Indiana high school football playoffs: Class 6A sectional preview
IndyStar’s Preps Weekly: Preview of Week 2
Join insiders Brian Haenchen, Akeem Glaspie and Kyle Neddenriep as they preview week two of the IHSAA sections.
Clark Wade, Indianapolis star
The high school football game starts this week. We break down the Class 6A field with 10 numbers you need to know, predictions and more:
Defending champions: Center Grove (7-2)
Team No. 1: Hamilton Southeastern (9-0)
IHSAA Football Department Predictions: Who will play for titles next week?
>> Can Center Grove finish third in a row? Fourth in the table, the Trojans are unlikely to go into the tournament as favorites. But they are close and they are the champions until proven otherwise. Coach Eric Moore’s 24th Center Grove’s team is still the favorite to reach the semi-state and then get a shot against a team like Cathedral, Brownsburg or Ben Davis and potentially go into this game as an underdog — a role Moore enjoys. There’s enough talent and championship pedigree for the Trojans to play at Lucas Oil Stadium over Thanksgiving weekend.
>> First round fallout: There are two first-round clashes in particular — No. 9 Westfield (6-3) vs. No. 7 Carmel in Sectional 4, and No. 3 Brownsburg (8-1) vs. No. 8 Ben Davis (6-3) in Sectional 5 – this will help shape the rest of the tournament. The winners of these games will be big favorites in next week’s section championship games and state title contenders. The losers turn in their gear on Monday.
>> How does Cathedral fare in promotion? Second-placed Cathedral (7-1) is playing in 6A for the first time – and only time – since the 2015 and 16 seasons. These Irish teams won section titles before losing in the region and returning to 5A. This team is a definite state championship contender for coach Bill Peebles and should be a confident group after their comeback in the fourth quarter and 40-29 win over Center Grove in the finals of the regular season. Cathedral can’t look too far ahead as Lawrence North and Lawrence Central look to upset the section.
>> Is this the year of HSE? In this balanced year in 6A, it makes sense that Hamilton Southeastern climbed to No. 1 in the leaderboard for the first time all season ahead of the tournament. The Royals, led by third-year coach Michael Kelly, are not a flashy group. But they know how to win — by beating four opponents, including then-No. 1 Brownsburg, by a touchdown or fewer. It’s been 11 years since HSE won a section championship but this could be the year. However, it will likely mean coming through Fishers again. The Tigers nearly defeated HSE in the first meeting, losing 28-27 in overtime.
>> Challengers outside of Central Indiana: Any chance of a non-central Indiana team winning the 6A championship for the first time? The most likely options are fifth-place Carroll (Fort Wayne) (9-0) and sixth-place Crown Point (9-0). One of these teams will likely reach the semi-state and play one of the HSE, Fishers, Carmel, or Westfield.
4: In consecutive years, both 6A entries came from Central Indiana. Penn is the last out-of-state team to play in the state finals, losing to Ben Davis this year, 63-14. In fact, Penn is the only non-area team to reach the state championship since a sixth grade was added in 2013. Penn also lost to Center Grove in the 2015 state championship, 28-16.
62: Career passing touchdowns for Cathedral Junior Danny O’Neil, which is already a school record with more than a year of playing. O’Neil has completed 66.2% of his passes for 2,016 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. He’s also rushed for 252 yards and seven TDs. O’Neil also has the school records for passing yards (5,080) and career degrees (390).
922: Received yards this season for Center Grove junior Noah Coy, who has 46 receptions and 10 TD catches. That’s a big jump for Coy, who had eight catches for 118 yards as a sophomore.
1,668: Combined rushing yards for Fishers junior Khobie Martin (1,025) and senior Carson Dunn (643). The duo also teamed up for 20 TDs. Dunn, an Indiana State commit, was also a big threat in the passing game with 20 receptions for 252 yards and two TDs.
2: Warren Central coach Mike Kirschner requires wins to reach 150 for his career. Kirschner, who guided Ben Davis to state titles in 2014 and 17, is in his second year at his alma mater after three seasons at Mt. Vernon. Warren Central will be the favorite to win Sectional 7 starting with 0-9 Southport in the first round.
341: Career tackles for Lawrence Central senior linebacker Tylen Cunningham. The senior linebacker has 136 tackles this season, including 15½ for a loss, five sacks, three fumbles caused and two interceptions. Cunningham, Josh Mickens, Trent Baker-Booker and that talented defense have a chance to play second-placed Cathedral next week if both teams win in Section 6 on Friday.
10: Receivers playing 6A in Central Indiana with at least 500 receiving yards. This is a great year for recipients. In addition to Center Grove’s Coy, there’s Carmel’s Reece Bellin (58 catches, 899 yards, nine TDs), Lawrence Central’s Ahmaad Duff (41 catches, 894 yards, eight TDs), Ben Davis’s Marques Reese (55 catches, 885 yards). , eight TDs), HSE’s Donovan Hamilton (41 catches, 680 yards, eight TDs), Brownsburg’s Corey Smith (32 catches, 677 yards, six TDs), Cathedral’s Jaron Tibbs (43 catches, 634 yards, 10 TDs), Anthony Kennedy of Avon (39 catches, 604 yards, three TDs) and Cam Green (30 catches, 586 yards, three TDs) and Eugene Hilton of Zionsville (46 catches, 570 yards, five TDs) over 500 yards.
1985: The year “Back to the Future” has been released. Brownsburg wants to bring the spirit of 1985 to 2022. This was the last year the Bulldogs won a regional championship and also their second consecutive state championship. Brownsburg won Class 3A in 1984 and Class 4A in 1985, beating Hobart 23-17. It’s going to be a tough road for third-place Brownsburg, who opens Section 5 on eighth-place Ben Davis.
29: Career games for Warren Central senior linebacker Lee Alexander, a member of the Navy anchoring the Warriors defense. Alexander leads the team – by some distance – with 87 tackles.
28: Days from the first round of the section game on Friday night to the state finals on November 25 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Who stays?
All section winners predicted by 6A
Part 1: crown point. The challenge here will likely come from Lafayette Jeff (7-2) in next week’s section championship. The Bulldogs were only 5-5 last season.
Section 2: Caroll (Fort Wayne). Carroll is ranked 10th in the first round by Penn (7-2). Not easy.
Section 3: Hamilton southeast. Mudsock Part II could happen next week. The first game against Fishers was a classic.
Section 4: Carmel. The Greyhounds must beat Westfield to make it in one of the biggest games in the state next week.
Section 5: Braunsburg. Similar challenge to Carmel. The Bulldogs’ toughest contender is right off the bat – at Ben Davis.
Section 6: Cathedral. The Irish will likely need to eliminate Lawrence North and Lawrence Central to progress.
Section 7: Warren Central. Should sail relatively smooth here.
Section 8: center grove. The Trojans are far from perfect, but they could definitely be on Thanksgiving weekend for the fourth year in a row.
Call Star Reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
Class 6A Central Indiana first round games on Friday
Fishermen (6-3) at Fort Wayne Northrop (1-8)
Homestead (5-4) at Hamilton Southeastern (9-0)
Westfield (6-3) at Carmel (6-3)
Zionsville (4-5) at Noblesville (3-6)
Brownsburg (8-1) at Ben Davis (6-3)
Avon (1-8) at Pike (1-8)
Lawrence North (4-5) vs. Cathedral (7-1) at Arlington
North Central (0-9) at Lawrence Central (4-5)
Tech (1-8) at Perry Meridian (3-6)
Warren Central (4-5) at Southport (0-9)
Center Grove (7-2) at Franklin Central (3-6)