Yes, we have conference champions to lock up over the next few weeks, and SAC rivalry week this Friday is a huge talking point. But some programs have already turned their attention to the postseason, even if it is just in terms of looking to peak in Week 10 and beyond.
Blitz has identified the six teams – one in each class – he thinks have the greatest chance to make some noise in the postseason from northeast Indiana. Note that this is Blitz’s feelings based on the first seven weeks of the season, so teams could change in a class or two (so don’t cry quite yet Eastside, Columbia City, etc.).
But in the majority of the six classes, we have a good idea who the local teams are that look poised to make some noise.
So let’s take a look at those squads, and the biggest potential hurdle between Week 10 and Lucas Oil Stadium over Thanksgiving weekend.
CLASS 1A: Adams Central
Why: Coach Michael Mosser’s squad looks the part as a state contender once again after advancing to Indy last year.
The Flying Jets are a run-dominant team, but that is oversimplifying things. AC has an abundance of ball carriers who can hurt defenses, and with Ryan Black at QB they have an experience signal caller who knows the offense, makes the right reads and can throw the ball to keep defenses honest.
The defense may not be as good as it was a season ago, at least not yet. However, it is still far from a pushover. The pass defense must improve, particularly with challenges looming in the postseason.
Biggest Hurdle: None.
Seriously, there is no team in the 1A north that matches up with Adams Central on paper. Carroll of Flora and North Judson are good teams and both undefeated, but neither’s strengths take advantage of AC’s weaknesses.
The Flying Jets are the clear favorite to reach the state championship game, where a rematch with Lutheran could potentially happen. AC may not need that pass defense much before that, but sophomore Jackson has already thrown for 1,848 yards and 23 TDs for Lutheran.
CLASS 2A: Bishop Luers
Why: While Eastside may disagree (and will likely have a chance to prove it in the playoffs), this Bishop Luers squad feels to Blitz as one of those classic Knights teams that hovers around .500 during the regular season before breaking out in the postseason.
For one, it is experienced at some key spots, with senior Charlie Stanski one of the feel-good stories of the area at quarterback. Nick Thompson is a legit threat in all three facets of the game, and the defense is laden with juniors and seniors who have been through the battles for multiple years.
Biggest Hurdle: Eastside
Ah yes, speaking about the Blazers. Beating Bishop Luers twice in the past three years gives Coach Todd Mason’s team some credibility here. Coach Todd Mason’s team is not as good as it was last year, but then again neither are the Knights.
Potential regional opponent Eastbrook is solid but not as good as it usually is. Semistate holds some challenges with the likes of Lafayette Central Catholic or LaVille.
But for the Knights, it is all about beating Eastside in sectional.
CLASS 3A: Norwell
Why: Does Blitz even need to waste his time here?
The Knights lead the state in points allowed per game – 2.3. It has allowed 14 total points and is outscoring the opposition 243-14 through six weeks.
Coach Josh Gerber’s squad is not only the class of the Northeast Eight, it may very well be the most complete squad in the 3A north – yes, including West Lafayette and Chatard.
The key for Norwell is health. Late last season, the Knights suffered through some injuries – big and small. They sidelined a few key players for portions of the playoffs and forced others to play through some ailments.
If Norwell can stay healthy, it has a shot at Lucas Oil.
Biggest hurdle: Chatard.
Undefeated and top-ranked West Lafayette will be a challenge, but as we saw with Brebeuf last year, knocking off an Indy-area squad in the playoffs is no easy feat.
Chatard fell out of the No. 1 spot in 3A earlier this year…for some reason. As if losing to undefeated Roncalli and one-loss Cathedral is something to be ashamed of. That said, Chatard is beatable, but will present a huge test.
CLASS 4A: Leo
Why: Why indeed. There is no clear-cut favorite right now in terms of area 4A squads that look the part of making a deep postseason run.
With apologies to 5-1 Columbia City, the next three weeks will be telling for the Eagles.
In Week 8, CC will have a chance to prove itself against Blitz’s pick – Leo. Coach Jason Doerffler’s squad received some heat through the first three weeks of the season as it went 1-2, but the losses to Kokomo and Norwell have turned out to look better and better with each passing week as both are still undefeated. A road victory over Angola in Week 2 also has impressed more and more as the Hornets have taken control of the NECC’s big division. Knocking off New Haven and East Noble in consecutive weeks also got Blitz’s attention.
Could Leo end its decade-long sectional title drought in Doerffler’s first season? It’s entirely possible.
Biggest hurdle: The NE8.
Looking at Sectional 19, any of four Northeast Eight teams could be threats to the Lions – Columbia City, East Noble, New Haven and DeKalb. All have the personnel and familiarity to put together a game plan, execute it and knock off Leo.
There is a very real possibility that Leo can hold aloft a sectional title trophy for the first time since 2011. If it is going to, it will need to beat some opponents they are familiar with.
As for regional? Well, a rematch with Kokomo could be looming.
CLASS 5A: Snider
Why: A team that continues to fly under the radar, the Panthers are Blitz’s pick (as of right now, mind you) to make the most noise among area squads in the 5A playoffs.
When’s the last time such a talented Snider squad received such low amounts of attention?
Blitz is partially to blame, and the loss to Carroll effectively ended any shot for the Panthers to win the SAC. But since that defeat, the Panthers have won four straight, although none of the teams they have knocked off during the streak currently having a winning record.
The running game has been the catalyst, as it collectively has averaged 6.2 yards per carry to go along with 19 total scores. There are several receivers who can burn you and Luke Haupert’s command of the offense at QB is undervalued by some.
The defensive front seven continues to get better and better as well.
Biggest hurdle: North Side
We can talk about potential matchups in regional (Mishawaka) and semistate (Merrillville), but for Snider it will start in sectional with the Legends.
Much like Leo, North is looking to end a long postseason drought as it hasn’t won a sectional in 32 years. The Legends will be favored in their final three regular-season games and should be 7-2 heading into the postseason.
While Snider would love to have that Carroll game back, North would love to go back to Week 1 when it let one slip away in a 20-18 defeat.
The last time North and Snider met in the playoffs was 2013, a game that went into OT. The Legends are 0-for-10 against the Panthers in postseason matchups dating back to 1990, but all streaks end eventually.
That said, if Snider can get by north, it has the rugged physicality on both sides of the ball to make some noise. Mishawaka is very good but the Panthers’ defense matches up well.
In terms of ‘staying power,’ Blitz has more confidence in Snider than North to survive the rigors of the playoffs.
Just don’t pencil the Panthers into the regional quite yet.
CLASS 6A: Carroll
Why: The Chargers are the best team in the area. You can try and convince that Norwell is better or that Snider is the 1B to Carroll’s 1A, but Blitz isn’t buying it.
Coach Doug Dinan’s team will finish undefeated in the regular season and capture the Victory Bell by winning the SAC. Sophomore QB Jimmy Sullivan is as advertised, and the defense is one of the more punishing, physical and quick units in the SAC in recent memory.
But what about the playoffs?
Biggest hurdle: Well, per usual in 6A for area teams, that’s where it gets dicey.
While Carroll is the lone undefeated squad in Sectional 2, the Sagarin Ratings place the Chargers third out of four teams, in front of Warsaw and behind Elkhart and Penn. Now, Sagarin is imperfect, especially considering Carroll’s all-SAC schedule, but it does give an indication on how difficult the sectional will be.
And if the Chargers can get a sectional title? Undefeated Crown Point is a worthy opponent, with the Indy crowd lurking in semistate.
It is still an absolute grind in Class 6A, and while Carroll is very good, does it have what it takes to reach uncharted territory this postseason?
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