During our online podcast this week, sports producer Matt Glenesk asked me for a prediction on the Class 6A state champion.
I hemmed and hawed a bit, then picked Ben Davis. Not because I don’t believe the Giants are very good — they are — but because the competition is so fierce. As we talked about in the podcast, Ben Davis is not the top-ranked team in Class 6A Associated Press preseason poll. That honor belongs to Carmel. But it’s Warren Central, not Carmel, which is the defending state champion.
That’s not to mention programs like Center Grove, Penn, Fishers and others with state title aspirations. Here’s a stat, a possibly surprising stat, to chew on: there has not been a repeat champion in the state’s largest class since Warren Central ran off four consecutive titles from 2003-06.
The 6A power might be consolidated in Central Indiana, but at least it’s been passed around a bit. Now, on to the first week of football predictions (Check IndyStar.com for predictions on all area games; kickoffs are 7 p.m. Friday unless noted):
Warren Central at Center Grove: The stakes were high the last time these teams met, as Warren Central won 12-7 in the semistate to avenge a 21-10 loss to the Trojans in the season opener. Both teams incurred significant losses through graduation, though Center Grove does bring back running backs Max Norris (1,251 yards, 17 touchdowns) and Titus McCoy (442 yards) and Warren Central has standout safety Mykelti Williams and running back Tirone Young (785 yards). Expect another close, defensive-minded game. Warren Central 21, Center Grove 17.
Brownsburg at Pike: When these teams last met in October, Pike led 43-0 at halftime on its way to a 57-7 win in the sectional. This Pike team is a little more unsettled and untested on offense, but does bring back several returners on defense, including linebacker Quentin Moon. Brownsburg should be improved, especially on offense, with junior running back Toks Akinribade (1,073 yards) and sophomore quarterback Hunter Johnson. Pike 30, Brownsburg 20.
Hamilton Southeastern at Carmel: This is yet another rematch of a playoff game last season. It was a game HSE probably wants to forget, as Carmel won 40-7 in the sectional. The Greyhounds go into the season ranked No. 1 in Class 6A. Carmel 28, Hamilton Southeastern 17.
Cathedral at Ben Davis: This is the final year of a four-game series between the teams. Ben Davis has won the previous three games by a combined 12 points. Quarterback Kyle Castner and Co. looked sharp in Ben Davis’ scrimmage last week against Westfield, as did linebacker Asmar Bilal and the defense. Cathedral will have some new faces but running back Caleb Cross rushed for 940 yards last season. Ben Davis 34, Cathedral 24.
Bishop Chatard vs. Brebeuf Jesuit, 6 p.m. (at Lucas Oil Stadium): This is a big-time matchup between teams ranked No. 2 in the state (Chatard in 4A, Brebeuf in 3A). Brebeuf defeated Chatard last season for the first time since 1976 and returns a lot of talent, including running back LeVante’ Bellamy (2,340 rushing yards) and quarterback Aaron Banks (2,093 passing yards). Brebeuf Jesuit 23, Bishop Chatard 21.
Lawrence Central vs. Avon, 8:30 p.m. (at Lucas Oil Stadium): Another excellent matchup on the back end of the Lucas Oil doubleheader. Avon, led by junior quarterback Brandon Peters, could be one of the most under-the-radar teams in 6A. Lawrence Central is ready to put last year’s 3-7 season behind it. Avon 27, Lawrence Central 21.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.