPorte next Friday, Valpo, MC and LaPorte will be tied for first place in the conference with one week to go. Valpo is also in 6A Sectional 2 with Penn (7-0) and LaPorte (7-0).


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


LOWELL: Michigan City proved to be kings of the rain with a 35-14 win at Portage. Aryuan Cain-Veasey carried 29 times for 192 yards and now has 1,065 yards on the season on 129 carries. Keshawn McGill gave future foes something to think about when he ran the opening kickoff back 89 yards for a TD. MC's only loss is the 29-0 shutout to Valpo (5-2), no shame there. The Wolves probably need a first round bye in Class 5A Sectional 9 as halfback Markice Hurt is not 100%. But what ever happens in next Friday's home game with arch rival LaPorte (7-0), the Wolves need to forget about it and get ready for sectional rival Mishawaka (7-0).

4. (4A) New Prairie (5-2)
2015 (6-4), 2014 (13-2), 2013 (12-1), 2012 (12-1)


NEW CARLISLE: The Cougars lost 21-17 to (Mishawaka) Marian, but that's a good loss going forward since New Prairie's only losses are 21-20 at LaPorte (7-0) and 21-17 to Marian (7-0). New Prairie held Marian to 86 yards rushing and they scored 17 points on a team that had allowed just 28 points all year in six games. Junior option quarterback Nick Wilson (5-10, 167) has run 149 times for 1,002 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Cougars close out with John Glenn (2-5) and Jimtown (5-2) before they battle Hobart (5-2) and Andrean (4-3) in 4A Sectional 18 and New Prairie is the one you don't want to play.


5. (4A) ANDREAN (4-3)
2015 (7-4), 2014 (14-1), 2013 (15-0)


MERRILLVILLE: Andrean is still on the rise after a third consecutive win, 20-0 at Kankakee Valley. Junior halfback Teely Rhyne had 93 yards on 25 carries, but the Niner defense, which had allowed 25 points a game, shut KV down and out. Rhyne is up to 811 yards on 127 carries, while senior QB Patrick Reardon passed 11 times for 76 yards last week and he seems ready for the big finish. The Niners win at least a half share of the Northwest Crossroads Conference if they win at Griffith (5-2, 3-1 NCC) next week and at home over Lowell (3-4, 2-2 NCC) in week nine. There was no need to even talk about that until, they showed up with some defense at KV.

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


GRIFFITH: I have been slow to accept Griffith as a power team, but consecutive wins over Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) rivals Lowell, Kankakee Valley, Munster and last week, Highland 24-6 have made the case to the jury. Griffith's only losses are to Hobart (5-2) and Michigan City (6-1). Tavien Walker carried 16 times for 103 yards in the rain and he's up to 439 yards on 70 carries. The Panthers' defense has allowed just 70 points in five NCC games. Griffith, which ends the season with a nonconference (East Chicago) game, can win a half share of the NCC at home this Friday against rival Andrean (4-3, 3-1). I'm still not sure if Griffith is this good or just on an emotional ride. We find out Friday.


7. (4A) LOWELL (3-4)
2015 (12-1), 2014 (8-5), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (5-5), 2011 (5-5)


LOWELL: Lowell rolled over Morton in the rain 33-6 last week in Hammond. Trevor Espravnik scored three more TDs and Jake Post kicked two field goals. This was only the second time this season that the run-oriented Devils have gained 300 yards on the ground. Junior Ethan Igras started and played 2/3 of the game at QB and injured safety Jordan Jusevitch returned and looked like he'll be able to go in October. To be totally honest, I think Lowell, at full strength, is better than all four teams (Griffith, Portage, Crown Point and Hobart) that defeated them, all by eight points or less.


8. (6A) MERRILLVILLE (3-4)
2015 (7-5), 2014 (6-6), 2013 (9-2), 2012 (11-3)


MERRILLVILLE: Merrillville lost just 20-15 to Valparaiso (5-2) last week. So why are they out of the poll? Quarterback Cam Wright (89 of 159, 1,314 yards and 11 TDs), was injured in the loss and did not return. The Pirates are without Wright and James Kirklen (20 catches, 420 yards) and while they're decent without them, I'm not sure if they beat any of the above '7'. Not knowing the condition of the offensive Pirate stars puts the team in the limbo that is position eight in this poll.

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Revised: October 04, 2016 .