Looking for a few under-the-radar teams heading into the high school football season? We’ve got you covered. Here are five teams that could be classified as “sleepers” heading into Week 1 on Friday night:
>>Whiteland: There are a lot of reasons to like Whiteland, which goes into the season ranked No. 7 in Class 5A. The Warriors bring back eight starters on offense, including all-state senior lineman Tyler Johnson and standout running back Shaw Cloud (1,542 rushing yards). Whiteland was 8-4 last year and played 6A power Center Grove to a 14-13 game in the second week. Perhaps even more intriguing is that Cathedral – which ousted Whiteland the last two years in the regional – has moved up to 6A and no longer blocks the path. There is a new issue, however, with New Palestine and Columbus East moving up to 5A and joining the same Sectional 14 field with the Warriors. Games against Center Grove (Aug. 28) and Avon (Sept. 18) will be great regular-season tests.
>>Lawrence Central: The Bears are a little bit out of mind after going 4-7 last year. But consider the schedule. There were losses to Warren Central (twice), Avon, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Center Grove, Ben Davis and Carmel. None of the losses were blowouts. Coach Jed Richman will start a new quarterback in senior Andre Randolph against Cathedral on Friday, but he has one of the best running backs in the state in senior and Cincinnati recruit Gerrid Doaks (1,242 yards, 15 TDs). There is experience along the offensive and defensive lines and kicker Nash Griffin is one of the best around.
>>Zionsville: The schedule is tougher now in the seven-team Hoosier Crossroads Conference. The Eagles are one of two 5A teams (Westfield is the other) in a 6A league and finished 3-7 last season, Pat Echeverria’s first as coach. He’ll bring back two quarterbacks with experience in seniors Trevor Liechty and Drew Bertram. The defensive line should also be solid, led by junior all-stater Scott Fuller. Sectional 13 (Tech, Plainfield, Decatur Central) looks wide open. Zionsville should be right in the mix.
>>Scecina: The Crusaders were 3-0 last year when quarterback Lex Martin broke his collarbone and missed the rest of the season. Scecina finished 3-7. Martin, who passed for nearly 1,000 yards in three games, returns along with several other seniors for the 2A program. The schedule is not easy and Sectional 37 is really tough (Heritage Christian, Cardinal Ritter, Speedway, among others). But Scecina should be a factor again.
>>Hamilton Heights: The Huskies begin the season ranked No. 8 in Class 3A and benefit from not being in the same sectional with Tri-West (No. 1), Bishop Chatard (No. 4) and Guerin Catholic (No. 6). Mitch Street has quite a bit of experience returning here, including senior quarterback Ethan Jones. The first two games (Mt. Vernon and Noblesville) will be tough.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.