Top 10 area teams in Class 6A
Ben Davis (12-2 last season): We picked Ben Davis in this spot a year ago and the program won its first state title in 12 years. There are plenty of reasons to like coach Mike Kirschner’s team again, starting with all-purpose senior threat Chris Evans. If there is a smooth transition at quarterback, the Giants have plenty of other pieces in place for a title defense.
Carmel (13-1): For the seventh time in nine years, Carmel played for a state title. The Greyhounds dropped to 2-5 in those games, falling to Ben Davis 42-24. In a surprise move, Kevin Wright left for IMG Academy (Fla.) and assistant John Hebert stepped in. There shouldn’t be much of a drop off, if any, although the sectional is no cakewalk.
Center Grove (9-4): The Trojans’ 49-45 loss to Ben Davis in the semistate was a gut punch. But Eric Moore’s team is capable of bouncing back in a big way this year with a defensive line that could be dominant and offensive weapons like junior Titus McCoy at running back. The first four games — Warren Central, Whiteland, Carmel and Ben Davis — are as tough as it gets.
Warren Central (9-3): The Warriors should be strong along the lines and have a sparkplug at receiver in 5-6 senior Jay Coe. Coach Jayson West has options at quarterback in juniors Zach Summeier and Tristen Tonte. Warren Central, the 2013 Class 6A champ, saw its 14-game winning streak snapped by Carmel last season and lost a 40-36 decision to Ben Davis in a classic regional game.
Avon (8-3): Look out for the Orioles. Coach Mark Bless not only brings back Brandon Peters at quarterback but also senior running back Darian Love (716 yards), senior receiver Andrew Griffin (880 yards, 10 TDs), tight end Matt Moore and a three-year starter at linebacker, Matt Thompson, among others. The potential problem? Ben Davis in the same sectional, not to mention Pike and Brownsburg.
Cathedral (9-5): The Irish make their 6A debut in a sectional that might be winnable with Lawrence Central likely the toughest competitor (Cathedral’s opponent in the regular-season opener). As usual, Cathedral’s regular season record may not look pretty, but Rick Streiff’s veteran team won’t be an easy out in the tournament.
Fishers (7-4): There is plenty of talent and experience on the roster and a potential game-breaker in junior safety/receiver R.J. Potts. Senior Jeremy Chinn is a two-year starter on defense and will see time at running back, and senior Zach Eaton returns at quarterback. The defense should also be strong up front, led by seniors Shawn Taylor, Steven Chakiry and junior Jeff Inman.
Lawrence Central (4-7): The Bears were better than last year’s four-win season indicates. It’s a tough road in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference again, but Jed Richman’s third team should be able to rely on Cincinnati recruit Gerrid Doaks at running back and a strong offensive line.
Southport (9-3): It’s going to be difficult for the Cardinals to extend their sectional title streak to three now that Warren Central is in the field. But senior quarterback Luke Johnston is the real deal and he’ll have a prime target with junior Paul Scruggs coming over from the basketball team to play receiver. There’s talent elsewhere as well, including Ball State commit Kyle Williams on the line.
Pike (4-6): There’s a feeling of uncertainty about Pike with a new coach (Jimmy Graves) and some new faces in key positions. Senior linebacker Aaron Jones (77 tackles) will need to have a big season, along with defensive back and Purdue recruit Josh Hayes. The schedule is relentless, starting with nonconference games vs. Brownsburg and Fishers.
Top 3 area teams in Class 5A
New Palestine (15-0):The Dragons move up to 5A after running roughshod to the Class 4A title last season. Coach Kyle Ralph has a senior class that remains hungry and eager to prove itself in a new class.
Whiteland (8-4): Sectional 14 is absolutely loaded — New Pal, Columbus East and Whiteland. The Warriors have been a solid program for 10 years under Darrin Fisher and are coming off back-to-back sectional titles.
Westfield (7-5): The Shamrocks lost four games last year to 6A opponents before falling to Fort Wayne Snider in the regional. Jake Gilbert’s program should again be one of the best in 5A.
Top 3 area teams in Class 4A
Roncalli (7-6): Maybe no program benefited as much from class reshuffling as Roncalli — and the Rebels remained in 4A. The regular season schedule is difficult as usual but Bruce Scifres’ 26th team appears well-positioned for a tourney run.
Greenwood (4-6): A team that could challenge Roncalli in Sectional 21 is Greenwood, which plays six 5A or 6A programs during the season. Mike Campbell’s teams rely on the run and this year should be no different behind senior John Gallman.
Beech Grove (7-5): Another team that could challenge in Sectional 21. The Hornets opened it up last year with the passing game as Chase Andries threw for nearly 3,000 yards. Beech Grove notched nice tourney wins over Mt. Vernon and Pendleton Heights.
Top 3 area teams in Class 3A
Tri-West (14-1): There is a change at quarterback but the Bruins might be just as explosive as last year’s state championship team. The road to a repeat is as tough as it gets with Brebeuf Jesuit, Guerin Catholic and now Bishop Chatard all in Sectional 29.
Bishop Chatard (8-3): The Trojans return to 3A after two seasons in 4A. It’s worth noting Chatard has lost to just one 3A opponent since 2009 (Brebeuf in the 2013 season opener). It’ll be interesting to see how Chatard stacks up in Sectional 29.
Guerin Catholic (9-4): Tom Dilley’s first season at Guerin was a good one, ending with a 23-15 loss to Tri-West in the regional. Now Guerin is in the same sectional with Tri-West — along with everyone else, it seems.
Top 3 area teams in Class 2A/A
Monrovia (11-3): The Bulldogs made an impressive run to the Class 2A semistate last year and could be in the mix again for a deep run with a relentless ground attack led by senior running back Jordan Rhea.
Cardinal Ritter (7-5): It speaks highly of the Ritter program that a 7-5 season marks the program’s worst record since 2005. The Raiders look to bounce back starting with the season opener vs. Monrovia.
Triton Central (11-2): The Tigers won a sectional for the second time in four seasons (losing to Evansville Mater Dei in the regional). Coach Tim Able is 20-5 in two seasons.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.