Preseason polls are always so subjective, but they do get folks talking.
For example, the MaxPreps Indiana Top 25 was released earlier this week. Blitz didn’t know this was actually a thing, but it’s out there, as are top 25 polls for every other state in America from the national site.
Blitz uses MaxPreps a lot. It is an invaluable tool when it comes to tracking down season statistics (for teams that take the time to actually update it) and finding proper spelling for kids’ names.
But for ranking teams in the state? Eh, not really a trusted source. The author is Eric Frantz, who is the senior writer for MaxPreps covering the state of Indiana. Problem is, he also covers six other states and Washington, DC.
So pardon Blitz if he doesn’t put much stock into Mr. Frantz’s opinion. It is impossible for anyone to be an expert on all things Indiana prep football, let alone almost a fifth of the country.
That said, what has people riled up in our area of the state is the fact that not a single northeast Indiana team made this preseason top 25 poll. Meanwhile, teams like Avon (1-9 in 2021) and Noblesville (2-8) found their way into the rankings.
Social media was ablaze with outrage.
“What about Carroll?”
“Northeast Indiana always gets ignored!”
Blitz isn’t here to tell you that some teams around here aren’t deserving to be in the MaxPreps top 25. Maybe a Snider or Carroll should be towards the back end of that poll.
But as far as some egregious and nefarious actions by MaxPreps? No.
Let’s talk Avon. Yes, it only won one game last year against Noblesville. But the Orioles reside in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference, the second-toughest (sorry SAC) football league in the entire state outside of the Metropolitan, with a growing case to be the most difficult overall.
Avon dropped 35 points on Ben Davis, 24 points on Westfield and lost by just 14 to Carmel in sectional. Area teams have lost 12 consecutive games to Carmel dating back almost two decades.
The last time a team from northeast Indiana knocked off the Greyhounds? Snider in 2004. Since then, 0-12 with an average losing margin of 22.5 points.
If you don’t think Avon is capable of beating every single team in this area, you need to get yourself out of the northeast Indiana bubble. At the conclusion of last season, Avon was ranked No. 29 in the Sagarin Ratings despite having just one win. The only local team ranked above them? Carroll at No. 20.
What about Noblesville? Also a member of the Hoosier Crossroads, the Millers started 2-0 last year before losing out. It’s a program that hasn’t had a winning season in 20 years.
But you know what Noblesville does have? A win against Westfield in 2018. The Shamrocks have won three straight games against northeast Indiana teams dating back to 2014. The average margin of victory in those three games – 20 points.
And for those wondering, Noblesville was No. 37 in the Sagarin.
The Sagarin is imperfect, Blitz knows. After all, last year’s final rankings had Adams Central No. 40 in the state (all due respect to the Flying Jets, they were WAY over-ranked).
So what’s the point of this column that’s taking Blitz (and our beloved readers) away from our countdowns of the top teams and players in the area? (Which is as subjective as a preseason top 25 poll, btw)
The fact is that northeast Indiana has not earned the respect of the rest of the state – at least in the higher classes. Since the inception of Class 6A in 2013, we have gone winless in regional play. Think about that, in nine years we have zero regional crowns in 6A.
And don’t come at Blitz about the draw and where Indy programs go in different rounds of the tournament. Fact is that for almost a decade now we have not had the programs that can compete at the 6A level. You have to beat the best at some point, and we haven’t been able to. Not once.
And what about 5A? Only one champion in close to 30 years – Snider in 2015. And since the Panthers’ championship win, Columbus East and New Palestine, two “southern Indiana” programs, have combined for three state titles. So don’t throw the 317 argument out for 5A like ya’ll try with 6A.
So, what’s the solution? There isn’t one magic bullet. The SAC entering the 21st century and opening its schedule to non-conference games beginning in 2023 is a definite positive. Look at Doug Dinan’s scheduling at Carroll, with the Chargers facing off against Center Grove and Warren Central in the near future. Coach Dinan knows that for his program to have a shot competing not only for 6A titles, but 6A respect, he has to play the big boys, find out where his team needs work to compete and react accordingly.
But scheduling is just one piece of the puzzle. Indianapolis prep football has a huge population base, but it’s not the only reason the area has thrived. Competitive salaries and investments into facilities have been huge for recruiting capable coaches. Stipends for assistant coaches are generally higher. Northwest Indiana in ‘The Region’ has come a long way – with Merrillville and Valparaiso contenders every year (with Elkhart about to join them).
The MaxPreps top 25 is not the most accurate, we can all agree there. When the Indiana Football Coaches Poll releases early next week, that will be a more telling story on who figures where, at least entering the season.
But there is a reason behind the MaxPreps madness. And that reason is legitimate.
These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH