Somewhere between the final gun sounding the end of the games in Week Four and the opening kick-offs in Week Five, we cross the halfway point of the 2007 prep football season. And two weeks into conference play, Region fans have certainly been treated to some great ballgames.
Every week, there have been thrilling, down to the wire finishes. And more so than ever, it seems that on any given Friday, any given team can beat another. Now this could mean that the balance of power is more even than ever before. Or it could mean that Region football has taken a step forward in overall quality. But by the same token, it could mean that Region football has taken a step backward and become mediocre. And that is the question raised in my mind; how good is Region football?
Many fans will point to Merrillville’s upset of four-time defending 5A state champ Warren Central and say Region football is being played at a higher level than ever. But skeptics can also point out the fact that this isn’t the same Warren Central team that won four straight state titles.
And both would be right at the same time. No doubt, upsetting Warren Central is a significant win. But just the same, WC did graduate nine starters from last years’ team, their quarterback was making his first varsity start, their star running back didn’t play, and their record as of this writing is just 2-2. But a club like Warren Central just doesn’t fall from the elite of the state to the level of River Forest (no offense intended) overnight.
So the question still stands: How good is Region football? Proponents can point out that the RSN #1 ranked team has been beaten every week, jinx or no jinx (see Lannin’s Line – Week Three).
Lowell knocks off Crown Point in Week One, Crown Point knocks off Hobart and Merrillville in Weeks Two and Three respectively, and Griffith knocks Lowell out of the top slot in Week Four.
Crown Point was considered by most pundits as the most talented team in the area entering into the season, but are they a better or worse team than last year? Certainly the loss of talents like Tommy Parks, Jon Sertich and Matt Ernest has to hurt. But because the Bulldogs offense is different, does it make the team weaker? The loss of QB Matt Jansen the year before was big, too.
Merrillville was not on the radar screens of most fans at the start of the season as one of the elite, and offensively they have struggled; but the Pirate defense thus far has been dominating. The Purple Gang has played a murderous schedule through the first four games and has still been good enough to win three out of the four. But are they as good as the teams that had James Aldridge, Evan Parker and Dexter Larimore? Good question.
And Griffith. What can you say about Griffith? Just when the card carrying faithful were ready to hit the panic button after a rough early schedule that had the Panthers at 1-2, they win on the road in overtime in a game marred by controversy at the Inferno in Lowell; and against an RSN #1 rated Red Devil team that really wanted to give them a whipping after suffering shutout losses at the hands of the Panthers the last two years. So therefore, again, the question begs to be asked: How good is Griffith?
To me, the parity we see in Region football this year is indicative of a higher level of play. Maybe there isn’t that dominant, superstar team, but there aren’t too many patsies in the DAC and NCC either. What it means to me is that if you don’t watch out, teams like Andrean, Munster and Morton can beat you on any given Friday night.
At the very least, I think just about everyone would concede that playing the tough competition we have in the Region makes you a better football team. The perfect example is Lowell’s 4A state title two years ago after a 1-4 start. Who saw that coming?
But again, that’s only my opinion. Certainly, we won’t know conclusively how good Region football is this year until the tournament, when the Region can square off against opponents outside the area. But until then, it’s great fodder for discussion. What do you think? E-Mail me and let me know.
Chris Lannin can be e-mailed at email@example.com.