IHSAA State Football tournament set to kickoff: Class by Class Guide

Jared Rigdon, Print Editor-in-Chief

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2017 IHSAA State Tournament Preview

After watching nine weeks of regular season MIC football, it’s finally time for some sectional football. 6A and most of 5A will have to wait a week, but the other four classes get started today. North Star editor-in-chief Jared Rigdon looks at each 6A Sectional and takes his shot at the state title picks. Find your guide to picking your bracket below with key information to help you through the tournament.

 

Sectional Previews (6A):

  • Sectional 1: In a rather down year for this sectional, Crown Point and Portage stand out above the rest. Crown Point was downed 27-10 by Portage earlier in the season, but have caught some momentum as of late. Portage remains consistent and is playing solid football heading into the sectionals. Pick: I’ll take Crown Point 27-24 over Portage.
  • Sectional 2: If you’re in Northern Indiana in two weeks, you may want to make your way over to Valparaiso High School. These two teams play tough, hard nosed football and met Week 1 in a 12-7 win for Valpo. Since then, the Kingsmen have won 8 straight while Valpo’s only blemish is to Crown Point. The most impressive stat here, the Valpo defense. The Vikings only give up 9.2 ppg and have only given up double digit points three times the entire season. The Penn offense is in a groove right now, but Valpo has stood strong all year. This should be one of the best first round matchups. On the other side stands a stalemate matchup between evenly matched Chesterton and Warsaw. The winner there gets the right to take on a very good team on the opposite side. Pick: Give me Penn 34-10 over Warsaw.
  • Sectional 3: This is the last sectional that completely stretches out of Central Indiana. Fort Wayne Snider, in the same case as Westfield, is up to the top class of high school football. Per usual, the Panthers’ offense is impeccable, moving the ball down field with remote ease. Snider, ranked No. 2 in the state, is among Lafayette Jeff and Ben Davis as the only remaining undefeated teams left in 6A. Homestead, led by senior quarterback Jiya Wright with 2922 total yards, has only one loss on the season. The Spartans fell to Snider 52-31 earlier in the season at Lucas Oil Stadium. Homestead outside of that, untouched, putting up 44 ppg and only giving up 19.4. With a defense that stays strong and an offense that score with Snider, don’t look past the Spartans. On the other side sits the always dangerous Fort Wayne Carroll ballclub and a 2-7 Northrop team that played Snider to the edge back in the regular season. The winner here will have their hands full with the other matchup winner, but Fort Wayne games have the tendency to be high scoring, something that either of these teams could benefit from. Pick: Give me Fort Wayne Snider over Carroll 45-10. This Panther ball club has lots of power and is very dangerous.
  • Sectional 4: Don’t let the records deceive you here. Yes, Lafayette Jefferson sits unblemished on the season at 9-0, but that comes against a schedule marked with Richmond, Tech, Muncie Central and zero class 6A schools. To put it fairly, the schedule for the Bronchos hasn’t exactly been a gauntlet. Carmel on the other hand has seen what the MIC has to offer and has even gone out of state to meet national power Louisville Trinity. Jake McDonald and Camari Hunt lead an offense that knows how to put up points often when necessary. Beau Robbins has thoroughly impressed at the defensive end position including a game against Lawrence North where Robbins forced LN QB Derin McCulley out of the pocket all night. Carmel seems to have the edge over a Noblesville team led by all purpose player Ryan Barnes who will be counted on to make big plays against a talented Greyhound defense. Westfield is the one team flying under the radar in this sectional. Last year’s 5A state champion finds themselves in 6A and will most likely meet the reality of top level competition in a matchup with the Greyhounds for a sectional title. Pick: Carmel over Westfield 20-17 as the Greyhounds look to repeat at State.
  • Sectional 5: This could perhaps be the most wide open sectional in the state. As of two weeks ago, all four teams were deadlocked at 3-4 overall. One would have to consider Pike the favorite. The Red Devils, who have already blown out Fishers 43-0 and North Central 45-28, seem to be clicking at the right time. Quarterback Jordan Garrett and running back Reggie Lipscomb are powering Pike to 32 ppg, including 46 in a momentum changing win over Lawrence Central. The Red Devils are riding a three game win streak and will start off with the Panthers. The Pike defense, led by Eastern Michigan commit E.J Williams, will have to deal with first year North Central coach Kevin O’Shea’s offense led by running back George Stokes, wide receiver Cole Maguire and quarterback Liam Thompson. The Panthers have the ability to get hot quick and when they do, George Stokes can be one of the top backs in the class. The junior has second level speed that will cause Pike problems if they can’t contain it early. The winner of this matchup seems to be the favorite to win. HSE and Fishers on the other side have had their struggles against the MIC programs. Fishers beat HSE 20-14 in the third week of the season. Fishers has losses to both Pike and North Central.  Pick: I’ll take Pike over North Central in a high scoring affair and then Pike over Fishers for the title 38-17.
  • Sectional 6: Ben Davis is the clear state favorite in the highest class and is one of two undefeated schools in 6A. Reese Taylor, Johnny Adams and Broc Thompson lead an offense that puts up 47.1 ppg and has only scored below 40 once this season. Ben Davis has run through their three sectional opponents (Warren Central 45-16, LN 41-8 and LC 42-7) already with little sweat broken. While BD is the overwhelming top-dawg, Warren Central and their high powered offense of David Bell, Dean Tate, Jayden George and Dijour Griffie, just to name a few, have been rolling lately. The Warriors haven’t lost since that mid-September visit to Ben Davis, recording wins over Carmel and Detroit River Rouge in that period. Granted both schools get past the two Lawrence Schools (LN at 2-7 and LC at 6-3), Ben Davis and Warren Central will meet with a Regional Spot on the line. Pick: Ben Davis over Warren Central, 45-31
  • Sectional 7: In a Sectional with teams that escaped the wrath usually brought by Ben Davis and Warren Central, this could perhaps be the most offensively entertaining sectional in the southern half of the bracket. Outside of a Perry Meridian team, who has just struggled brutally this season, each team could see itself hoisting the trophy. Avon, who averages 43.4 ppg, is led by wide receiver standout Isaac Guerendo, who has the quick play ability to change a game in a matter of minutes. Avon only has two losses the entire season, an early season loss to undefeated Ben Davis and a one touchdown loss to Fishers in September. The offense has turned itself around and is quickly putting up mass amounts of points. The Orioles defeated sectional foe by 41 earlier in the season. Avon will take on a Southport team in the first round who hasn’t given up more than 28 points all season. The Cardinals went 5-2 in conference after dropping non-conference matchups to Westfield and Roncalli. Southport won’t stand out on paper, but will consistently find ways to win ballgames. In a game where flash may be key, Southport may have trouble keeping up with this high powered Avon offense. Since that early September loss to Avon, Brownsburg has been nearly unstoppable, never giving up more than 16 points and never scoring less than 35. The Bulldogs, led by senior Kyle Strakis, have an offense that’s only been stifled by Avon and a once healthy Lawrence North squad. Brownsburg should have no problem putting up a cool amount of points on Perry Meridian. If the Bulldogs stay healthy and keep their offense going, we could be in line for a much different battle with Avon and Brownsburg in the Sectional Final. Pick: Give me Avon over a hot Brownsburg team 42-38  in a class Hendricks County offensive slugfest.
  • Sectional 8: Hard nosed, defensive struggle and ground and pound football is what you can expect from this sectional. Center Grove moves to the far most southern sectional and finds itself in unfamiliar position, the perceived underdog. Franklin Central (8-1) was a conference champ. Columbus North (8-1), a game behind them after dropping a close affair earlier in the season. Center Grove will need to look to freshman running back Carson Steele if they have any plans of making a third straight state title. The freshman has shown he can compete with the best of defenses in the state (Warren Central and Carmel). The Trojans lack their usual size that makes their wing-t offense special, but always seem to turn it on when the lights shine brightest. Franklin Central seems to be the biggest surprise in the class this year, turning on the jets to a 8-1 regular season performance. They won’t stretch the ball down field, but their offense will put up points before you notice. These two teams won’t sparkle, but this game should be surrounded by much hype. The Flashes aren’t often the favorite, but will have the benefit of hosting the Trojans in a week. On the other side, Jeffersonville might be in for a long night. Columbus North is dealing with internal issues stemming from a confrontation between two coaches, but will physically and mentally outmatch a Jeffersonville team that hasn’t even played a 6A school and has gotten blown out by 5A teams Columbus East and Cathedral. Pick: I’ll take Franklin Central over a slightly undermatched Center Grove team, and then the Flashes will slip by Columbus North 28-24 to take on Avon in the Regionals.

 

6A Regional Picks:

  • Penn over Crown Point 35-17
  • Snider over Carmel 37-30
  • Ben Davis over Pike 40-14
  • Avon over Franklin Central 45-31

 

6A Semistate Picks:

  • Snider over Penn 27-20
  • Ben Davis over Avon 34-17

 

6A State Championship

  • Ben Davis over Snider 52-49

 

State Picks (All Classes):

  • Class 6A: Ben Davis over Snider 52-49
  • Class 5A: Roncalli over New Pal 31-27
  • Class 4A: Evansville Central over Lowell 20-17
  • Class 3A: West Lafayette over Cardinal Ritter 34-10
  • Class 2A: Scecina over Woodlan 27-14
  • Class A: Pioneer over North Central (Farmersburg) 42-17

 

Top Players to Watch:

  • Reese Taylor (2569 total yards) QB, Ben Davis
  • Tor’jon Evans (2005 rushing yards) RB, Evansville Central
  • Da’ziaun Sargent (1479 rushing yards) RB, Evansville Reitz
  • Issac Guerendo (1043 receiving yards, 13 TD’s) WR, Avon
  • Eddie Dziennik (141 Tackles) ILB, Noblesville
  • Zach Neligh (2657 total yards) QB, New Palestine  

 

Best First Round Matchups:

  • Ben Davis at Lawrence Central
  • Evansville Central at Evansville Reitz
  • Roncalli at Cathedral
  • Brebeuf Jesuit at Guerin Catholic
  • Penn at Valpo

 

Storylines to Watch:

  • Ben Davis looks to go undefeated through top class
  • Snider and Westfield in first 6A Tournaments
  • Can Cathedral escape early traps?
  • What teams will continue their hot streaks?
  • Evansville Reitz and Central battle it for 4A bid?
  • Can New Pal break through in a higher class?

 

Sleeper Teams:

  • 6A: Carmel
  • 5A: Columbus East
  • 4A: Greenwood
  • 3A: Cardinal Ritter
  • 2A: Shenandoah
  • 1A: North Central Farmersburg
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