Say what you will about Indiana’s football playoff system – to me, it makes little sense not to incorporate some sort of seeding process – it is about to get fun.
Because there is no seeding, we get games like Hamilton Southeastern-Fishers and Western Boone-West Lafayette on the first night of the tournament. It gets real right out of the gate. So let’s get to it. Here’s a class-by-class look at the area football sectionals:
The matchups: Hamilton Southeastern (8-1) at Fishers (6-3); Noblesville (3-6) at Carmel (7-2).
The skinny: HSE is dangerous, as talented at the skill positions as anyone in the field. But the Royals have a tough road with Fishers and likely No. 2 Carmel in the next round.
The pick: Carmel. First-year coach John Hebert’s program has won the sectional seven of the past nine seasons. It reached the state championship all seven times, winning twice.
The matchups: Ben Davis (5-4) at Pike (4-5); Avon (7-2) at Brownsburg (4-5).
The skinny: This sectional will light up the scoreboard. Brownsburg (43.2) and Avon (39.7) lead Class 6A in scoring offense. Ben Davis (34.6) and Pike (29.6) aren’t bad offensively, either.
The pick: Avon. The Orioles lost 49-42 to Ben Davis way back in August. But Avon has been the most consistent on both sides of the ball of the four teams in this bracket.
The matchups: Cathedral (6-3) at Lawrence Central (3-6); North Central (0-9) at Lawrence North (2-7).
The skinny: Cathedral would appear to be a solid favorite, but beating Lawrence Central and Lawrence North won’t be a cakewalk. The Irish shut down Lawrence Central’s offense in a 32-14 season-opening win.
The pick: Cathedral. A strong running game and defense are good indicators of tournament success. The Irish have both.
The matchups: Warren Central (6-3) at Perry Meridian (5-4); Franklin Central (3-6) at Southport (7-2), Saturday.
The skinny: The Warren Central Invitational? No, it’s a tougher field than it might appear. Perry Meridian is rushing for 223 yards a game. Franklin Central has won three in a row after some close losses. And Southport has won back-to-back sectional titles and has a big-time offense.
The pick: Warren Central. Last week’s win over Cincinnati St. Xavier proves the Warriors could be poised for a special run.
The matchups: Jeffersonville (5-4) at New Albany (4-5); Center Grove (9-0) at Columbus North (6-3).
The skinny: Center Grove is the clear favorite.
The pick: Center Grove. The top-ranked Trojans rolled Columbus North 54-7 last year in the sectional.
CLASS 5A (all games except for Columbus East-Franklin are next week)
The matchups: McCutcheon (6-3) at Lafayette Jeff (7-2); West Lafayette Harrison (4-5) at Westfield (5-4).
The skinny: Westfield had lost four in a row before knocking off Brebeuf Jesuit 24-21 in the season finale. But all of those losses were to 6A teams. The Shamrocks are the favorite as they seek a third consecutive sectional title.
The pick: Westfield. McCutcheon was unbeaten last year and lost to Westfield by three touchdowns.
The matchups: Plainfield (5-4) at Decatur Central (7-2); Zionsville (3-6) at Tech (4-5).
The skinny: Is this the year Decatur Central ends a sectional title drought that dates to 2005?
The pick: Zionsville. The Eagles have lost five in a row but all against 6A programs.
The matchups: Columbus East (9-0) at Franklin (1-8); Martinsville (0-9) at New Palestine (9-0); Whiteland (7-2) vs. Columbus East-Franklin winner.
The skinny: Wow, great field here. New Pal and Columbus East are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and played in a classic last year in a 4A semistate game (a 30-28 New Pal win). Whiteland is ranked No. 6 and won the Mid-State Conference outright.
The pick: New Palestine. No reason to doubt the Dragons at this point.
The matchups: Lebanon (2-7) at Western (2-7); Frankfort (5-4) at Roncalli (5-4); Greenwood (5-4) at Beech Grove (6-3); Northview (9-0) at Mooresville (5-4).
The skinny: Northview’s unbeaten record is impressive, but the team hasn’t played a great schedule. Greenwood-Beech Grove should be one of the better games Friday.
The pick: Roncalli. Bruce Scifres’ team has been up and down but closed strong with three wins and played a tough schedule.
The matchups: Jay County (4-5) at Mt. Vernon (5-4); Pendleton Heights (3-6) at Connersville (1-8); Delta (6-3) at Greenfield-Central (4-5); Richmond (5-4) at New Castle (1-8).
The skinny: Delta looks like the best team but only defeated Mt. Vernon and Pendleton Heights by a combined nine points.
The pick: Mt. Vernon. The Marauders are a couple of plays away from being 7-2.
The matchups: Silver Creek (5-4) at Madison (0-9); Franklin County (6-3) at Seymour (3-6); East Central (7-2) at South Dearborn (3-6); Shelbyville (8-1) at Jennings County (6-3).
The skinny: Shelbyville is looking for its first sectional title and has its best chance since 2009, when it lost 21-17 to East Central in the sectional championship.
The pick: East Central.
The matchups: Tipton (5-4) at Twin Lakes (5-4); North Montgomery (6-3) at Benton Central (1-8); Hamilton Heights (6-3) at Crawfordsville (3-6); West Lafayette (8-1) at Western Boone (8-1).
The skinny: This is a loaded sectional with one of the top first-round matchups with No. 3 West Lafayette at No. 8 Western Boone.
The pick: West Lafayette. Not an easy route for the Red Devils.
The matchups: Greencastle (1-8) at Guerin Catholic (7-2); Brebeuf Jesuit (5-4) vs. Bishop Chatard (5-3), at Tech; Tri-West (6-3) at Danville (2-7); Northwest (5-4) at West Vigo (6-3).
The skinny: Another brutally tough sectional. Defending state champion Tri-West is arguably the fourth-best team.
The pick: Bishop Chatard. But not an easy pick. The Trojans’ route could be Brebeuf, Guerin and Tri-West.
The matchups: Marshall (0-9) at Greensburg (4-5); Rushville (1-8) at Lawrenceburg (5-4); Batesville (8-1) at Manual (3-6); Indian Creek (6-3) at Washington (1-7).
The skinny: Batesville hasn’t won a sectional since 2009, but probably goes in as the favorite.
The pick: Indian Creek. The Braves have recovered after a 1-3 start.
The matchups: Heritage Christian (7-2) at Broad Ripple (1-8); Speedway (2-7) at Frankton (4-5); Scecina (4-5) at Lapel (4-5); Park Tudor (1-8) vs. Cardinal Ritter (5-4), at Marian.
The skinny: This sectional is filled with teams that have played tougher schedules than most in Class 2A.
The pick: Cardinal Ritter. The Raiders lost to Monrovia in last year’s sectional but the Bulldogs have moved to Sectional 39.
The matchups: Union County (3-6) at Triton Central (5-4); Centerville (0-9) at Switzerland County (0-9); Northeastern (7-2) at Eastern Hancock (9-0); Milan (4-5) at Howe (6-3).
The skinny: A potential Eastern Hancock-Howe matchup next week would be one of the games of the year in 2A.
The pick: Eastern Hancock. Other than Monrovia, the Royals have been the area’s best 2A team this year.
The matchups: Mitchell (2-7) at Monrovia (8-1); Southmont (2-7) at South Vermillion (3-6); Paoli (2-7) at Cascade (4-5); North Putnam (7-2) at Cloverdale (1-8).
The skinny: This looks like Monrovia’s best team since the 2009 group made it to the state finals.
The pick: Monrovia. The Bulldogs might not get much of a challenge from this field.
The matchups: North Vermillion (8-1) at Turkey Run (2-7); Riverton Parke (0-9) at Covenant Christian (2-4); South Putnam (6-3) at Sheridan (3-6); Fountain Central (7-2) at Rockville (4-5).
The skinny: Covenant Christian plays its first sectional game as a program and has a chance to win. Its prize would be a matchup with defending state champion North Vermillion.
The pick: North Vermillion.
The matchups: Hagerstown (5-4) at Tri (2-7); Shortridge (2-6) at Cambridge City Lincoln (3-6); Lutheran (5-4) at Knightstown (2-7); Tindley (1-5) at Indiana Deaf (7-2).
The skinny: Lutheran should be well-prepared after playing bigger schools all season.
The pick: Lutheran. The Saints won a regional title for the first time last year.
The matchups: South Decatur (5-4) at Eastern Greene (7-2); Oldenburg Academy (6-3) at Edinburgh (2-7); Springs Valley (5-4) at North Decatur (6-3); West Washington (9-0) vs. South Decatur-Eastern Greene winner.
The skinny: Edinburgh is the lone local team in the field.
The pick: West Washington.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.