I hear a lot that the regular season in high school football doesn’t matter because of the blind draw for the tournament. I think I may have written as much along those lines a few times.
One look at Matt Runyon’s face Friday night proved otherwise. The senior offensive lineman literally danced his way through the end zone to a team photo after Brownsburg knocked off Hamilton Southeastern 35-24 to clinch the Hoosier Crossroads Conference title.
“I’m really proud,” Runyon said. “That was a tough, tough game for us. We can use this as a momentum boost.”
Brownsburg (8-1) has improved by five games over last year’s 3-7 team under first-year coach John Hart. The seventh-ranked Bulldogs — and the other 31 teams in Class 6A — will get a week off before sectional play begins next week. Brownsburg will host No. 5 Ben Davis (6-3).
I still like the idea of seeding the top two teams in each sectional. But that’s a topic for another day. Here’s a look at the top-10 sectional matchups this week in order involving area teams (remember, no 6A games and New Palestine is the only local 5A team playing Friday):
1. Columbus East (8-1) at New Palestine (9-0), Class 5A Sectional 14: These two programs had no history against each other until they met in the 2013 Class 4A semistate, a 49-14 Columbus East win. New Pal returned the favor in the 2014 semistate, winning 30-28 on a last-second field goal. Both teams then moved up to 5A and landed in the same sectional. New Pal defeated Columbus East 24-14 last year in the sectional championship, by far its toughest game until a 64-61 loss to Fort Wayne Snider in the 5A state finals. Both teams feature explosive offenses. Columbus East, with its only loss to 6A Columbus North, is averaging 49 points and 470 yards per game. New Pal is averaging a state-leading 57 points and 474 yards per game. Names to watch in this one are New Pal running back DuRon Ford (1,774 yards, 32 TDs) and Columbus East running back Jamon Hogan (1,285 yards, 23 TDs).
2. Guerin Catholic (7-2) at Tri-West (8-1), Class 3A Sectional 29: Tri-West has won eight in a row since losing to West Lafayette, while Guerin’s only losses are by one point to Lafayette Central Catholic and by a touchdown to Roncalli, a pair of unbeaten teams. Guerin running back Carter McGinnis (1,377 yards, 20 TDs) has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game. Tri-West has allowed just 14 points in its past three games combined. The Bruins knocked off Guerin two years ago in the regional on their way to a state title.
3. Bishop Chatard (4-5) at Brebeuf Jesuit (4-5), Class 3A Sectional 29: Defending state champion Chatard is looking to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, following an impressive 20-7 win over East Central. Gabe Coleman has rushed for 289 yards the past two weeks for the Trojans. Brebeuf lost to Chatard 23-3 in the first week of the season, but it owns a win over Cathedral this season and is allowing just 17 points per game.
4. Beech Grove (7-2) at Lebanon (7-2), Class 4A Sectional 21: Guaranteed fireworks here as both teams average more than 40 points a game. Senior quarterbacks Chase Andries of Beech Grove (2,149 passing yards, 28 TDs and 761 rushing yards, 11 TDs) and Lebanon’s Evan Stambaugh (2,577 passing yards and 34 TDs) are having monster seasons.
5. East Central (7-2) at Shelbyville (7-2), Class 4A Sectional 23: These teams have met in the sectional each of the past three years, with East Central taking two in a row. John Lux (2,472 passing yards, 28 TDs) and the Shelbyville offense will have to put up some numbers against an East Central defense allowing just 14.7 points a game.
6. Cardinal Ritter (5-4) at Heritage Christian (4-4), Class 2A Sectional 37: Ritter has quietly won four in a row after a 1-4 start as senior running back Avery Hall has rushed for 637 yards in that span. Heritage Christian has won three of its past four.
7. Mt. Vernon (6-3) at Richmond (4-5), Class 4A Sectional 22: Mt. Vernon has won five in a row behind the solid play of junior quarterback Zac Montgomery (1,520 passing yards and 12 TDs and 583 rushing yards).
8. Northeastern (7-2) at Howe (5-4), Class 2A Sectional 38: Howe doesn’t have the team it had last year in making a run to the semistate, but first-year coach Earnest Tucker has some talent on the roster. Enough to win another sectional? Northeastern, which has never won a sectional, is averaging 42 points a game.
9. Hamilton Heights (5-3) at Twin Lakes (2-7), Class 3A Sectional 28: Hamilton Heights defeated Twin Lakes 14-13 just two weeks ago. The Huskies have a decent shot to get to the sectional championship game, most likely to face fourth-ranked West Lafayette.
10. Northview (6-3) at Roncalli (9-0), Class 4A Sectional 21: This one may not be all that close, but top-ranked Roncalli may get a tougher test the following week against Beech Grove or Lebanon. Northview has played only two 4A opponents this season, facing mostly smaller schools.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.