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HHF Dandy Dozen - Around the Horn Picks and General Pre Season Observations


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Guest DT
HHF Dandy Dozen - Around the Horn Picks and General Pre Season Observations
Its that time of year when all the experts come out of the woodwork and make their picks for conference and state champs, Mr Football Winners and all sorts of other pre season hoopla. Here are a Dandy Dozen your humble host would like to see play out as we embark on the 2021 high school football season in Indiana.
1. Mishawaka Marian breaks thru and wins the 3A state championship. The Chatard machine has been in the Knights way for the past two seasons, but with BC now Success Factor bumped up to 4A, Marian has its sites set on another run.
 
2. Elkhart eclipses Penn as the premier 6A program in North Central Indiana. It didnt take long, but this Elkhart consolidation has created a football beast up in the land of the RV. Josh Shattuck has a world of talent on hand, and the Memorial and Central kids are getting along quite nicely. Elkhart might surprise a lot of people and find itself in the 6A title game as the North rep sooner than later.
 
3. Bart Curtis continues to challenge his Warsaw team with a challenging non conference docket, as the Tigers open the 2021 season at home against visiting Columbus, Ohio powerhouse Dublin Coffman. The Shamrocks routinely send multiple players off to D1 schools annually, and are a tough, hard nosed football team that will give Warsaw all it can handle. Catch this one via stream if somebody is broadcasting. Kudos to Warsaw for some very creative scheduling.
 
4. Could 2021 finally be the year that Ft Wayne Carroll breaks thru and wins The SAC and makes a run to the semi state? Defense has been the achilles heel for the Chargers, and with 8 starters returning, Coach Doug Dinan aims to shut down some people this season. High powered offense will continue to be Carroll's primary calling card, and with 3rd year starter Jeff Becker returning at QB and a host of experienced receivers, look for CHS to light it up once again this season.
 
5. If you love power offensive football and a rugged shut down defense, watch the Leo Lions in action this season. With two D1 signees anchoring his offensive and defensive lines, Coach Jared Sauder has an experienced and hungry team chomping at the bit to make a deep run in 4A .
 
6. Lawrenceburg is a mirror image of Leo in Southeastern Indiana. Big strong and powerful and with a heavy focus in the weight room, the Tigers will continue to maul opponents with their aggressive physical style of play. Notre Dame signee Ashton Craig is a 6-5, 290 lb offensive tackle who will do his share of the mauling for LBurg. Look for the Tigers to possibly get the huge East Central monkey off their back in week 1.
 
7. Gibson Southern Senior Quaterback Brady Allen will be the odds on favorite for Mr Football as he starts his 4th season running the Titans high powered offense. GS has run into some ultra stiff post season competition, and Coach Nick Hart thinks this 2021 edition just might be ready to break thru and take it all the way down to LOS on TG weekend.
 
8. Only two Indiana high schools have two 4 star recruits on their current roster, and Bloomington South is one of those schools. The McCullough brothers, Senior Dasan and junior Daeh come to Bloomington from Kansas with their father Deland, now the Assistant Head Coach under Tom Allen at IU. BS had a rough season last year under first year HC Gabe Johnson, but look for the Panthers to pounce back this season as Johnson unleashes all that talent on Conference Indiana foes.
 
9. White River Township will be Ground Zero once again for high school football in Indiana, as the Center Grove Trojans march towards a second straight Class 6A state championship. CG has 4 of the Top 15 seniors in the state as graded by 247 Sports. Its almost unfair. Not only is Eric Moore's famous Wing T nearly unstoppable, he now has a 4 star QB to wing it downfield in Tennessee signee Tayven Jackson. And on defense, the Trojans only have the most highly recruited athlete in state history in defensive lineman Caden Curry. Dont miss this crew if you get the chance to watch them. They might be Indiana's all time best high school football team.
 
10. The football continues to get better and better in Lafayette, and the coaching is top notch with Pat Shanley at the controls at Jefferson and Shane Fry running the show at West Lafayette. Sneaking up and making a run for top dog is Terry Peebles' program at Harrison. The Raiders have shown continuous improvement over the past several seasons and appear to be on the brink of moving into the top spot in the North Central Conference. Harrison has a huge test in week two when the host defending 6A runnerup Westfield.
 
11. Region football will see a big change in 2021 as the consolidation of Hammond schools becomes a reality on the gridiron. Gavit and Clark are closed, and Morton and the newly minted Hammond Central will go forward as 5A schools playing in the Great Lakes Conference. HC will struggle, while Morton is going for broke as they will play a non con schedule that includes trips to Elkhart, Cathedral and Bloomington South. While long time Region football fans lament the loss of the historic Hammond High Wildcat football program, new hope rises in the form of the HC Wolves and a pumped up Morton Governor program.
 
12. One of Indiana's great "feel good" stories of the 2021 season is the return of former Portage and Michigan City Coach Craig Buzea to the Indiana high school football sidelines. Coach Buz has battled with luekemia over the past two years and is healthy and renewed as he takes over at Class 6A Crown Point, after leading the ultra successful Homewood Flossmoor program for the past decade. Buzea returned not only to take his team to the top of the Duneland, but to make CP a player on the statewide 6A stage. Based on his record of success at every stop, look for the Bulldogs to be in contention sooner rather than later.
So what are your thoughts Indiana high school football fans? Jump in and give your opinions and insights and get the conversation started here on Hoosier High School Football.

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Good stuff DT.  A few talking points.

1.  You think Allen has the edge over Jackson/Curry of CG?  Who else is on your short list?

2.  How long do you believe it takes before Crown Point is a realistic regional/semi state contender?

3.  Is the Elkhart/Penn gap narrowing more so because of something Elkhart and other programs ARE doing or something that Penn IS NOT?

4.. What specifically do you need to see from CG in 2021 to leave no doubt in your mind as far as your “all time greatest” statement?

5.  What’s the short/long term ceiling for the three Lafayette programs mentioned?

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3 hours ago, temptation said:

Good stuff DT.  A few talking points.

1.  You think Allen has the edge over Jackson/Curry of CG?  Who else is on your short list?

2.  How long do you believe it takes before Crown Point is a realistic regional/semi state contender?

3.  Is the Elkhart/Penn gap narrowing more so because of something Elkhart and other programs ARE doing or something that Penn IS NOT?

4.. What specifically do you need to see from CG in 2021 to leave no doubt in your mind as far as your “all time greatest” statement?

5.  What’s the short/long term ceiling for the three Lafayette programs mentioned?

I can comment RE #3.  There is no more gap between Elkhart and Penn IMO.  Gaps yes, but they more than equal out. Im not sure people understand the demographics and size of Elkhart and should start to think more along the lines of Warren Central when you think of the type of athletes Elkhart has at the skill positions.  There isn't a skill position player that isn't a starter on a MIC team.  Even prior to the consolidation, Shattuck had Central closing in on Penn.  This is likely the last year where Penn will have a real shot at beating Elkhart as they are very young due to being SR dominated last year.  Those SRs went 9-0 and lost a close one to Merrilville and this time last year most didn't know the plays.  Imagine Covid in year 1 of a consolidation, couldn't have been worse timing but it worked out.  Elkhart has serious talent as evidenced by 5 guys from the past 2 years playing D1 and numerous others D2. 

Why are they here?  Shattuck is a great coach and leader and has great MIC level assistants.  His system of offense is great for the athletes he has.  He was very lucky to have such a great Sr class in year 1.  Now those athletes have always been there, but there was never a thought around here of being as good as Penn from a program coaching perspective until he showed up, let alone thinking about winning or going to state.  Then we get private donations for a turf field etc so facilities wise its getting better.  The community up here is buying in.  You wont see football kids who live in this district going to Penn or Concord or Northridge anymore.  I believe 2 of Concords best Srs live in Elkhart district.  I think the starting QB went to middle school in the Penn system and lived in ECS district. 

Where are they behind MIC schools?  1) strength/Size.  Read Coach Shattuck's interview.  No school for most really put that back.  There is no shiny nice weight room and notably no strength and conditioning coach.  Those things take time and $.  Penn like the MIC has all of that and those kids have been in the weight room for years.  They have the facilities and the people and that gap is real.  Where that shows is upfront.  There are a few DL/OL on the team that play in the MIC, but its 3-5 not 9.  So you get some undersized kids playing in a spot they may not play in the MIC...not that they aren't good players/athletes just not of the size/strength of what a Penn or MIC would have.  That will change over time as the young kids see whats happening and invest.  2) Player development They also dont have the district level investment.  Your MIC and Penn's have coaching staffs (paid) in the 20s, I think Elkhart has 8.  That hurts player development.  That shows up in kids 16-30 on the roster.  The Top 15 kids play anywhere in the state (not on any team per se but all would start in the MIC).  The depth and having some kids that should be depth/role players starting is the difference today.  Those challenges will go away as they build the program and that takes some time.  Same with building youth football...its there but behind.  Once those things catch up Penn wont have the athletes to compete most years.

They will be very good this year, but most of the starters and best players are JRs and So and don't have the experience just yet.  They also have a great incoming FR class.  Having your best player and RB get hurt doesn't help as he maybe the best player in the state among non srs.  He is a Power 5 player.  Evidence of the athletes is that the kid who will likely end up starting will likely be all conference and possibly all state.  Going to be a fun ride and DT is spot on.

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So Crown Point, Elkhart, Carroll, and Westfield will be the major players in the north? Who are the teams on the outside looking in? Merrillville, Penn, Warsaw, Lafayette Jeff, and Homestead? 

I'll never count out Homestead. They are the two time SAC defending champions and is dubbed as Quarterback U by folks in Northeast Indiana since they are always reloading at that position. Unfortunately for the Spartans though, they do seem to have a ceiling that they just can't get beyond. 

Don't sleep on Penn either. They are two years removed from embarrassing Carmel before bowing out in the state championship game. That program's not going away anytime soon. 

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Guest DT
43 minutes ago, BTF said:

So Crown Point, Elkhart, Carroll, and Westfield will be the major players in the north? Who are the teams on the outside looking in? Merrillville, Penn, Warsaw, Lafayette Jeff, and Homestead? 

I'll never count out Homestead. They are the two time SAC defending champions and is dubbed as Quarterback U by folks in Northeast Indiana since they are always reloading at that position. Unfortunately for the Spartans though, they do seem to have a ceiling that they just can't get beyond. 

Don't sleep on Penn either. They are two years removed from embarrassing Carmel before bowing out in the state championship game. That program's not going away anytime soon. 

I think you misunderstood.  

It will take CP 5 years , IMO, to become a state level player.  Buzea will be 66 by then.  He might be ready for the golf course.  Biggest concern at CP is the ability to develop high end skill players.  They will be big and strong, but never as fast as Merrillville or Michigan City or Homewood Flossmoor, due primarily to demographics.  CP will need to do it the Center Grove way.  That will be the ultimate challenge for the Bulldogs.  

Johnsnow pointed out Elkharts 5 D1 players over the past 2 years.  Thats 5 more than Penn, if you take out ND legacy Ron Powlus who will likely never play a down in college.  The Lions truly could be the Warren Central of the North.  Great comparison!

Im not ready to anoint Carroll, but they seem to have everything lined up to take the next step up the ladder.  Im not a fan of 72-48 games, which Carroll loves.  I prefer 17-14, but Im a dinosaur and older than dirt.  😁

Westfield is the little program that could.  When I asked Coach Gilbert if he felt his team was overlooked and underappreciated, he responded with an affirmative "YES!."  They just get it done with fewer resources than all schools around them.  I predict Gilbert will be the next HC at Ben Davis University.

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41 minutes ago, BTF said:

So Crown Point, Elkhart, Carroll, and Westfield will be the major players in the north? Who are the teams on the outside looking in? Merrillville, Penn, Warsaw, Lafayette Jeff, and Homestead? 

I'll never count out Homestead. They are the two time SAC defending champions and is dubbed as Quarterback U by folks in Northeast Indiana since they are always reloading at that position. Unfortunately for the Spartans though, they do seem to have a ceiling that they just can't get beyond. 

Don't sleep on Penn either. They are two years removed from embarrassing Carmel before bowing out in the state championship game. That program's not going away anytime soon. 

I think he is talking more programs to keep an eye on long term as they are ascending...could be wrong.

With Homestead you seemed to have answered your own question and with Penn, one can’t deny that their next years are behind them, but that could change I suppose.

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Guest DT
5 hours ago, temptation said:

Good stuff DT.  A few talking points.

1.  You think Allen has the edge over Jackson/Curry of CG?  Who else is on your short list?  OHIO STATE

2.  How long do you believe it takes before Crown Point is a realistic regional/semi state contender?  5 Years - see below

3.  Is the Elkhart/Penn gap narrowing more so because of something Elkhart and other programs ARE doing or something that Penn IS NOT?  Elkhart has better high end talent

4.. What specifically do you need to see from CG in 2021 to leave no doubt in your mind as far as your “all time greatest” statement?   Its all subjective

5.  What’s the short/long term ceiling for the three Lafayette programs mentioned?  I think they have reached their ceilings 

 

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2 minutes ago, DT said:

 

1.  Meant who else is on your Mr. Football shortlist.

3.  What can Penn do to close the gap?

4.  Gimme some metrics for CG as the greatest of all time.

5.  So they’ll never reach the top in their respective classes?

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6 hours ago, DT said:

Im not ready to anoint Carroll, but they seem to have everything lined up to take the next step up the ladder.  Im not a fan of 72-48 games, which Carroll loves.  I prefer 17-14, but Im a dinosaur and older than dirt.  

 

There's a growth explosion in Fort Wayne right now and most of it is up north in the Carroll district. Sitting at just over 2400 students currently, their enrollment will continue to climb. With a new 8 million dollar stadium and facilities and socioeconomics that could rival any in the state, it would be crazy to think that Carroll isn't trending up. But until they get that SAC title, they take a back seat to Snider, Dwenger, and Homestead. 

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12 hours ago, DT said:

Westfield is the little program that could.  When I asked Coach Gilbert if he felt his team was overlooked and underappreciated, he responded with an affirmative "YES!."  They just get it done with fewer resources than all schools around them.  I predict Gilbert will be the next HC at Ben Davis University.

I believe Coach Gilbert in your interview said he believed they had they finest weight room in HS football (or something close to that). What resources are they lacking?

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Guest DT
5 hours ago, Staxawax said:

I believe Coach Gilbert in your interview said he believed they had they finest weight room in HS football (or something close to that). What resources are they lacking?

People resources

Of the 8 schools in The HCC, they are 7th in enrollment

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3 hours ago, DT said:

People resources

Of the 8 schools in The HCC, they are 7th in enrollment

Being in the HCC prepped them for long runs in 5a. The challenge intensifies now that they are a 6a school. Did they bump up to 6a due to success or enrollment?

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Guest DT
3 hours ago, BTF said:

Being in the HCC prepped them for long runs in 5a. The challenge intensifies now that they are a 6a school. Did they bump up to 6a due to success or enrollment?

https://www.ihsaa.org/Portals/0/ihsaa/documents/quick resources/Enrollments & Classifications/football schools 19-20.pdf

Westfield is #22 in enrollment, up from #40 in 2014.  

Only big school growing faster is Fishers, now #5 and #14 in 2015

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2 hours ago, DT said:

https://www.ihsaa.org/Portals/0/ihsaa/documents/quick resources/Enrollments & Classifications/football schools 19-20.pdf

Westfield is #22 in enrollment, up from #40 in 2014.  

Only big school growing faster is Fishers, now #5 and #14 in 2015

Whiteland and Harrison also (unless you were just referring to the HCC/6A).

Also, Valpo and Zionsville.

In fact, I think that both Whiteland and Zionsville will be firmly entrenched in the 6A conversation in the coming years.  Both clearly programs of the future in my opinion.

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3 hours ago, BTF said:

So is Zionsville 5a or 6a this year?

They are 5A for one more year.  They were in 6A but when Elkhart consolidated they were bumped back down for a 2-year cycle, resulting in Carmel moving to the south semi-state.  Next year Carmel will most likely return to drive terror into north hopefuls.

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7 hours ago, Staxawax said:

They are 5A for one more year.  They were in 6A but when Elkhart consolidated they were bumped back down for a 2-year cycle, resulting in Carmel moving to the south semi-state.  Next year Carmel will most likely return to drive terror into north hopefuls.

Thanks for the info.

The north isn't the same without Carmel. They are welcome up here anytime. 

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Guest DT
7 hours ago, Staxawax said:

They are 5A for one more year.  They were in 6A but when Elkhart consolidated they were bumped back down for a 2-year cycle, resulting in Carmel moving to the south semi-state.  Next year Carmel will most likely return to drive terror into north hopefuls.

I much prefer to have Carmel in the North.  Having all 4 MIC heavyweights in the south bracket creates too much competitive imbalance.  And Carmel is a great target for schools like Homestead, Warsaw, Carroll, Crown Point, Elkhart, Penn to stay focused on.  

Crown Point will soon become the face of 6A DAC football.  Merrillville and Valpo will soon permanently join Michigan City, Laporte and Chesterton in 5A.  Portage is losing enrollment as well and could be a 5A school in the next decade.  And Lake Central has a long way to go before they are in the conversation.

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