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FOOTBALL: 2011 Sectional Preview

Class 5A Sectional #1

The Favorite(s)

Lake Central – Improving their season win total by six from last year, the Indians have not only quickly come on the scene as DAC co-champions, but also have a chance to make some post-season noise. It’s been 12 year since LC has gotten out of the sectional and they’ve only played in two sectional championship games in that span. This year has a shot to be different, if they get out of the first round where they face DAC co-champion and co-favorite…


MerrillvilleThe only team to knock of Lake Central this year, the Pirates at least have the luxury of their first round matchup to be at home this time around. Merrillville had to replace a lot of skill position players from last season and they are clearly gelling after a slow start. While some members of this team may be inexperienced in the post-season, Coach Zac Wells and his staff surely aren’t and they’ll get the best out of this team starting Friday.


The Darkhorses

ValparaisoHave the Vikings underachieved this season? Yeah, even with the injuries they’ve suffered, a 4-5 record has to be disappointing to the Valpo faithful. Can we count them out as potential back-to-back sectional champions? Not quite. Andrew Kittridge is back to 100% and the Vikings got a nice draw with Portage in the first round and either Crown Point (who they’ve already beaten) or Munster in the second round. Valpo also has the extra motivation of playing for their coach. Veteran leader Mark Hoffman will retire after this year and there’s nothing the players would like more than to get him one last piece of hardware.


Crown PointA last second loss to Merrillville, plenty of missed opportunities against Valpo and an underachieving performance against LC are all that’s keeping Crown Point out of the Region’s elite. The Bulldogs have a winnable, but tough, Munster game in the first round and will meet Valpo (sorry Portage, we’re projecting) in the second. If the CP offense keeps clicking (they’ve scored 24 or more in four out of the last five weeks), this team has a great shot at making it to the sectional final, where anything can happen.


MunsterThe ‘Stangs are finally starting to play like the team we thought they’d be all season long. They may not even get out of the first round as they host a tough Crown Point team, but with wins over Morton & Lowell in recent weeks, Munster has to be more confident now than they’ve been all season long and you can’t discount that. I predicted the Mustangs to fall in the opener, but it wouldn’t shock me one bit if they pick up the “W” and advance to the semis.


Chesterton – Losers of four in a row and their in the darkhorse category? That might seem weird, but we can’t totally discount Chesterton just yet. Chris Katsafaros came back last week following an injury he suffered in Week #6 and his presence makes this offense very dangerous. Even if the quarterback isn’t 100% yet, they won’t need him to be this week as they got the draw that everyone in the sectional wanted – Michigan City. If Katsafaros can stay healthy and get this offense close to where they were during their four game winning streak earlier in the year, they have a chance to knock off either Merrillville or LC in the second round.


Getting Ready for Winter

PortageThis team has never been able to find any consistency. After a 55 point loss to Lake Central they beat Merrillville and followed that up with a 42 point loss to Crown Point…which they followed with a win over then-hot Chesterton. Does Portage have a shot of beating Valpo in the first round? Yeah, if they play their best game and Valpo struggles, they do, but it’s not likely.


Michigan CityFor the second straight year, Michigan City started the season with a big Week #1 win over Roosevelt…and not much else. The Wolves have been moved to Sectional #1 this year so at least they are familiar with their opponents, but judging by the regular season results, that might not be such a good thing.




The Favorite

Morton – The Govs are looking for their third straight sectional title and there’s no doubt that they are the favorite again this year. Out of the seven other teams in this sectional, Morton has faced five of them and are a perfect 5-0 and against the other two teams (EC Central & Roosevelt) the Govs would still be heavily favored. Make no mistake, this is Morton’s sectional to lose, especially since they’ll probably end up hosting all three games.


The Darkhorses

GriffithGriffith may have three losses, but they’ve come by a combined 19 points. The Panthers have won four out of five, with that only loss coming to Andrean by a touchdown, closer than anyone’s been to the Niners. This is a hungry team coming into the post-season after back-to-back disappointing exits. Things seem to be setting up perfectly for a Griffith-Morton sectional championship and I don’t think the Panthers would want it any other way.


Hammond High – Coming into the post-season with a 7-2 record, one can question how we put Hammond High into the Darkhorse category considering who their wins have come against and what happened when they played good teams this season. But, let’s do a little more projecting and assume that the ‘Cats get past Roosevelt in the first round and Griffith defeats Clark. A Hammond High sectional game at the Boneyard could bring up some bad memories from the Panthers and these coaching staffs are very familiar with one another, so they’ll be no surprises or trickeration, just playmaking ability and when it comes down to that, the ‘Cats have a shot.


EC Central – Like the Wildcats, EC Central is a real long shot in this Darkhorse category, but with the Cardinals athleticism and big play ability, we can’t totally count them out. Highland should prove to be little problem in the opening round and then they’ll probably have to take on Morton in the semis. That’s going to be a huge challenge for EC, but if anyone can compete athlete for athlete with Morton in this sectional, its probably the Cards.


Getting Ready for Winter

Roosevelt – Roosevelt kept it close with Hammond High for a half in their Week #4 meeting, but it took some big defensive plays to do it. The Panthers will have to hope Hammond High makes some more mistakes once again if they look to advance.


ClarkYear #1 in the post-Dave Verta era has been tough in Robertsdale. The Pionners won three out of their first four, but then proceeded to lose their final five, with only one game closer than two touchdowns. Clark has to travel to the Boneyard to open up the sectional which is a place won at since 1993.


HighlandThe Trojans couldn’t build off of their first NCC win over Kankakee Valley and looked lifeless against Hobart to close out the regular season, so why should we expect more when they host EC Central? Justin Thiele can do some nice things for Highland, but if they want to hold on to any hope of advancing, they are going to need to give him help. Any help.


West SideWhat a difference a year make. Just one season ago, West Side looked like a team on the rise as Alex Pratt led the Cougars to the Sectional Championship. This year, Pratt is gone and while West Side captured a conference title, another post-season run looks unlikely.




The Favorite

South Bend Washington – Washington enters this sectional with not only the best record of all the teams playing, but they also are coming off of a 24 point win over contender Mishawaka. The Eagles’ passing game with star receiver Gehrig Dieter should create some matchup problems, especially against Region teams who aren’t too familiar with an all out aerial attack.


The Darkhorses

MishawakaThe Cavemen come in as losers of two in a row, but they have the elements that make a team dangerous in the post-season and that’s good line play and the ability to run the football. If Mishawaka’s defense, which gives up nearly 30 points a game, at least slows down some teams and allows their offense to control time of possession, it could be an impressive 4A debut for the Cavemen.


LowellTwo weeks ago, I probably would have put Lowell in the favorite category, but uninspiring performances against both Munster and Andrean drop the Devils into this area. The good news for Lowell is that their first round opponent, Mishawaka, is also struggling a little heading into this game and the winner will be heavily favored in the semis. So for the Devils, it looks like either a sectional championship run or a second straight first round exit.


South Bend Clay – Clay is 5-4 on the year, but they’ve really only taken one bad loss, which came to LaPorte in Week #2. The other Colonial defeats were to undefeated Penn, to SB Washington by two points and by 3A state title contender SB St. Joseph’s. Look for another Clay-Washington matchup in the second round unless Hobart upsets the Colonials in the opener.


Getting Read for Winter

HobartMaybe the Brickies can build a little momentum off of their Week #9 win over Highland and advance to the second round. Hobart might be making a quarterback change after Sam Kosich was impressive running the offense with a ground-led attack and their offense got going, but they won’t be playing the Trojans again this week.


Kankakee Valley – Brad Stewart looks to be building something at Kankakee Valley, but it’s going to take some time. A better draw would’ve given KV a chance to advance as they’ve already beaten Hobart while New Prairie and Riley are beatable, but getting Washington in the first round looks like it’ll be the fifth straight opening round exit for KV.


New Prairie – The Cougars started off 0-5 but have now win three out of four to give themselves a little momentum heading into the post-season. Granted none of those wins came against teams that had no more than two wins, but it beats being 0-9.


SB Riley – Riley hasn’t won a game since their Week #3 victory over Gavit, but drawing New Prairie in the first round gives the Wildcats a shot at making a semi-finals appearance. Anything further than that? Not much of a shot.



The Favorite

Mishawaka Marian – St. Joseph’s might be the 3A runner up from 2010, but Maraian’s win over the Indians in Week #6 give them the nod as the favorite. Marian hasn’t lost since Week #4 and it looks likely that they’ll host the championship game.


The Darkhorse

John Glenn – Similar to last year, Glenn comes into the sectional with a 7-2 mark with their losses coming to Jimtown and Bremen. That didn’t do them much good as the fell hard to Andrean, but luckily for the Falcons, the Niners are gone, but things aren’t too much easier as a matchup at Marian in the semi-finals is highly probably.


SB St. Joseph’s – The Indians are another 7-2 team in this sectional with their only losses at the hands of Marian and Penn – two pretty good teams. There’s really nothing stopping St. Joe’s from advancing to the sectional championship for either a rematch against Marian or a showdown vs. Glenn.


Getting Ready for Winter

Lew Wallace – Wallace hasn’t won since September 16 and have only beaten one tournament eligible team and that was Boone Grove. The Hornets have a tough draw with SB St. Joseph’s coming to Gary on Friday night in a game that can get out of hand early.


Gavit – The Gladiators took a step forward this season and had the best chance out of all of the Region teams to advance a round in 3A if they got a decent draw, but they didn’t as they have to travel to John Glenn, so it looks like a one and done for the Glads for the sixth straight year.


Calumet – Calumet only has one win on the season, the team’s lowest since 2002, and unless they pull off one of the Region’s all-time biggest upsets against Mishawaka Marian, that’s where they’ll end up at.


Culver AcademyThe Eagles are 4-5 on the year and got the benefit of drawing 2-7 Knox in the first round, so an second round appearance looks good, but anything further than that is not looking so good.


Knox – Knox has a four game losing streak and although they play a below .500 team in the opening matchup that streak will probably extend to five.


The Favorite

Andrean – What else can we say about the 59ers? They’ve dominated the sectional round of the 3A tournament in the pat few years and now drop down to 2A where things shouldn’t change. I know Wheeler is undefeated and they Niners have them in the first round, but the real question for Andrean is not if they are going to win this sectional, it’s what is going to be their average margin of victory.


The Darkhorses

Wheeler – The Bearcats are here as a ceremonial spot as a nod to their regular season accomplishments. If Wheeler were on the other half of the bracket from Andrean and Nick Naspinski were healthy their chances post-season success might be taken more seriously, but they’re not and he’s not, so barring a huge upset, the Bearcats are out early again.


River ForestDo the Ingots really have a shot at winning this sectional? Probably not, but thanks to the draw, River Forest has a great chance at advancing to the sectional championship game and hosting it if Andrean advances that far. Who knows what can happen then? Well, we can make a pretty good guess, but it’s time for optimism in New Chicago, so let’s not get to that yet.


Getting Ready for Winter

RensselaerHit hard by graduation, the Bombers have been in rebuilding mode this year and it’s shown. Rensselaer makes the long drive up to Roosevelt to take on Bowman in the opener in a battle of 4-5 teams playing for the right to take on Andrean. Is there really a winner there?


Bowman – The Eagles offense was soaring (sorry for the pun) just a few weeks back, but some injuries have slowed them down and they’ve lost three straight. Like Rensselaer, a win pits them against Andrean in the second round and severely limits their tournament run.


Boone Grove – Playing in their first state tournament, Boone Grove is expected to struggle and unless they drew Lake Station in the first round, really doesn’t have much of a chance to advance. This is going to be a great learning experience for the Wolves as they learn the difference between regular season and post-season play, even if it’s only a one week lesson.


North NewtonThe Spartans have won three in a row and have an outside chance of advancing to the Sectional finals. If they face River Forest in the second round it will not an unwinnable game for North Newton by any means who only lost to the Ingots by 13, so a run to the sectional championship game is possible.


Lake StationThe one thing the Eagles have going for them is that they are playing their rival in the first round. Ok, so that rival beat them by 40 points in their meeting earlier in the season, but you have to expect that Lake Station is going to be a little more pumped up than if they were playing any other opponent. Maybe that gets them closer than 40.



The Favorite

South NewtonIt was only a year ago that the Rebels were 1-9 and out in the first round. This year? 8-1 and sectional favorites. Only one team has been within a touchdown of South Newton in those eight wins and they already have win over potential sectional foes Winamac, West Central & Tri-County. Bishop Noll in the first and either Winamac or South Central in the semis shouldn’t slow them down.


The Darkhorses

Whiting – The Oilers have won five out of their last six coming into the playoffs, but this is a young team and their playoff inexperience might haunt them either in the first round against West Central or in the semis where a matchup against Culver looks likely.


Culver Community – In the RSN Sectional Draw Show, Whiting Coach Jeff Cain said that he thinks the Sectional road still goes through Culver. Despite the Cavs’ 5-4 record, coach makes a great point. Culver’s losses were to West Central (not so great), Bremen (undefeated), Jimtown (7-2) & John Glenn (7-2), so this is a good team despite their record. Look for a run to the sectional championship game.


West Central – West Central is in a similar situation to Culver in that their record might not indicate how good their team is. The Trojans have lost to South Newton (8-1), Winamac in OT, North Judson in OT and Pioneer (9-0). Their matchup against Whiting in the first should be a good one.


Getting Ready for Winter

Bishop Noll – Another rough season for the Warriors and another early playoff exit with South Newton in the first round.


South Central – The defending sectional champions have a not-terrible 4-5 mark and a winnable game against Winamac in the first round, but its tough to see them get past South Newton.


Winamac – It’s a battle of 4-5 teams with the right to take on South Newton in the first round. Can I just copy and paste the Rensselaer Central description here?


Tri-County – Tri-County has won four games but hasn’t beaten anybody who’s won more than three. With a visit from Culver in the first round in a battle between two packs of Cavaliers that shouldn’t change.



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