The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2016 NW Indiana High School Football Week-9 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



Griffith has brought back memories of the 'good old days' with four consecutive wins and a Northwest Crossroads Conference championship this season. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LaPORTE (10-10-2016) One of the telling games for Northwest Indiana post-season hopes was the 26-14 victory for 5A Mishawaka (7-1) over 3A Mishawaka Marian (7-1). Marian is the team that Griffith (6-2) and Hanover Central (8-0) must take on/out in 3A Sectional 25 while Mishawaka is the roadblock for Michigan City (7-1) in 5A Sectional 9.

No secret to how they roll. Mishawaka's fullback Austin Faulkner (5-11, 205) ran 43 times for 233 yards and three TDs. According to the South Bend Tribune, none of his carries were more than seven yards. Marian hardly ever got the ball.
The outcome would suggest that Hanover's hard running attack could be effective against Marian.

It does not bode well for Michigan City's eventual meeting with Mishawaka.

Locally, you don't know who's injured or who's not at this time of the year. Merrillville isn't going to be able to do much unless QB Cam Wright comes back from a shoulder injury and that's just an example of one high profile absence. At this level, fans and followers wouldn't know if the left tackle or the right guard is injured. The coach may not hide the injury, but he won't be broadcasting it either.
That's what makes a poll based on results difficult, because the Merrillville team that was 3-3 averaging 29 points a game isn't the same team that's 3-5 and won't be unless the QB can come back.

The final week of the regular season sees Hanover (8-0) play at North Newton (7-1) for the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) North Division title.

East Chicago, LaPorte and Griffith have already clinched league titles.

In the 10-team Hoosier Conference where each division has five teams, they hold league playoffs this week. 5 vs. 5, 4 vs. 4 and so on. The 1 vs. 1 matchup is West Division champ Lafayette Catholic (8-0, 4-0) at East champ Northwestern (6-2, 3-1).
That's an idea the 10-team Greater South Shore Conference should try.

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


LaPORTE: LaPorte won the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) showdown with Michigan City 42-35 as they ran the ball all night, gaining 474 yards rushing to get to 8-0. With the loss by Valparaiso, LaPorte claims the DAC title no matter what happens the final week. Chris Juskiewicz ran 17 times for 269 yards and a career best 5 TDs. LaPorte has just under 2700 yards rushing in eight games. LaPorte was 7-0-2 in 1962 and they were 9-0 in 1946 before losing the final game and finishing 9-1. The Slicers have played high school football for 100 years and they've never been 9-0.


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


VALPARAISO: Valpo's revival hit a roadblock in a 24-21 home loss to unpredictable Portage. The Vikings, who had won four in a row, could not stop the Indians' option running attack, giving up an unofficial 320 yards and they just could not make key plays late in the game to overcome the Indians, who have pulled surprising victories all year. The Vikings' losses are to Penn (8-0), LaPorte (8-0) and Portage (5-3), so its hard to put Michigan City (6-2) or New Prairie (6-2) ahead of them. How did they lose at home on Homecoming to Portage? I can't explain it. But I can't explain how BYU beat Michigan State last week either. I still believe that Valpo is the only Northwest Indiana team with a significant chance to take out 6A No. 1 Penn in sectional or regional play.


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


MICHIGAN CITY: Michigan City gave it a good shot, but they fell short of LaPorte 42-35 in the matchup for the DAC title last Friday. QB Mike McCullough passed for 230 yards and led an offense of 500 yards, but it just wasn't enough. Michigan City gave up almost 500 yards rushing and they have allowed 23 points per game in DAC play. What they have to do now is forget about league play and start preparing for Mishawaka (7-1) in 5A Sectional 9. It doesn't matter that they host Crown Point (3-5) this Friday and open the playoffs against Elkhart Central on October 28. They need to be preparing for Mishawaka which, like LaPorte, is another hard-running team that is very difficult to defend.


4. (6A) Portage (5-3)
2015 (1-10), 2014 (1-9), 2013 (6-4), 2012 (3-7)


PORTAGE:  If the movement of Portage in this poll seems erratic, well, okay then. You explain Portage to me. The Indians upset Valparaiso at Valpo 24-21 last Friday as option QB Anthony Maceo gained 166 yards on 24 carries, but maybe I should have known. Portage is 1-3 at home this season and an unexplainable 4-0 on the road with wins at Chesterton (2-6), Crown Point (3-5), Lowell (4-4)and Valpo (5-3). But they got paddled 35-14 at home by Michigan City, a team that Valpo smoked. They got edged 20-14 at home by Michigan City, a team that hasn't won since that game five weeks ago. This year is already a success for Portage because they were 2-19 in the last two seasons. Portage cannot now have a losing season. For a team that hasn't won more than six games in 12 years, that's a big deal.

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


NEW CARLISLE: The Cougars had an unusual night in a 50-33 win in Walkerton against John Glenn (1-7). I don't know how John Glenn scores 33 points on New Prairie. That's a red flag. Every Cougar result so far this year (losses included) spoke highly of New Prairie until last Friday. The Cougars gave up 97 points all year and just 21 points to LaPorte. How can they give up 33 to a Glenn team that has lost seven games in a row? Now here comes Jimtown (5-3) in the final game of the season. New Prairie needs to bring the 'D' back off fall break before they get on the bus to Elkhart Friday. The good news: They drew (South Bend) Riley (1-7) to start the state tournament on October 21.


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

 Griffith extended their win streak to four in a row with a 28-13 home win over Andrean. QB Fred Winston completed six to Joe Martoccio, who scored two TDs and the Panthers intercepted Andrean QB Patrick Reardon three times. The Niners had 19 first downs, but Griffith scored 21 consecutive points in the second quarter. The victory ends Griffith's streaks of four losing seasons in a row and clinches the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) title. The last time Griffith won seven regular season games was 2007. If you want to look ahead to the 3A playoffs, Griffith is 5-1 against larger Class 4A schools. The Panthers close the season with a short ride up to East Chicago (6-1) this Friday and they host Glenn (1-7) on October 21. The Panthers would have to play a 3A Sectional 25 semifinal in Rensselaer.


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


HOBART: Hobart keeps winning and the loss to LaPorte (8-0) looks better every day. Nick Ray scored three more TDs in a come-from-behind 35-12 win over Morton. Ray has 13 TDs in eight games.
They've won the close ones 18-12 over Lowell and 19-14 over Munster. Defensively the Brickies have held six opponents to 14 points or less. To be honest, there are a half dozen teams (Griffith, Hobart, Portage, Lowell, New Prairie and Andrean) which have about the same record and are about as good. The Brickies didn't win the NCC, but Hobart traditionally doesn't care about league titles. Hobart gets Highland at home to end the regular season and they then have a very favorable path to the championship game in Class 4A Sectional 18.


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


LOWELL: I put Lowell in the on-deck circle this week, not because they failed, but because Hobart's resume looks a little better. Lowell rolled over Munster 41-10 Friday, the fourth time this year the Devils have won a game by 27 points or more. Running back Trevor Espravnik scored two more touchdowns and run his TD total to 13 on the season. Tight end Mitch Wildman caught two TD passes and the Devils' defense held an opponent to 10 points or less for the first time in eight weeks. I'll say it again. Lowell has lost close games to Griffith (6-2), Hobart (6-2), Portage (5-3) and Crown Point (3-5). I think they would win a rematch with all four of those teams. Lowell has a recent history of starting slow and finishing fast. It's happening again. The Devils travel to Andrean (4-4) this Friday and host Gary West Side (1-7) to start the state tournament.


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Revised: October 13, 2016 .