Bedford North Lawrence
* Coach: Bret Szabo (10th season, 57-38)
* Last season: 9-4 (lost 48-19 to Center Grove in first round of regional)
* Outlook: The Stars reached a new plateau last season by garnering their first Class 5-A sectional title with a 26-21 win over Castle.
They lost 23 seniors from that team, including some key linemen. Junior quarterback Jesse Millikan returns to a potent offense. Millikan’s main target will be leading receiver Jade Daab. Daab, senior fullback Kole Korvela, who rushed for more than 900 yards last season, and senior Brad Lake will get most of the carries.
Senior inside linebacker Jack Spreen led the team in tackles last season.
“Our biggest strength is we’re pretty hard-nosed and we’re a disciplined team,” Szabo said. “We pride ourselves on being the perennial underdog. The No. 1 thing we’re working on is we have a lot of new faces in key positions. Our younger kids will obviously get better as the year goes on.”
* Top players: QB Jesse Millikan (Jr., 6-2, 175), RB Kole Korvela (Sr., 5-9, 183), LB Jack Spreen (Sr., 6-2, 205), RB Jade Daab (Sr., 5-11, 180), LB Ben Manzenberger (Sr., 6-2, 183), OL Clay Lumpe (Sr, 6-3, 245), OL Austin Davis (Sr., 5-11, 283).
* Coach: Bob Gaddis (12th year, 107-28 at Columbus; 34th year, 225-128 overall)
* Last season: 12-2 (lost 62-7 to Indianapolis Cathedral in state semifinal)
* Outlook: It’s impossible to replace a quarterback like Indiana Mr. Football Gunner Kiel, who’s now at Notre Dame, but the Olympians are moving forward with an offense not lacking in veteran leadership.
Junior Alex Cowan returns to quarterback after time at receiver. Gaddis describes Cowan as “different than Gunner. He’s smaller, more agile. He’s quick.”
Sophomore Markell Jones, a standout on defense as a freshman last year, joins junior Christian Wichman as threats at tailback.
The senior leaders on defense are lineman Rob McKee and safety Brian Wichman, a three-year starter. The line is strong with junior tackle Dalton Bateman and junior end Brock Patterson.
“The defense is going to have to carry us early and let our offense mature,” Gaddis said. “The team will get better as the year goes on.”
* Top players: QB Alex Cowan (Jr., 5-11, 160), TB Markell Jones (Soph. 5-11, 205), TB/LB Christian Wichman (Jr., 5-7, 155), WR J.T. Voelker (Jr., 6-1, 175), S Brian Wichman (Sr., 5-10, 165), OL Rob McKee (Sr. 6-4, 280), LB John Busack (Jr., 6-1, 200), DT Dalton Bateman (Jr., 6-0, 260), DE Brock Patterson (Jr., 6-1, 235).
* Coach: Scott Buening (fourth year, 11-19)
* Last season: 5-5 (lost 53-27 to Bedford North Lawrence in first round of 5-A Sectional)
* Outlook: The Panthers lost a major force from their offense in All-State running back Iyan Bass, the 11th-leading rusher in Indiana history.
Focus shifts to senior quarterback Ryan Cowan and running back Tommy Taylor. Taylor, a four-year starter, rushed for 905 yards as a fullback last season and was also the leading receiver. Also returning on offense are receivers Nick Nixon (Jr.) and Conner Montgomery (Sr.)
The Panthers’ leading tackler, senior Jordan Diss, is back at linebacker. Senior Luke Bozell will play a key role at tight end, and the offensive line features several senior veterans, including Alex Hoppock, Branson Ping and Darron Lovegrove.
“This year’s team has a core group of seniors, many of whom are three-year starters,” Buening said.
* Top players: QB Ryan Cowan (Sr. 6-2, 171), RB/DL Tommy Taylor (Sr., 6-3, 264), LB Jordan Diss (Sr., 6-1, 205), TE Luke Bozell (Sr., 6-3, 219), DB/WR Conner Montgomery (Sr., 5-9, 156), DL Julio Perez (Sr., 5-7, 192), OL Alex Hoppock (Sr., 6-3, 221), DB/WR Nick Nixon (Jr., 6-1, 177).
* Coach: Steve Fish (third season, 1-19)
* Last season: (1-9, lost to Evansville Harrison 27-24 in first round of Class 3-A Sectional)
* Outlook: The Cubs must readjust with the graduation of four key players: team leader and top rusher Ryan Fish, now at Wisconsin-Platteville, who recorded nine school records; lineman Zakk Kinneman, quarterback Jay Frazier and defensive end Aaron Greer. Madison has several options on offense with quarterback/receiver Kyle Callahan, senior multiposition standout Wayne Sherbahn and running back Mitchell Sandlin comprising the ground game. The defense showed improvement late last season, losing by a combined six points in the last two games. The defense looks to improve on an average losing margin of 19 points.
* Top players: QB/WR Kyle Callahan (Sr., 6-0, 160), RB Wayne Sherbahn (Sr., 5-6, 140), RB Mitchell Sandlin (Jr., 5-9, 175)
* Coach: Jeff Richey (Ninth year, 33-50)
* Last season: 2-8 (lost 28-14 to Evansville Central in first round of 4-A Sectional)
* Outlook: The name of the Owls’ game will be defense this season.
“We have made significant changes in our defensive scheme and have returned to the defense we have been known for in the past,” Richey said.
One of the team’s biggest strengths is its offensive line. Anchoring the offense is junior quarterback Austin Sutton, who passed for 2,200 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. The ground game is bolstered by senior running backs Tyler Akers and Tanner Belcher. “We expect to be able to score points this season,” Richey said.
The schedule is daunting with six 5-A opponents and road trips to Columbus East and Bedford North Lawrence.
* Top players: QB Austin Sutton (Jr., 5-10, 170), OT/DE Cody McCory (Sr., 6-2, 230), OG/DT Cody Campbell (Sr., 6-3, 268), OT/DT Drew Foster (Sr., 6-3, 255), RB/LB Tyler Akers (Sr., 5-10, 180), RB Tanner Belcher (Sr., 6-0, 175), OL/DE Chandler Miller (Sr., 6-1, 200), LB Jordan Kleber (Sr., 6-1, 200), RB/C Hunter Klakamp (Sr., 5-10, 180)