The local field in Class 6A has some intriguing storylines this year as Cathedral moves up and there are new coaches at Carmel, Franklin Central and Pike. Here’s a look:
(In predicted order of finish)
Former assistant John Hebert takes over a program that returns 13 starters, including seniors Noah Burks (linebacker), Alex Akins (safety) and Andrew Verhulst (defensive end) on defense and Michael Viktrup (quarterback) and Chase Krauter and Simon Pachiarz on the offensive line.
The Tigers return 12 starters from a team that played state runner-up Carmel to a 14-7 loss in the sectional championship. Senior quarterback Zach Eaton (1,440 passing yards, 11 TDs) has a year of experience.
Hamilton Southeastern (4-6)
The Royals look to bounce back from their first losing season since a 2-7 mark in 1993. There is speed and experience at the skill positions with quarterback Carter Poiry (1,045 passing yards) and running back Aaron Matio (941 rushing yards) returning.
The Millers finished at .500 for the second consecutive season and lost four games by 10 points or less. There is experience in the backfield with senior quarterback Luke Melloh and senior running back Jarel Youree.
Ben Davis (12-2)
Can the Giants repeat? The defending state champions will have a new quarterback but the offensive line is very good and running back Chris Evans (1,249 yards rushing, 676 receiving) and receiver Stori Emerson (883 yards) are playmakers. Defensive end Keilan Guillory (Ball State) anchors a talented defense.
Is this the year the Orioles break through and win their first sectional since 2010? Avon is loaded with experience and talent on both sides of the ball and has a Mr. Football candidate in senior quarterback Brandon Peters (1,876 passing yards, 21 TDs).
Former assistant Jimmy Graves takes over a program that lost several shootouts a year ago. The Red Devils have a playmaker in senior receiver Johnny William and a big-time offensive lineman in 6-5, 315-pound senior Lee Burks, an Indiana State recruit. Seniors Josh Hayes (defensive back) and Aaron Jones (linebacker) lead the defense.
The Bulldogs may have as good a trio at the skill positions as any team in the state with junior quarterback Hunter Johnson, senior running back Toks Akinribade (school’s all-time rushing leader) and senior receiver Tyler Kirtz, a Ball State recruit.
The Irish make the jump to Class 6A with a solid offensive line, senior quarterback Max Bortenschlager and a defense led by all-staters Kendall Coleman (defensive end) and Ben Stewart (defensive back). Winning a sixth consecutive state title would be quite an achievement.
Lawrence Central (4-7)
The move to the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference has been tough for the Bears, a combined 0-10 vs. Carmel, Warren Central, Ben Davis and Center Grove the past two years. Four starters return along the offensive line, along with running back Gerrid Doaks (1,242 yards).
Lawrence North (1-9)
Coach Patrick Mallory goes into this third season as coach with a group that could make some headway. Senior linebacker Brandon Martin (Ball State) and senior lineman Marcus Taylor (Navy) lead the defense and the run-based offense has experience on the line and at quarterback with junior Jackson Hamersly.
North Central (0-10)
The Panthers were blanked seven times in Kevin Kreinhagen’s first season as coach. Senior Austin Roberts (1,084 passing yards) goes into his second season as a starter and will have a target in senior Anthony Neal. Seniors Jacob Stauffer and Rashaad Poindexter lead the linebackers.
Warren Central (9-3)
Warren Central’s attempt at defending its state championship ended with a heartbreaking 40-36 loss to Ben Davis in the regional. Ball State commits Dominic Mathis (defense) and Jasion Brogan (offense) anchor the lines. Receiver Jay Coe is a playmaker, though there is inexperience at the skill positions.
Senior quarterback Luke Johnston (3,228 passing yards, 28 TDs) has experience around him with junior running back Andrew Mappes (514 yards), senior tight end Evan Higgs (737 yards, six TDs) and Matt Garrett on the line. Ball State commit Kyle Williams (lineman) and Eli Walton (secondary) lead the defense.
Perry Meridian (2-8)
The Falcons took a step back after a pair of 5-5 seasons as the defense struggled. Several key players return on that side of the ball and the offense has good pieces with offensive lineman Kyle Ball (Junior All-State last year) and senior running back Jordan Marion (798 yards, 10 TDs).
Franklin Central (3-8)
New coach Grant Lewis will run a spread pistol offense and has some talent at the skill positions with senior running back Robert Ritter, junior receiver/linebacker Wil Huber and senior quarterback Cody Jacob. Justin Borton will anchor the offensive line. The Flashes haven’t had a winning season since 2007.
Center Grove (9-4)
After starting 1-3, the Trojans came within a whisker of a state finals appearance. Eric Moore’s team is loaded again with Vanderbilt commit Cameron Tidd and Javon Swann at defensive tackle and several skill position players back, including quarterback Joey Siderewicz.
Columbus North (5-6)
New Albany (1-9)
Cathedral, the state champion of Class 5A in the two years of six classes, has moved up to 6A. That would appear to open things up a bit for the rest of the class, including several strong programs locally. A look:
The Shamrocks graduated quite a bit of talent from a team that made the regional, but bring back a strong offensive line and senior quarterback Ryan Pepiot (1,757 passing yards) and top target Milo Beam (32 catches, 678 yards).
West Lafayette Harrison (7-4)
Lafayette Jeff (1-9)
The Eagles had a couple of good victories — Brownsburg and Fishers — in Pat Echeverria’s first season as coach. Several key players return, including senior receiver/running back Eddie Mattingly, senior defensive lineman Scott Fuller and senior quarterbacks Trevor Liechty and Drew Bertram.
Decatur Central (8-3)
The post-Tommy Stevens era begins for the Hawks with standout lineman Trent Maynard as the anchor. Senior Chandler Barnes (723 rushing yards) and sophomore Tyrone Tracy (758 yards) are talented running backs. Calvin Thomas is a sophomore playmaker at linebacker.
The Titans enter their first year in the North Central Conference with a brutal nonconference opener vs. Ben Davis. Tony Henderson’s team has talent along the defensive line with seniors Rondell Weathers and Zaccai Robinson. Senior quarterback James Gates leads the offense.
The Quakers came on strong at the end of last season and return senior quarterback Colin Nyswander (1,290 passing yards), running backs Dylan Foster (747 yards) and Jake Maple (injured most of junior year), and senior linebackers Coy Anderson, Tevin Tomlinson and Hunter Lyford.
New Palestine (15-0)
After winning the Class 4A state title, the Dragons make the move to 5A with a roster that should be very competitive. Senior quarterback Alex Neligh (2,469 passing yards, 1,185 rushing yards), senior running back/safety Nick Brickens (73 tackles), linebacker Joe Izbicki (103 tackles) and offensive lineman Nick Derheimer are among the top returners.
Columbus East (13-1)
The Warriors return eight offensive starters from a team that lost the last two years to Cathedral in the regional. Senior all-stater Tyler Johnson anchors the offensive line and senior running back Shaw Cloud (1,542 rushing yards) is in line for a big year.
The Artesians graduated a lot of talent from last year, especially on offense. Junior Colton Tribby (receiver) and senior Eli Hopkins (receiver) are expected to emerge. The defense has some experience with senior linebackers Keelan Page and Ethan Knox (9.5 tackles for loss).
Third-year coach Adam Reese returns junior quarterback T.J. Ahlefeld as well as seniors Zach Dowell (fullback/linebacker), Nathan Bonham (receiver/defensive back), Phoenix Campos (halfback/defensive back) and Cole Miller (halfback/defensive back).
Where did everybody go? Class 4A looks a lot different with the defection of Plainfield and New Palestine to 5A and Bishop Chatard to 3A. It should open the door for some new teams to make a run in this class. A closer look:
(In predicted order of finish)
Odd statistic: None of the programs that have defeated Roncalli in the tournament since 2006 (Cathedral, Plainfield, Bishop Chatard and New Palestine) are currently in Class 4A. The defense was strong last year and will be led by linebacker Nate Eble and defensive back Justin Saylor. Leading rusher Nate Fries also returns.
The Woodmen started strong before dropping five in a row to end last season. Senior running back John Gallman (827 yards, nine TDs) returns, along with senior receivers Jackson Daughtery (429 yards, four TDs) and Dylan Rosado (280 yards, three TDs).
Beech Grove (7-5)
The Hornets were one of the area’s most exciting offensive teams a year ago and junior quarterback Chase Andries (2,906 passing yards, 33 TDs; 706 rushing yards, 15 TDs) returns. Walter Ballinger (225 yards) returns at running back.
The Pioneers improved last season after back-to-back 1-9 seasons and return senior quarterback Alex Fabert (2,064 passing yards, 23 TDs, 458 rushing yards) and senior receiver Tyler Early (694 yards, 5 TDs). There is experience along the line as well with seniors Grant West, Dylan Pennington and Tristan Shelley and junior Chance Justus.
First-year coach Neil Kazmierczak will rely on senior running back Gage Pedigo (657 yards) and junior quarterback Evan Stambaugh (620 passing yards, 387 rushing). Seniors Kyle Williams (defensive end), Grady Robertson (defensive back) and Jackson Bland (defensive end) also return.
Mt. Vernon (6-4)
The Marauders are 31-14 in Doug Armstrong’s four seasons as coach and no longer have New Palestine to deal with in the sectional. Senior quarterback Jimmy Campbell returns as the starter and other key seniors are Juwann Nelson (cornerback), Jordan House (running back) and Blake Slunaker (offensive line).
Greenfield-Central is looking to post its first winning season since 2011 led by senior quarterback Jeremiah Fields and senior running back/defensive lineman Andy Kim (841 yards, seven touchdowns). Roger Dodson goes into his 10th season as coach.
Pendleton Heights (4-7)
John Broughton enters his 39th season at Pendleton Heights with eight returning starters on offense, including team MVP Chase Cochran at running back and four linemen. The defense struggled to stop the run and allowed 34 points or more in seven games.
Jay County (2-8)
New Castle (1-9)
East Central (8-4)
There is reason to believe the program could enjoy its first winning season since 2009. Junior quarterback John Lux passed for 1,400 yards and 18 TDs last season and senior DeShaun French rushed for 1,111 yards and eight TDs. Senior defensive end Jarrett Mohr had 11.5 sacks last season.
Silver Creek (4-5)
Franklin County (5-5)
Jennings County (1-9)
South Dearborn (2-8)
There may not be a more competitive sectional in the state than Sectional 29. Here’s a closer look at the local Class 3A field:
West Lafayette (7-3)
Hamilton Heights (9-3)
The Huskies are 39-11 in Mitch Street’s four seasons as coach. This season looks promising again with senior quarterback Ethan Jones (1,208 passing yards, 14 TDs) returning, along with senior linemen Tyler Anderson and Corbin Cook, among others. The senior class is strong.
Western Boone (8-4)
Third-year coach Justin Pelley has 14 starters back from a team that started last year 6-0 and lost to state champion Tri-West in the sectional title game. The defense is especially experienced, led by tackles Soren Cavender, Dylan Kortman and Jonah Marsh and linebackers Logan Marsh, Evan Bayles and Corbin Pedigo.
North Montgomery (6-4)
Twin Lakes (6-4)
Benton Central (2-9)
Don’t count out the defending state champs. The Bruins will be breaking in a new quarterback in junior Jake Hill but the skill positions are loaded with senior Wes Cook (1,473 rushing yards, 26 TDs), senior Colton Jobe (505 rushing, 412 receiving) and junior Casey Coll (513 receiving yards) and plenty of talent on defense, including senior Drake Stahl (14 sacks).
Bishop Chatard (8-3)
After two years playing up a class, the Trojans return to Class 3A where they won state titles in 2010, ’11 and ’12. Vince Lorenzano’s teams are typically strong up front and Miami of Ohio recruit Danny Godlevske leads the way at center. Tight end Jack Gleaves, quarterback Lewis Dilts and fullback Will Fehribach are key seniors.
Brebeuf Jesuit (7-4)
The Braves will have some holes to fill after the graduation of several key seniors. At 6-4, senior receiver Sam Snyder (256 yards, three TDs) will provide a big target for junior quarterback Luke Iffert. Seniors Sam Hensley and Jude Bill return on the offensive line in Mic Roessler’s third season as coach.
Guerin Catholic (9-4)
Tom Dilley’s team will be breaking in a new quarterback in junior Elliot Charlebois, who will have some experience around him with four returning starters on the offensive line and junior running back Carter McGinnis (544 yards) and senior receiver Arion Shinaver (33 catches, 445 yards). Junior Caleb Quick is a weapon in the kicking game.
The offensive line looks like a strength for coach Russell Sumner, and junior quarterback Christian Schabel (1,422 passing yards, 11 TDs) has a year of experience under his belt. The Warriors are back in Class 3A after two years in the 4A tournament.
West Vigo (2-8)
The Space Pioneers were 0-10 last year and have won just three games over the past four seasons.
Indian Creek (9-1)
The Braves lost 17 seniors from a team that lost a 28-27 hearbreaker to Hamilton Heights in the sectional. Senior Nick Clevenger and junior Noah Maness return along the offensive line, along with senior quarterback Gynson Robley (1,810 passing yards, 23 TDs).
Former Tech assistant James Brown takes over a program that won six games in 2012 and ’13 under current Tech coach Anthony Henderson. Brown will rely on senior receiver/defensive back Lee Driver, junior running back Qishon Adams and senior quarterback Elijah Hutchison, among others.
Robert Orkman comes over after one season at Marshall. The team scored just 16 points all season last year and were blanked in seven games. Senior linebacker/receiver Jalen Alexander, senior receiver/defensive back Taj Moore and senior lineman Devashita Garrett will be expected to lead.
Andy Mappes takes over a program that will be led by senior receiver Xavier Halsell, junior running back Curtis Ferguson and freshman Marky Grever (quarterback), Darrin Douthit (offensive line) and Rayo Lewis (running back).
Cardinal Ritter (7-5)
After winning state in 2013, the Raiders slipped a bit last year and were blasted by Monrovia in the sectional. Senior Alex Downard started six games last year at quarterback and he has three receivers and a tight end with starting experience. Senior Josh Majors is a two-year starter in the secondary.
Heritage Christian (8-3)
Senior quarterback Jackson Heath (2,238 passing yards) keys the offense, which also has standouts at receiver (senior Jackson West) and tackle (junior Jake McKenzie). The Eagles are no longer in the same sectional with Shenandoah, the team that has knocked them out three of past five years.
The Crusaders lost seven consecutive games to end the season — their first losing season since 2010. Coach Ott Hurrle will rely on a group of seniors that includes Lex Martin (quarterback), Devon Motley (receiver), Isaiah Bryant (cornerback) and running backs Drew Tucker and Darius Mitchell.
The Sparkplugs slipped under .500 in Steve Wray’s first season as coach, the program’s first losing season in 20 years. Sophomore quarterback Chris Valentine (1,100 passing yards, 13 TDs) returns, along with junior running back Jacob Jones (936 yards). The defense must show improvement, especially stopping the run.
The Bulldogs won their first sectional since 2008 last season. Sophomore Levi Frazier is pegged to start at quarterback and junior Will Jones at running back. Senior defensive backs Dalton Miller and Pierce Pickett also return.
Park Tudor (2-9)
Senior quarterback Jack Dassow (2,180 passing yards, 15 TDs) returns along with junior running back Ahrod Lloyd (1,198 yards, 15 TDs). Four-year starter Owen Akins returns on the offensive line, along with Elliott Qualkinbush. Park Tudor has won two games each of the past three seasons.
Broad Ripple (1-9)
Jamie Rickard takes over as coach and will install a spread offense with 6-3 senior George Wills III as the likely starter at quarterback. Other key players are senior lineman Steve Jones, senior tight end Malachi Mozee, lineman Jason Nguyen and receiver Erik Jones.
Triton Central (11-2)
Tim Able’s program won a sectional last season and brings back junior quarterback Jordan Crouse (991 passing yards, nine TDs) and junior running back Ben Thacker (218 yards). Versatile senior linebacker Bryan Beauchamp will also play a key role, along with receiver Jeremy Engle.
Eastern Hancock (10-3)
The Royals won a sectional in Jim O’Hara’s first season as coach, falling 21-19 to Lutheran in the regional. Senior receiver Austin Smith (489 yards, four TDs) returns and junior Devin Denny is expected to step in at running back. Senior Clayton Brimfield (center) and senior Caleb Beyers (free safety) are other standouts.
The Hornets have been a solid Class A program the last two years under coach Craig Chambers and now make the jump to 2A after losing to Lutheran in back-to-back seasons. Junior quarterback Dontea Henderson will key the offense.
Union County (3-7)
Switzerland County (0-0)
Senior back Jaden Rhea (2,120 yards, 22 TDs last season) is on pace to break the school’s all-time rushing record. Senior offensive linemen Dristin McCubbins, Jeremiah Welty and Chase Cope also return, along with senior linebackers Brady Hale and Nolan Wicks.
South Vermillion (4-7)
North Putnam (4-6)
After a 6-5 season in 2013, the Cadets slipped back again last year. Seniors Zac Butler (receiver/linebacker), Brock Stephenson (receiver/defensive back) and Dylan Musgrove (running back/defensive line) have experience at the skill positions.
North Vermillion (15-0)
Fountain Central (9-3)
Senior Jacob Chesney had 614 receiving yards last season and will move to quarterback. Other returning senior starters are Taylor Ly (receiver), David Powers (tackle), Zach Reed (defensive end) and K.J. Acevedo (defensive back). Coach Bud Wright, the state’s all-time wins leader, is eight away from 400 for his career.
South Putnam (6-5)
Covenant Christian (0-0)
Former Zionsville coach Larry McWhorter looks to get the program off the ground led by running back Jake Namisnak, offensive lineman/defensive end Caleb Penning and lineman Ben McKinnon-Duggins. Emery Brough is the likely starter at quarterback.
Turkey Run (3-7)
Riverton Parke (0-10)
Lutheran is coming off of its first regional title in program history. The Saints did it with a punishing ground attack that averaged more than 300 yards a game. Key returners are senior quarterback Jake Reid (1,774 passing yards, 19 TDs), sophomore running back Andre Jones (1,004 yards, nine TDs) and senior lineman Dionte McFadden.
Indiana Deaf (7-3)
Indiana Deaf posted its best season since 2007 and brings back senior quarterback/free safety Dante Paulone and 6-4 junior tight end/defensive end Lance Wood. Juniors Clay Roberts (offensive line/defensive end), Paco Martinez (linebacker) and Todd Oliver (receiver) will also be key for coach Garrett Wooten.
Cambridge City Lincoln (2-8)
Tindley’s top players include junior quarterback/defensive back Cameron Anderson, sophomore running back LaBronze Glover, junior running back/linebacker Noble Duke, freshman offensive lineman Gabe Jones and junior receiver Tiler Mitchell.
Christopher Edison takes over as coach after the Blue Devils won 15 games under Steve Moorman the past two seasons. Quarterback Malik Dean and defensive tackle William Stone will lead their units while Erikmycal Powell is a promising freshman.
South Decatur (5-6)
Eastern Greene (5-5)
West Washington (5-5)
North Decatur (2-8)
Former Warren Central offensive lineman Derrick Ball takes over for Bill Unsworth, who retired after five seasons. Bobby Simpson passed for 1,312 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
Oldenburg Academy (6-3)
Springs Valley (1-8)
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.