September 19, 2019

FOOTBALL: RSN Top 10 – Week #1

This is year six in the return of Hanover Central football and while it may not lead to a 10-1 season like the 2016 campaign, it should be an impressive year for the ‘Cats of Cedar Lake. With Tyler Fruehling (16 passing TDs last year) and Brett Driscoll (led team in all-purpose yards) back for Hanover, this team should be able to put some points on the board. Driscoll also led the team in tackles with 101 and Michael Simon returns after leading the team in sacks, so there’s experience defensively as well.

For the first time since the 2012 season, Andrean is back in Class 2A, having spent the last six seasons in either 3A or 4A. While the Niners may have dropped due to enrollment, don’t expect there to be a drop in talent. Yes, they have some big holes to replace (Zack Merrill & Cam Williams among others), but the term “reload, not rebuild” was seemingly created for this program. Andrean hasn’t won a sectional since 2014, a long drought for them, could that change this year?

Possibly no team was hit harder by graduation losses than the Lowell Red Devils, who lost approximately 19 starters from a season ago. But still, as the five time defending sectional champions, one of the most decorated Region football programs of the 21st century, and with the longest tenured head coach in NWI, Lowell gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to pre-season rankings. There will be inexperienced players all over the field and how they adapt to playing on Friday nights will determine if the Devils move up, or out, of the poll.

Talk about walking a tight rope. Out of the Indians’ 10 games played in the 2018 season, seven of them were decided by 10 or fewer points. Portage went 4-3 in those games, but the bad news was that they dropped the final three of them, including a 12-7 playoff loss at Crown Point. Finishing strong has been a point of emphasis for the coaching staff this off-season, and if those lessons stick – watch out.

Quite possibly the most exciting team in the Region, the Morton Governors are going to be fun to watch each and every Friday. Between quarterback Credell Prather and wide receiver Jojo Johnson, among others, on offense, Morton very well could surpass the 33 points per game they put up in 2018. Don’t sleep on the defense either – there’s no shortage of talent on that side of the ball as well. The Govs haven’t won a sectional title since 2012, but entering the 2019 season, they might have to be considered the favorite in Sectional #17.

At what point do we realize that the regular season win-loss record doesn’t matter much for the Bulldogs? In 2016, they were 4-5 entering the tournament and won a sectional title. In 2017, they started the post-season with a 5-4 record…and won a sectional title. Last year, they were 3-6…and won….well you get the picture. While they’ve proven regular season marks don’t mean everything, the ‘Dogs should be improved record-wise thanks an offense that returns nine starters from a season ago. The defense will be inexperienced thanks to losing nearly every starter, so high point totals may be needed.

The last two weeks of the season in 2018 (a 34-7 loss to Lowell in Week #9 and a 35-7 loss to Mishawaka in the sectional opener) may have left a sour taste in the mouths of the Brickies and their fans, but year one of the Craig Osika regime has to be considered a success and a sign that Hobart is on the right track. Sal Valle will be tough to replace on both sides of the ball, as he was the team’s leading rusher and tackler last year, but there are plenty of play makers back along with a highly touted group of new Brickies ready to take this team to the next level.

While the teams ranked #1 and #2 are considered the top tier of both the Duneland and the Region, the Pirates aren’t too far behind when it comes to the upper echelon of teams. The dual quarterback system of Aahric Whitehead and Peter Rodriguez return to keep opposing defenses off balance and the defensive front, even with the loss of standout Justin Ramsey (Ball State), has the potential to be dominating. Valpo and City are the co-favorites to win the DAC, but when it’s all said it might be the Bucs who spoil the party.

Long described “a sleeping giant” of a program, the Wolves aren’t asleep anymore. They’ve made semi-state appearances in back-to-back seasons after never previously winning a sectional title. With Phil Mason at the helm, and a bevy of standout assistant coaches, City is going to be a force for years to come. Graduation losses will effect this team early in the season, especially on the offensive line where there are four new starters, but there’s no shortage of talent on the depth chart, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The Vikings were this close to a trip to Indianapolis last year, falling to Carmel 14-10 in the 6A Northern Semi-State. Valpo drops to 5A this year, thanks to success factor and consolidation, but the goals and expectations are still the same – this is a team with the talent, roster depth, and coaching to be in contention for a state title. Gang Green hasn’t been to state since 2001 – but don’t be shocked if that drought ends this year.

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