Here are potential postseason contenders among area programs:
Ben Davis (8-3 last season)
Is this the year for the purple to reign? The Giants appeared poised for a deep run last year but were sideswiped by Pike 34-32 in the sectional championship. It’s been 12 years since Ben Davis won a state title and six since it won a regional. Senior quarterback Kyle Castner and junior running back Chris Evans lead a promising offense, and senior linebacker Asmar Bilal, the team’s leading tackler, anchors the defense.
Carmel (10-4 last season)
The Greyhounds came within a 7-6 loss to Warren Central in the Class 6A title game of a second state championship in three years. Talented quarterback Isaac James returns for coach Kevin Wright, as does senior running back Shakir Paschall. Amazing stat: Carmel has played in the state championship six of the past eight years.
Warren Central (11-3 last season)
It’s difficult to ever classify Warren Central as a sleeper, but that’s exactly what the Warriors were going into last year’s tournament. Warren Central rode its defense and ball-control offense to a state title in Jayson West’s first year as coach after leaving Lawrence Central. Safety Mykelti Williams anchors the defense and leading rusher Tirone Young returns.
Center Grove (11-2 last season)
A loaded senior class led the Trojans to the semistate, where they lost a 12-7 heartbreaker to Warren Central. Center Grove can build its wing-T offense around running backs Max Norris and Titus McCoy as it looks to win a fourth consecutive regional and sixth in seven years.
Cathedral (10-5 last season)
It’s four state titles and counting for the Irish, who won the 5A championship last season in the first season of the new six-class format. Cathedral was hit hard by graduation, including the loss of IndyStar Mr. Football Terry McLaurin, but returns standout lineman Jared Thomas and leading rusher Caleb Cross.
Hamilton Southeastern (7-3 last season)
The program’s seven victories last fall was its lowest win total since 2004. Senior quarterback Tyler Janney returns, along with top targets Chris Ford and Kyle Schrank. The defense struggled mightily in losses last year, allowing an average of 43 points a game.
Lawrence Central (3-7 last season)
The 2013 season went south in a hurry as the Bears lost seven consecutive games after a 3-0 start. Linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr., a Michigan recruit, anchors the defense. The offense will need to show dramatic improvement after scoring more than 12 points in just one of the final seven games.
Fishers (9-2 last season)
Coach Rick Wimmer has established the program as annually one of the best in the state. The offense took a major hit due to graduation, but playmaking running back Maurice Campbell is a big-time threat.
Pike (7-5 last season)
Pike was a legitimate state title contender last year, losing its five games by a combined 17 points, including a 24-21 loss to Warren Central in the regional. While last year’s team was heavily reliant on offense (35.5 points per game), Pike will lean on a defense led by linebackers Quentin Moon and Aaron Jones and tackle James McBride.
Avon (6-4 last season)
The Orioles may be flying slightly under the radar but are a legitimate contender in Sectional 5. Junior Brandon Peters is one of the best quarterbacks in the state. Defensive lineman Joe Belden, an Indiana commit, leads the defense. The schedule is tough, especially early, but Mark Bless has a solid core group.
Bishop Chatard (9-4 last season)
The Trojans saw their three-year state championship run end with a 27-14 loss to New Palestine in the 4A regional. Four starters return on both sides of the ball. Look for fullback Noah Schrader to carry a big load on offense, while receiver Brian Ball will be a top target. Coach Vince Lorenzano expects defensive end Max Fillenwarth to step into a big role.
Brebeuf Jesuit (11-4 last season)
Brebeuf played in the 3A championship game last year, losing 35-27 to Andrean. The Braves should have one of the most explosive offenses in the state, led by running back LeVante’ Bellamy and quarterback Aaron Banks. A season-opening win last year over Chatard catapulted the Braves.
Cardinal Ritter (13-2 last season)
The page turns with the graduation of record-breaking quarterback Jake Purichia and a strong senior class. Junior Alex Downard is expected to step in at quarterback, and Ritter returns senior running back Tommy Waites and senior receiver Jeffrey Cmehil.
Sheridan (5-6 last season)
Sheridan suffered through a rare losing season in 2013 and lost to eventual state champion Tri-Central in the sectional. The Blackhawks return workhorse senior running back Austin Hoover and senior quarterback Garrett Chesney.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.