The second season for high school football begins this Friday with sectional openers in five of the six classes. (Class 6A begins Nov. 1) Besides every team starting over in the state tourney, the reshuffling of sectional alignments has added some new teams to the mix for area teams - with some great nicknames, not to mention high rankings - that will increase the anticipation and unpredictability of the playoffs. Here is a preview of what may or may not take place over the next three weeks.
Fifth-ranked* Plymouth and Culver Academy are in the same sectional as in year’s past, but the rest of the field is completely different. Gone are past heavyweights East Noble and Angola, plus top-echelon NLC teams like NorthWood and Northridge, but in their place happens to be the current No. 1 team in the state, New Prairie.
The Eagles (6-4) will get the first crack at the top-ranked Cougars (8-1) after a warm-up this week with SB Clay (one win in three years). Plymouth (7-2) will not look past this week’s opponent, Kankakee Valley (4-5), but if they get past the Kougars, they will have either Logansport (2-8) or SB St. Joseph (1-9) in the way before a scintillating contest with the New Prairie-Academy winner for the Class 4A Sectional 18 championship. If it’s New Prairie, it would be played in Plymouth if Logansport defeats St. Joe. (That's already too many ifs)
Two top 10 teams are in Class 3A Sectional 26 and both are on the same side of the bracket as John Glenn. The Falcons (3-6) will host No. 8 West Noble (8-0) this Friday. The Chargers are led by running back Brandon Pruitt (141 ypg.). If Glenn can pull off the upset, they would host No. 5 Mishawaka Marian the following week. The Falcons lost to the Knights, 49-7, back in Week 2.
The best game in the state this week is coming out of Class 2A Sectional 34 when No. 3 and two-time defending Class A state champ Pioneer (8-1) travels to No. 2 Lewis Cass (8-1). Pioneer’s only loss in the last three seasons came in Week 1 to Cass, 28-22. The only blemish on the Kings’ record was a loss to Class 3A No. 2 West Lafayette.
Sitting on the other half of the bracket is LaVille and Bremen. This week, the Lancers (7-2) will host the Wabash Apaches (4-5), while the Lions (2-7) will battle the Manchester Squires (3-6). If the Marshall County rivals both win, they will meet the following Friday at Lancer Field. LV defeated Bremen, 27-7, to open the season. If the Lancers take the second meeting as well, the Pioneer-Cass winner most likely awaits and would host.
Culver (5-4) has the best record in a wide open Class A Sectional 41 field and has a great shot at reaching the championship game. The Cavaliers will first travel to Lake Station to face the Edison Fighting Eagles (2-7), then would play one of the Centrals - South (2-7) or West (3-5) - and the Cavs have decisive wins over both. Either Winamac or North Judson should come out of the other half of the bracket, setting up a very competitive finale. Culver lost to NJ, 26-24, in the season opener and defeated Winamac, 28-20.
Sectional 44 might be the most competitive in the state for any class. Three top 10 teams make up the eight-team field. Triton (2-7) hosts Northfield (5-4) this week. If the Trojans can get by the Norsemen, either No. 3 Southwood (9-0) or No. 10 Churubusco (7-2) awaits. If it’s Southwood, it would be a road game for Triton. The third ranked team in this section is the fourth-ranked Flying Jets of Adams Central (8-1).
* Rankings are from the AP poll 10-16