The Indiana High School Athletic Association conducted its annual football sectional draw Sunday. Here’s a look at the particulars, followed by key storylines from the draw:
All of the sectionals will begin Oct. 23, other than most of Class 5A. There are just two 5A first-round games on Oct. 23, while the remainder of the 5A teams are off until Oct. 30. In 6A, there is a week off between the semistate on Nov. 13 and the championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 28.
Class A, 3A and 5A will play state finals games on Nov. 27. The 2A, 4A and 6A championship games are slated for Nov. 28.
Here are 10 key storylines from Sunday’s sectional draw:
HS football: Complete Indy-area sectional draw
Can Cathedral conquer 6A? On Sunday’s selection show, I picked the Irish to make it to Lucas Oil Stadium. Cathedral is playing up this year due to the IHSAA’s tournament success factor after winning five consecutive state titles (three in 4A and two in 5A).
I think we’ll know more about the Irish’s chances after Friday’s regular-season finale at 6A No. 1 Center Grove (8-0). But Cathedral has a strong running game led by sophomore Markese Stepp, a veteran quarterback in Max Bortenschlager and a solid defense. A first-round game against Lawrence Central and standout running back Gerrid Doaks won’t be easy in Sectional 6, but the Irish defeated the Bears 32-14 in the season opener.
Rematches: There are plenty of rematches of regular-season games in the first round. Most prominent may be Hamilton Southeastern (7-1) at Fishers (5-3), the site of HSE’s 39-33 win Sept. 11 that saw the Royals rally from a 28-point deficit. The prize for the winner is a likely matchup with No. 2 Carmel (6-2) in the Sectional 4 championship.
Another rematch that has provided plenty of fireworks over the years is in Sectional 5, where defending 6A champ Ben Davis (4-4) is at Pike (3-5). Pike defeated Ben Davis 30-27 earlier this season. The teams have met in the sectional seven of the past nine years, with Pike winning four of those.
Wide-open Class 4A: Picking a favorite in Class 4A is more difficult than it may appear. I actually went with 4-4 Roncalli to make a run to Lucas Oil Stadium, though that may be based more on the lack of better options than what the Rebels have done so far (though a 30-14 win over Decatur Central on Friday was big). Roncalli opens at home against Frankfort in Sectional 21 and is on the opposite side of the bracket from 8-0 Northview.
If Roncalli can get out of the sectional, it may be on a collision course to see Evansville Reitz (8-0) in the semistate.
Best opening matchups: It should be a fantastic atmosphere at Western Boone when the Stars (7-1) host West Lafayette (8-0) in Class 3A Sectional 28. Other intriguing matchups include Greenwood (5-3) at Beech Grove (6-2) in Class 4A Sectional 21, Brebeuf Jesuit (5-3) vs. Bishop Chatard (5-3) in Class 3A Sectional 29, Scecina (4-4) at Lapel (4-4) in Class 2A Sectional 37 and Northeastern (6-2) at Eastern Hancock (8-0) in Class 2A Sectional 38.
Regional juice: Warren Central and Center Grove could possibly meet in a 6A regional this year instead of what has been a semistate matchup. That would be a rematch of an excellent season opener, a 42-38 Center Grove win. There are several other potential juicy regional matchups, including Ben Davis-Cathedral (or possibly Avon-Cathedral), Monrovia-Evansville Mater Dei in Class 2A and Lutheran-North Vermillion in Class A.
Loaded 5A sectional: Poor Whiteland. The Warriors are 6-2 despite losing standout running back Shaw Cloud to injury and riding a three-game winning streak. They drew a bye, but there’s no easy route in Class 5A Sectional 14. Whiteland, which has already clinched at least a share of the Mid-State Conference title, will likely have get through Columbus East (8-0) and New Palestine (8-0) just to get out of the sectional. Both Columbus East and New Pal moved up from 4A this year due to the IHSAA’s tournament success factor.
Sleeper teams: Avon would be advised not to look past Hendricks County rival Brownsburg in Class 6A Sectional 5. The Bulldogs have averaged 57.3 points during a current three-game winning streak and played much better since a 56-21 loss to Avon on Sept. 11, a game that was televised on ESPNU to highlight quarterbacks Brandon Peters (Avon) and Hunter Johnson (Brownsburg). Other teams flying a bit under the radar include Decatur Central (Class 5A Sectional 13; could win first sectional in 10 years), Indian Creek (Class 3A Sectional 30) and Howe (Class 2A Sectional 38). Howe (5-3) could meet Eastern Hancock in a sectional semifinal.
Loaded 3A sectional: Class 3A Sectional 29 is downright ridiculous. Defending state champion Tri-West (5-3) might be the fourth-best team in the sectional, but it got a beneficial draw. Brebeuf Jesuit (5-3) will face Bishop Chatard (5-3) in a rematch of a game Chatard won 27-17 in the season opener. But there’s little thought that Chatard will just cruise through the sectional after it lost 17-13 to Guerin Catholic on Friday. Guerin and Chatard could meet in the sectional semifinals. There may not be a better sectional in the state from top to bottom.
Seed it: I don’t think it’ll ever happen, but I’d love to see the IHSAA seed the top two teams in each sectional. Appoint a committee and do it at the same time as the blind draw. You don’t lose any of the intrigue of the draw and can at least somewhat reward teams for regular-season success.
Picks: My state finals picks sure to go wrong: Carmel vs. Cathedral in 6A, Fort Wayne Snider vs. New Palestine in 5A, Lowell vs. Roncalli in 4A, West Lafayette vs. Bishop Chatard in 3A, Woodlan vs. Monrovia in 2A and Lafayette Central Catholic vs. Linton-Stockton in Class A.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.