Week 1 Picks - 2016 NW Indiana High School Football

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

August 18, 2016

Week one is rivalry week in Northwest Indiana. In Crown Point, the CP students dress up as farmers to welcome their friends from the south end of Lake County. Lowell and Crown Point have been playing football for over 100 years. (Photo by Mark Smith)

'Mr. Picker' (Through the Years)
2015 (final) OVERALL: 131 of 174 = 75.2%
2014 (final) OVERALL: 131 of 176 = 74.4%
2013 (final) OVERALL: 130 of 175 = 74.2%

2012 (final) OVERALL: 137 of 177 = 77.4%

2011 (final) OVERALL: 134 of 184 = 72.7%
2010 (final) OVERALL: 135 of 184 = 73.3%
2009 (final) OVERALL: 154 of 212 = 72.6%
2008 (final) OVERALL: 145 of 193 = 75.1%
2007 (final) OVERALL: 143 of 188 = 76.0%
2006 (final) OVERALL: 166 of 217 = 76.4%
2005 (final) OVERALL: 170 of 233 = 72.9%


Mr. Picker 2016 WEEK (1) ONE:

CROWN POINT (08-19-2016) I am your old uncle.

I'm the old guy who complains about how there's too many TV channels and you cant find the ball game. All those kids with all those crazy tattoos. What are they doing with that ink on themselves? I still watch reruns of Johnny Carson's old Tonight Show every night and he's been off the air for 24 years. Not to mention dead for the last 11 years. And the world would be better if everybody just decided to stay off Twitter. Can we go back to the old days when everybody didn't know your every little thought?

I don't like change and I don't want it. Everything should always stay the same.

Except when it comes to high school football scheduling.

Year after year. Decade after decade. Teams are locked into the same opponents. Until next year. There will be change. And it's all because of Griffith.

The Panthers will leave the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) and pick on schools their own size in the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC). It's a good move for the school, which was beginning to be overmatched in a lot of sports in the NCC due to enrollment.

But in football, Griffith's move shakes things up. The NCC will have six teams so NCC teams will have only five league games in a nine-game regular season. Andrean, Lowell, Munster, Highland, Hobart and Kankakee Valley will all need to find one new team to play. Who's it going to be?

Look at Lowell, for example. They face Crown Point, Portage and Morton in nonconference play. If Griffith can't play Lowell anymore (a shame since those schools have met every year Griffith has had football), who do they face?

Munster plays Chesterton, Lake Central and Morton in nonconference play. If Griffith drops them to play GSSC foes, who will the Mustangs play? A third Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) team?
I'm sure all the NCC schools have made plans and I just don't know what they are yet. Also, you have to twist your schedule to get open dates for teams that want to meet. But, if the dates could match, here's some thoughts on games that would add a little spice to the same old schedule.

Lowell vs. Rensselaer. They played two decades ago in the old Northwest Hoosier Conference. Lowell would have a 2-to-1 enrollment advantage, but no more so than Crown Point has against Lowell. Both programs go back 100 years and football is the premier team sport in both schools. Lowell-Rensselaer games would be sold out and both football towns would circle that night on the schedule.

Andrean vs. Morton. I'm told the reason they didn't play is because coach Phil Mason (Andrean) and Roy Richards (Morton) didn't want to go against each other. Now both Mason and Richards have moved on and there's no reason this local matchup cannot be held. Annually, these teams both put points on the board and I think this match would be well-attended. Andrean is the only NCC school Morton does not presently play.

Munster vs. Crown Point. These are old Lake Suburban Conference foes. Munster is a much smaller school, but not as big as Lake Central, a school Munster plays every season. I don't know this, but I think the Mishawaka-Crown Point series is tough travel for both sides. Here's another match that would be a sellout most years.

These games may not happen, but some new matchups will. Griffith cannot play their GSSC foes and keep the old games against NCC teams. And most NCC teams play DAC squads already. If I find out in the weeks to come, I'll mention some of the new games that must be scheduled in 2017.

Week one is always rivalry week in Indiana high school football. The Fort Wayne schools meet. The two Elkhart schools meet. Route 30 neighbors Warsaw and Columbia City play. South Newton plays North Newton. This is the week when friends and neighbors get together and roll around in the dirt. It's their way.

I'm going to leave some games out. Bishop Noll was 0-10 last year. They won't beat Hanover Central this Friday. Gary West Side has no chance against Hobart. Calumet's new stadium isn't ready yet and they won't be beating Gavit so it's just as well. Boone Grove plays Wabash and I can't find out anything about Wabash except that it sits next to one heckuva river.

Mr. Picker 2016 WEEK (1) ONE:

Valparaiso at Penn:
OSCEOLA (08-19-2016)
Valpo took a lot of graduation hits off a 7-3 team and that team lost 34-0 to Penn. The Kingsmen went 12-2 losing the state title game to Center Grove. Valpo QB Jake Leffew is new, so the Vikings will have to rely on linebackers Bobby Lee (89 tackles) and Patrick Olson (65 tackles), defensive back Jay Bisacky (5 interceptions) and pass rusher Michael Mann (4 sacks). Penn is ranked No. 4 in Class 6A and they have not had a losing season since 1972. This won't end well for the Vikings.

Penn 28, Valpo 0

Michigan City at Griffith:

GRIFFITH (08-19-2016)
Griffith returns 13 starters from a 4-7 team, but the quarterback is new, either Joey Martoccio or Fred Winston. The Panthers did win three of their last five last season. Michigan City brings back senior running backs Markice Hurt (112 rushes, 737 yards, 6 TDs) and Aryuan Cain-Veasey (91 caries, 659 yards, 5 TDs). MC was 2-7 last year, but they split their last four. The Wolves should run away with this one.

Michigan City 34, Griffith 21

South Central at Lake Station:

UNION MILLS (08-19-2016)
Lake Station returns 16 starters, including quarterback Richie Santos (50 of 129, 714 yards) and receiver Luis Martinez (27 catches, 418 yards, 2 TDs). South Central was 5-5 last year with halfback Brett Hoover, tight end Garrett Hewlett (19 catches, 315 yards) and most of the offensive line. Lake Station has only won 19 games in 11 years, so I'm kind of running against the wind here. But take the home team with the returners from last season.

Lake Station 28, South Central 20

Kokomo at Chesterton:

CHESTERTON (08-19-2016)
Kokomo was 12-1 last year and they lost to the state champ Snider. Chesterton was 9-2, but they graduated most of that team. I expect to see halfback Rhett Rondinelli (33 catches, 387 yards, 7 TDs) get the ball a lot, but the key is new QBs Cory Boren and Andrew Zimmerman. The Kats return QB Kyle Wade (83 of 140, 1,419 yards, 14 TDs, 7 INTs) and 185-pound halfback Keenan Wheeler (133 rushes for 1,220 yards, 12 TDs).

Kokomo 28, Chesterton 14

East Chicago at Hammond:

HAMMOND (08-19-2016)
EC was 6-6 last season and they did lose 47-16 to Hammond last August. The Wildcats went on from that win to a 10-2 record, Hammond's best in 21 years. The Wildcats graduated most of that team. New quarterback Jaylen Schleicher (6-6, 220) may be good, but this is his first start. EC may have Northwest Indiana's best offensive player in Devontae Jones, who ran for (1,660 yards and 18TDs) while throwing for 1,561 yards and 15 more TDs in 2015. EC just joined the Great Lakes Athletic Conference (GLAC) so they are league rivals with Hammond bringing back memories (for old folks) of the days when EC football and Hammond football were state powers. I'm guessing the East Chicago boys remember last year's game.

East Chicago 48, Hammond 24

Andrean at Merrillville:

MERRILLVILLE (08-19-2016)
The 59ers take the short drive up Broadway with QB Patrick Reardon back from 2015. Merrillville breaks in a new QB, sophomore Cameron Wright. But they return some defense with linebacker Moses Johnson (120 tackles) and Anthony Sams (109 tackles). Did you know that Andrean has defeated Merrillville three years in a row? That ends Friday.

Merrillville 24, Andrean 16

LaPorte at New Prairie:

NEW CARLISLE (08-19-2016)
The Slicers travel (if you call it that) to take on their pals from 'suburban LaPorte' (Suburban LaPorte is a nice way of saying that New Carlisle is a nice little town in the middle of nowhere). New Prairie was 6-4 last year, but two of the losses were to Andrean. LaPorte was 6-4 last year with losses to powers Lake Central, Merrillville, Chesterton and Penn. Both of these teams can run the ball against the other. LaPorte's new QB Nolan Lorenz may not throw the ball for 500 yards, but he'll get into the end zone.

LaPorte 35, New Prairie 21

Rensselaer at Kankakee Valley:

WHEATFIELD (08-19-2016)
The only two public schools in Jasper County go head to head in a rematch of KV's 29-8 win last year. KV's new QB is junior Nick Schoonveld, a converted defensive back. KV will have good size, but they won't see the offensively-challenged Bombers of 2015. QB Jaylen Gilbert (6-4, 180) is back for Rensselaer, as is running back Jordan Owens (66 carries, 321 yards) and middle linebacker Luke Branson (60 tackles). I'll take the visitors in a close one.

Renssealer 21, KV 20

Mishawaka at Portage:

PORTAGE (08-19-2016)
Portage was 0-9 last year when they upset Lake Central in the sectional. But Mishawaka was 8-4 last year, 9-3 the year before and 9-4 the year before that. The Cavemen return six defensive starters including Devin Wakes (6-3, 185) at free safety. Portage returns 15 starters including QB Anthony Maceo (37 of 87, 518 yards). Look, I don't know anything about any games the first week, but this one seems to be a sucker's bet. Mishawaka is 37-15 the last four years. They wouldn't lose to a team that was 1-9 last year, would they? I think they might.

Portage 24, Mishawaka 21

Munster at Lake Central:

ST. JOHN (08-19-2016)
Did you know that Munster has defeated next door neighbor Lake Central three years in a row? And each time, I remember thinking LC would and should win. Both teams start new QBs, but LC has some top caliber receivers and running backs and I don't know how Munster holds them all back. LC's Austin Atkins (57 catches for 795 yards and 10 TDs) and Josh Benson (57 catches for 977 yards and 7 TDs) can't be covered all night on the artificial turf in good weather. But I've said that before.

Lake Central 29, Munster 14


CROWN POINT (08-19-2016)
Here's another 1-9 team at home looking for redemption against a team that beat them in 2015. But when it's your South Lake County rival, it's a little different. CP returns QB Grayson Lynk and top tackler Don Schuch. The Devils start a new QB in Dayton Hornickel, but they have a lot of boys who can break long runs, including 200-pound sprinter Jordan Jusevitch. CP never gets blown out by Lowell. They just don't. But The Devils should win a defensive struggle.


Saturday night...
Whiting at Clark:

HAMMOND (08-20-2016)
The final game of 'Rivalry Week' sends the defending 2A champ Oilers a little ways north to ancient rival Clark. With Stuart Glascow (113 of 191, 1,903 yards, 17 TDs) back at QB for Whiting, Clark will be on the defensive here quickly. Clark was 0-10 last year and was outscored 466-52. Even in the opener and a rivalry battle, Clark doesn't have enough depth to stay with the Oilers.

Whiting 42, Clark 8

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Revised: August 18, 2016 .