HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL, IN PREPS

Northwest Indiana Regional Previews

Class 6A Regional

No. 7 Merrillville (9-1) at No. 5 Elkhart (9-0), Friday 6:30 CST

Class 6A No. 7 Merrillville comes in on a 4-game winning streak, with its last loss coming at the hands of Class 3A No. 1 Bishop Chatard. Last week, the Pirates demolished No. 3 Lafayette Jefferson 48-14 behind three touchdowns from senior Paris Hewlett, who transferred from Hammond Morton earlier in the year. Hewlett finished with 211 all-purpose yards with two receiving scores and a passing score. After falling behind 7-0 to Lafayette Jeff, the Pirates exploded for 41 first-half points and never looked back. Merrillville comes in averaging 38 PPG while just allowing a shade under 13 PPG defensively.

The newly-formed Elkhart narrowly defeating Chesterton, a Duneland Conference team like Merrillville, 14-10 last week. The Class 6A No. 5 Lions were down 10-7 until the 6:44 mark in the fourth quarter after Elkhart running back Derrick Woods ran one in from one yard out, capping a 10-play, 80-yard drive to seal the game. The Lions are led offensively by three seniors – Woods (1,419 rushing yards, 27 TD), QB Cameron Wiltfong (1,602 passing yards, 13 TD) and WR Tyren Mason (669 receiving yards, 6 TD). The defense has allowed just over 15 PPG and has four players with 70-plus tackles.

These teams have never faced before and the winner will face either No. 2 Westfield (10-1) or No. 9 Homestead (10-1) next Friday in the Class 6A Northern Semistate. Merrillville is gunning for its eighth regional title while Elkhart seeks its first. Merrillville won in its regional game last year against Warsaw by a 42-28 score.

Class 5A Regional

No. 9 Mishawaka (7-3) at No. 3 Valparaiso (7-0), Friday 6:30 CST

Class 5A No. 3 Valparaiso has only played seven games this season due to COVID-19 issues in one form or another, but the Vikings are peaking at the right time. Valpo beat fellow Duneland Conference rival LaPorte 35-21 behind a school-record 336 rushing yards from Hayden Vinyard, who also ran for three touchdowns. Vikings leading rusher Tommy Burbee was sidelined last week but did return to practice Monday in preparation for a regional in which if Valpo wins, it would be its ninth overall and third straight title.

No. 9 Mishawaka is looking for its fourth overall regional title. Last week, the Cavemen defeated South Bend Adams 49-21, claiming the Cavemen’s third straight sectional crown, which is a feat that had never been accomplished in the school’s 118-year football history. The Cavemen did announce on Monday that they would be quarantining in preparation for this game due to contact tracing.

Valparaiso has won six of the nine meetings against Mishawaka, including last year’s 49-0 victory in last year’s regional on Valpo’s march to the state finals where they lost 27-20 to New Palestine. The winner will face either No. 2 Fort Wayne Dwenger (10-1) or Zionsville (5-5).

Class 4A Regional

No. 7 Hobart (9-2) at Logansport (6-6), Friday 6:30 CST.

Class 4A No. 7 Hobart won last week in a defensive slugfest over its Northwest Crossroads Conference foe Lowell 10-7. Winners of six straight, the Brickies held Lowell to just 192 total yards. Hobart senior linebacker and leading tackler Cam Smith was injured in the contest and his prognosis “didn’t look good” according to Hobart coach Craig Osika initially after the game last week, so his status remains up in the air for a defense that has allowed just under nine points a game.

In preparation for the tough postseason, Logansport played bigger schools the likes of Harrison, McCutcheon and Lafayette Jefferson in the North Central Conference, but the Berries have won four straight including last week’s 22-14 victory over Culver Academy.

Hobart is searching for its 17th regional title, which would be good for eighth all-time in the history of high school football in the state of Indiana. Logansport won its lone regional title back in 2004. The winner of this game will face either East Noble (9-3) or Marion (9-3).

Class 3A Regional

No. 2 Mishawaka Marian (10-0) at Calumet (5-1), Friday 6:30 CST.

Calumet beat Hanover Central 38-21 last week to claim the program’s first-ever sectional crown. The Warriors ran for 314 yards, including 150 yards from sophomore Justin Marshall, who also recorded 78 receiving yards and four total TDs. Senior RB CJ Cooper adding 96 rushing yards and two scores while senior QB Mark Flores threw for 119 yards and a TD while rushing for 68 more. Calumet has only played since Week 7 but it has won five straight after a season-opening loss to Gibson Southern 31-6.

Class 3A No. 2 Marian won its sixth straight sectional last week in a 44-19 destruction of Jimtown. The Knights rushed for 200 total yards and scored 28 points in the first quarter on their way to the dominant victory. Traditionally a running team, the Knights did get 113 passing yards from senior QB Maddix Bogunia-Bright with the bulk of those coming on an 80-yard strike to senior WR Jayson Johnson. The Knights do, however, come in allowing 17 PPG defensively.

Mishawaka Marian seeks its seventh regional title and beat Knox 17-0 in last year’s regional. Calumet will look to continue its best season ever with a first regional championship after losing to Knox in a 19-12 OT heartbreaker in last year’s sectional final. Marian has never lost to Calumet in six all-time matchups. The winner of this contest will tangle with Fort Wayne Concordia (6-5) or No. 1 Bishop Chatard.

Class 2A Regional

No. 1 Andrean (11-1) at No. 3 Pioneer (11-1), Friday 6:30 CST.

Traditional power and Class 2A No. 1 Andrean beat Rennselaer 28-14 last week behind backup running back and starting linebacker Drayk Bowen’s two rushing scores. In perhaps the most star-studded matchup in the entire state, these two teams are the highest-rated left in 2A. Andrean leading rusher and three-year starter Ryan Walsh will be back for a Niners team that is averaging nearly 37 PPG and allowing just fewer than 12 per game.

Since Adam Berry took the helm at No. 3 Pioneer, it has become arguably the most successful program since 2016, with the Panthers winning two state titles and appearing in another state final. His record is 63-4 in now his fifth season of coaching. Pioneer has won nine straight since its loss to New Haven back in Week 3, including last week’s 30-14 victory over Bremen to claim the program’s 12th sectional championship and seventh in a row. The Pioneer rushing attack features the twin brothers Addai and Ezra Lewellen and Brock Robinson, who have combined for a total of 3,434 rushing yards and 47 TDs.

Andrean will be shooting for its 10th regional while Pioneer will be going for its eighth in school history. The winner here will face either Fort Wayne Luers (6-5) or No. 11 Tipton (9-2).

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