The RENEGADE 'Magnificent-7':
2019 NW Indiana High School Football Week-9 Poll

A Special Report by Mark Smith



They're warming up that scoreboard at Merrillville this week. High scoring Chesterton (6-2) plays at Merrillville Friday and Class 6A No. 2 Jefferson (8-0) opens the state tournament at Merrillville the night of November 1. (Photo by Mark Smith)

VALPARAISO (10-14-2019) Okay, the draw is out for the 46th Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state football tournament. Some teams got lucky.

Some teams did not.

Let's talk first about those most fortunate.

Lowell is a young team that needed to avoid a quarterfinal against Hobart (6-2) or Morton (7-1). Too much. Too soon. The Devils drew a quarterfinal against Gary West Side (2-6) and a semifinal against ether Gavit (2-6) or Griffith (1-6). Then they can face EITHER Hobart or Morton, but obviously, not both. The Devils could not have drawn up their playoff path any better.

The Bulldogs could have opened the playoffs against arch-rival and 6A No. 7 Merrillville (7-1) or they could have drawn a slow boat to Lafayette to face 6A No. 2 Jefferson (8-0). Instead, Jeff is forced to play at Merrillville while CP gets a road game at sub-.500 Lake Central and a potential sectional title game on their home field. The Bulldogs have no complaints.

3. Calumet
The Warriors might have been the favorite in Class 3A Sectional 25 before the draw and they certainly are now. Calumet will open the playoffs on the road against Hammond (0-7) and they’re looking at a semifinal game against River Forest (4-4), a team they beat 44-0 last week. The Warriors, if all goes well, are also looking at a sectional championship game at home. Did you know that Calumet has NEVER won a sectional football championship. I didn't.

Let's take a look at those who hoped the draw would go better for them.

1. (Lafayette) Jefferson
Imagine you are undefeated and No. 2 in the state. The stands are full and the school is excited about you. ‘Maybe we can win state’, folks say. And then the IHSAA sends you 75 miles to the north to play a 7-1 team that lost its only game by one point. Jeff at Merrillville is a great matchup, but it's the nightmare scenario for both teams as far as a draw is concerned. One of the state’s 10 best teams is gong to be eliminated on opening night of the state tournament.

2. Munster
What can I say? The winless Mustangs could have been gifted with a winnable game against LaPorte (1-7) but that did not happen. Trying to avoid the first winless season in school history, Munster drew 5A No. 2 Valparaiso, the dominant team in NW Indiana this season. The Mustangs have two chances to beat Valparaiso. Slim and none.

3. Kankakee Valley
KV has a good team. They lost just 13-9 to Rensselaer (6-2). Just 21-14 to Lowell (5-3). So all they needed from the IHSAA was an easy quarterfinal game in 4A Sectional 18 against Logansport (1-7) or Clay (1-7) or maybe even St. Joseph’s (0-8). Would that have been so much to ask? But no. KV has to travel to one of the most difficult places in this part of the state to take on one of the tougher teams. KV at 4A No. 5 Plymouth (7-1) is the Kougars’ playoff opening assignment.

What did they do to deserve that?

Week nine will have poll implications because the teams ranked 2, 3 and 4 all face difficult assignments.

1. (5A) Valparaiso (8-0)
2018 (10-2), 2017 (8-2), 2016 (5-5), 2015 (7-3), 2014 (2-8)


VALPARAISO – Valpo rolled on last week with a 46-7 win over Portage and the Vikings can win an undisputed Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) championship in week nine with a win at home over Lake Central (3-5.) The Vikings’ last undefeated regular season was in 2010. Who will the Vikings play in the Class 5A Sectional 9 semifinals on November 2? It's Munster (0-8). And the rich get richer.


2. (6A) Merrillville (7-1)
2018 (7-4), 2017 (1-9), 2016 (5-6), 2015 (7-5), 2014 (6-6)


MERRILLVILLE – The Pirates pulled away from Lake Central 41-21 to stay one game back of Valparaiso in the DAC. Merrillville posted 392 total yards and 22 first downs. Now the bad news: In Class 6A Sectional 1, Merrillville draws undefeated Jefferson (8-0), one of the state’s most feared (55 points per game) offensive teams. The home finale this week against pass-happy Chesterton (6-2) will be a good warm up for Jeff.


3. (4A) New Prairie (8-0)
2018 (7-4), 2017 (11-2), 2016 (9-3), 2015 (6-4)


NEW CARLISLE – The Cougars rolled over (South Bend) Riley 48-14 to stay undefeated. That’s the fifth time this year the Cougars have scored 40 points or more. The Cougars play at Elkhart Central (6-2) Friday night in search of that 9-0 season. And New Prairie will have familiarity with their Class 4A Sectional 18 first round opponent. That team is: Riley (4-4). Same team they played last week. The Cougars got a favorable draw.


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


CHESTERTON – The Trojans raced to a 27-7 lead and eased on down the road to beat Crown Point 27-14. Seven more catches each for top receiver Ben Slatcoff and 6-foot-6 end Jake Warren.
But it gets tougher. The Trojans close the regular season on the road at mighty Merrillville (8-1) and the word is out that Chesterton’s 6A Sectional 2 semifinal opponent is Warsaw (7-1). Did you know that Chesterton has never won a sectional football championship?


5.) (4A) Morton (7-1)
2018 (9-3), 2017 (8-3), 2016 (4-7), 2015 (6-5)


HAMMOND – The good news for Morton was that they laid the smack down on East Chicago 47-3 last week, the Governors’ seventh consecutive win. Morton has now scored 45 points or more five weeks in a row. The draw didn't go as well as the Governors had hoped. In Class 4A Sectional 17, Morton will host a Hobart (6-2) team that has won six games in a row. If the Governors are to win 4A Sectional 17, they’ll have to do it the hard way.


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


HOBART – Hobart coasted past outmanned Munster 65-0 to clinch a share of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) championship last week. And the Brickies quickly turned the page to a week nine matchup with Lowell (5-3) with the undisputed NCC title on the line. Good thing. Hobart won't want to think about that draw in Class 4A Sectional which sends the Brickies to high-flying Morton (7-1) for a difficult quarterfinal game on opening night of the state tournament, October 25.


7.) Crown Point (4-4)
2018 (5-7), 2017 (7-5), 2016 (6-6), 2015 (1-9), 2014 (8-2)


CROWN POINT – I can't put Boone Grove (8-0) in this poll. Not with that schedule. Go look at the Wolves’ schedule. I was thinking about ranking Rensselaer (6-2), but the Bombers have beaten two winless (0-8) teams the last two weeks. Would they really beat Crown Point?  So I’m staying with the Bulldogs. The losses are to Valpo (8-0), Merrillville (7-1), Chesterton (6-2) and Lowell (5-3). The wins are over four teams they should have beaten, to be honest. But CP has rallied in the second half of all four of those losses. They were tied with Merrillville and Valpo in the fourth quarter. CP ends the regular schedule with a home game against an unpredictable Michigan City (4-4) team, but there is good news. CP drew Lake Central (3-5) in the Class 6A Sectional 1 semifinals. And more importantly from a CP standpoint, ranked powers Jefferson (8-0) and Merrillville (7-1) must play each other in the opposite half of the Sectional 1 bracket.


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Revised: October 14, 2019 .