I can’t believe the regular season is over. It flew by way too fast. I know they move at the same pace every season, but it seems like this one went by way too quick. We saw plenty of great games, great players, and had plenty of great arguments on the message board.
Crown Point ran the table for the second straight season in the Duneland. Hobart won the LAC Black and snapped Griffith’s 17-game regular season winning streak along the way. Kankakee Valley won the LAC Blue and ended Whiting’s impressive 20-game conference winning streak.
Dave Verta made believers at Clark, Craig Buzea got Portage turned around after a terrible start, and Lake Central won its first game (actually two) in the DAC after going three years without one. And we saw the end of the Lake Athletic Conference as we know it. It was definitely a season to remember around the Region for a lot of reasons.
I’m one guy not too crazy about change, but it’s part of life so you have to move on. That’s why I’m putting the regular season behind me and moving on to the playoffs. Nine weeks down, six to go. Let’s hope we have a Region team or two (or five for that matter) playing for all the marbles down in Indy. I know it’s wishful thinking, but Lowell sure surprised more than a few of us last fall.
I’m going on record right now saying nobody gets past the semistate up north and plays on the turf Thanksgiving weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Crown Point take on Warren University (I mean Central) in the Class 5A title game; I want Wally McCormack to take Hobart all the way and drive back with the program’s fifth state title; I want to see Griffith run the option against Chatard on the carpet; I want Mark Peterson to guide Bishop Noll to the school’s first state title since 1989; and I’d give my right arm to see Jeff Cain and the Whiting Oilers deliver the goods in Class A.
Even though we have five chances, I don’t see it happening. If I was picking the five state champs today, this is what I see: Warren Central (5A), Concord (4A), Indianapolis Chatard (3A), Jimtown (2A) and Sheridan (A).
So before I waste anymore of your valuable time here goes my predictions for the 2006 sectionals in Northwest Indiana.
* Class 5A, Sectional 1: Crown Point is 14-0 in the DAC over the last two seasons, the Bulldogs have beaten six of the opponents in the field, Blake Mascarello is 15-0 as a starter, and the team has been No. 1 in the Region Sports poll from start to finish.
But as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.” I’m taking the scariest team in the field right now and the one nobody wants to play – the Portage Indians. They lost 17-10 to CP in Week 5, but have won four straight since.
* Class 4A, Sectional 9: Hobart, Hobart and Hobart. Did I say Hobart? The most balanced team in the LAC Black is the best team, without a doubt, in the field. Sure, Lowell hung tough in that 7-0 loss, but the Brickies can turn it on and off like a light switch. I’m sticking with the favorite in this one. I believe Hobart will run the table and win the program’s first sectional – believe it or not – in nine years.
* Class 3A, Sectional 17: I’ve been very impressed and very disappointed by the play of the Griffith Panthers this season. I thought they looked unstoppable against the likes of Morton, Lowell and Andrean, but then I saw how they couldn’t move the ball at all against Hobart. Some are saying that loss was the best thing that could have happened. Others ask me how losses can help you. Either way, I still think the Panthers are the best team in the field by a landslide. And I don’t think they’ll see a team as good as Hobart until the semistate.
* Class 2A, Sectional 25: As much as I want to see Bishop Noll win the program’s second sectional title, you can’t go against tradition. North Judson doesn’t rebuild, it reloads. The Bluejays will fly high once again.
* Class 1A, Sectional 33: The sentimental favorite is Whiting, but you have to bet with your head, not your heart. South Newton hasn’t lost a game and the Oilers haven’t won a sectional in nine years. I believe Whiting has a great shot, but it always seems to be snake-bitten in the tournament.