Mike Hutton’s preseason sectional predictions
By MIKE HUTTON 613-0141 or email@example.com August 22, 2013 10:04PM
Hutton, Michael 2004 Post-Tribune sportswriter Michael Hutton
Updated: September 24, 2013 6:45AM
Go ahead and use this column for kitty litter lining. Hang it somewhere visible for a daily reminder of how utterly ridiculously wrong it should be to allow sports scribes to write sectional prediction pieces on the day of the first game of the season. Please hold me accountable (50 lashes with a wet noodle?) on judgment day. With that in mind, hold your nose while I wade through all eight sectionals and dole out my rock-solid picks, with a money-back guaruntee.
Sectional 1: Crown Point, Lafayette Jefferson, Lake Central, Merrillville. It’s impossible to pick against the Pirates — the standard for 6A in Northwest Indiana. The Pirates have a sophomore quarterback, DJ Wilkins, who has the potential to be as good as any they’ve ever had — and that means something after Jake Raspopovich helped them rack up more than 4,000 yards last season. Merrillville coach Zac Wells said his defense should be improved. That’s good enough for me. I’m going with the Pirates.
Sectional 2: Penn, Valparaiso, Portage and Chesterton. This reformatted sectional figures to be one of the most competitive in NWI. It’ll be interesting to see how Penn handles the early tournament pressure. The Kingsmen typically cake walk into regionals. Without having a clear view of what Penn has back, I’ll pick the Kingsmen. It could depend on the draw and where teams play.
Sectional 9: LaPorte, Michigan City, Mishawaka, Munster and South Bend Adams. Whoever gets the play-in game is going to hate this one. Having to play an extra game in football is a huge disadvantage. That’s one reason not to like the new format. Mishawaka made it to the 4A state title game last year. It has some dynamic playmakers returning and looks like the early team to beat.
Sectional 17: East Chicago, West Side, Griffith, Clark, Gavit, Morton, Highland, Lowell. This is a doozy with East Chicago, West Side, Griffith, Morton, Highland and Lowell in the mix. Morton is the perennial favorite. But West Side, which has Ohio State recruit Lonnie Johnson, will make Gary proud and figure out a way to get out of this one.
Sectional 18: Hobart, Kankakee Valley, New Prairie, Plymouth, South Bend Clay, South Bend Riley, South Bend St. Joe’s and South Bend Washington. Kankakee Valley started last season 6-0 but got beat up by Hobart in sectionals. This sectional got easier after champ Mishawaka was bumped to 5A. The Kougars still have a talented core of players back. Look for them to win it this season.
Sectional 25: Andrean, Calumet, Roosevelt, Lew Wallace, John Glenn, Hammond, Knox, Mishawaka Marian.
The 59ers’ road to regionals just got tougher when they qualified as the last team in for 3A. Mishawaka Marian is darn good. Still, the 59ers have enough kids returning from a team that made it to semistate that they should be able to win this one.
Sectional 33: Boone Grove, Bowman, Noll, North Judson, North Newton, Rensselaer, River Forest, Wheeler. Can you say Kirk Kennedy? Does the return of the former Lowell coach, a man who owns a state championship ring and a state runner up ring, make North Judson the favorite in this sectional? Yep. The Blue Jays were going to be good with or without Kennedy this year.
Sectional 41: Culver, Lake Station, LaVille, South Central, Triton, West Central, Whiting, Winamac. Winamac, Whiting and West Central are ranked Nos. 5, 6 and 7, respectively, in the AP preseason poll — that typically means nothing. Winamac is the defending champion. No reason to believe that changes.