Bob Miller truly believes his young men Fairfield are the NECC champions. And he's right. Officially, his club will share the title with the winner of tonight's Lakeland-Churubusco game. Fairfield, though, is clearly the best team in the league.
After beating the Lakers and Eagles in back-to-back weeks, the Falcons secured their first conference crown since 2009, the last four straight championships. Its only loss came in Week 2 at home to Prairie Heights, less than 24 hours after senior classmate Matthews Simmons was struck and killed by a train south of Goshen. Nine times out of 10, Fairfield would beat the Heights. Emotionally and football-wise, the players moved on and have bonded, says Miller. "They've gotten closer as a team. It's been week by week, but the chemistry is starting to fall together.
Before and during tonight's Senior Night contest, the Falcon community will honor Indiana's military families with a "Hometown Heroes'' tribute. Culver Academy coach Andy Dorrell and Miller have partnered the fund-raising event. It's a win-win move by all involved, including Fairfield's "Twelfth Man Club," the football boosters. On the field, I like the Falcons to finish 8-1.
Conference Titles: Warsaw and Concord, Penn and Mishawaka -- two potential great conference championship games. The Minutemen are at home, they have their defensive pride back and they'll face a very one-dimensional Warsaw team. Concord will win by not allowing the Tigers 4- and 5-yard chunks on first down. If not, the game could go down to the final series. ... Mishawaka's defense will have its hands full getting Penn's offense off the turf at Steele Stadium. The Kingsmen showed they are human in a tight game last week with South Bend Riley. In the end, you've got to like Penn to remain 6A's No. 1, retain its NIC title and claim Saturday morning grocery store bragging rights for another year.
Around the County: With the NSC falling apart, Jimtown's trip to Bourbon to play Triton will be the school's last for football. To the football gods, thank you. The Jimmies own a 37-1 all-time record against the Trojans, who rarely put up a fight and haven't won in the series since 1969. ... Since it's the final regular-season games, I'm going to go with Elkhart's city schools to make a late burst. Elkhart Memorial will find a way to hold of Northridge and Elkhart Central will simply outscore Mishawaka Marian. The Chargers and Blazers are due.
In two other NLC games, Goshen is staring at its second winless regular season this decade and playing at home against Wawasee won't help the Skins. ... NorthWood continues to hurt itself with mistakes and at 4-4, will be hard pressed to finish on a winning note with a hot Plymouth offense which is averaging nearly 39 points a game in its last four starts. "We're stillmaking a lot of small mistakes. Last week it was turnovers that killed us,'' Panther coach Scott Hoover said this week. "We need to play more physical and more aggressive. We're still trying to become that (kind of) physical team.
Check out John's Harrell's Indiana football home page for state-wide game capsules.
Below are Harrell's predictions, based on Sagarin computer ratings.
Warsaw (6-2) at Concord (6-2)
GAME TIME: 7:30 pm ET, Lawrence J. Jackowiak Field.
COACHES: Phil Jensen, 82-62 in 14th year at Warsaw, 111-74 in 18th year overall. Tim Dawson, 172-106 in 25th year at Concord.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Concord, 69.47, 69th overall, 18th in Class 5A. Warsaw, 60.93, 103rd overall, 31st in Class 6A.
LAST OUTING: Warsaw defeated NorthWood, 28-7. Concord defeated Northridge, 35-7.
VS. COMMON FOES: Warsaw 5-1, Concord 5-1.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Warsaw 31-33, Concord 28-36.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Concord, 8-7.
LAST MEETING: Concord, 34-9, Oct. 12, 2012.
PREDICTION: Concord, 28-24.
Mishawaka Marian (4-4) at Elkhart Central (2-6)
GAME TIME: 7:00 pm ET, Rice Field.
COACHES: Reggie Glon, 127-87 in 20th year at Mishawaka Marian. Levon Johnson, 13-26 in 4th year at Elkhart Central.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Mishawaka Marian, 63.85, 93rd overall, 14th in Class 3A. Elkhart Central, 53.95, 142nd overall, 28th in Class 5A.
LAST OUTING: Mishawaka Marian lost to Mishawaka, 28-14. Elkhart Central lost to South Bend Adams, 45-21.
VS. COMMON FOES: Mishawaka Marian 1-3, Elkhart Central 0-4.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Mishawaka Marian 28-36, Elkhart Central 35-29.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Mishawaka Marian, 5-1.
LAST MEETING: Mishawaka Marian, 41-20, Oct. 1, 2010.
PREDICTION: Mishawaka Marian, 28-21
Northridge (6-2) at Elkhart Memorial (2-6)
GAME TIME: 7:30 pm ET, Charger Field (WTRC, 1340 AM).
COACHES: Tom Wogoman, 6-2 in 1st year at Northridge, 31-39 in 7th year overall. Bill Roggeman, 3-15 in 2nd year at Elkhart Memorial.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Northridge, 67.36, 77th overall, 17th in Class 4A. Elkhart Memorial, 42.99, 196th overall, 32nd in Class 5A.
LAST OUTING: Northridge lost to Concord, 35-7. Elkhart Memorial lost to Wawasee, 28-20.
VS. COMMON FOES: Northridge 4-2, Elkhart Memorial 1-5.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Northridge 34-30, Elkhart Memorial 29-35.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Elkhart Memorial, 8-4.
LAST MEETING: Elkhart Memorial, 14-12, Oct. 12, 2012.
PREDICTION: Northridge, 31-7.
Jimtown (6-2) at Triton (1-7)
GAME TIME: 7:00 pm ET, Triton field.
COACHES: Mike_Campbell, 59-14 in 6th year at Jimtown. John Johns, 1-7 in 1st year at Triton, 7-22 in 3rd year overall.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Jimtown, 67.55, 76th overall, 11th in Class 3A. Triton, 25.33, 270th overall, 36th in Class 1A.
LAST OUTING: Jimtown defeated Bremen, 24-6. Triton lost to Knox, 14-13.
VS. COMMON FOES: Jimtown 5-1, Triton 0-6.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Jimtown 36-28, Triton 31-33.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Jimtown, 15-0.
LAST MEETING: Jimtown, 49-14, Oct. 12, 2012.
PREDICTION: Jimtown, 42-3.
Plymouth (6-2) at NorthWood (4-4)
GAME TIME: 7:30 pm ET, Andrews Field.
COACHES: John Barron, 75-32 in 10th year at Plymouth. Scott Hoover, 30-25 in 5th year at NorthWood.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Plymouth, 66.03, 89th overall, 20th in Class 4A. NorthWood, 53.36, 149th overall, 35th in Class 4A.
LAST OUTING: Plymouth defeated Goshen, 35-12. NorthWood lost to Warsaw, 28-7.
VS. COMMON FOES: Plymouth 4-2, NorthWood 2-4.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Plymouth 35-29, NorthWood 35-29.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: NorthWood, 12-5.
LAST MEETING: NorthWood, 17-13, sectional, Oct. 19, 2012.
PREDICTION: Plymouth, 31-21.
Penn (8-0) at Mishawaka (6-2)
GAME TIME: 7:00 pm ET, Steele Stadium (WGCS, 91.1 FM; WTRC. 95.3 FM).
COACHES: Cory Yeoman, 114-25 in 11th year at Penn. Bart Curtis, 54-18 in 6th year at Mishawaka, 165-85 in 23rd year overall.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Penn, 95.37, 6th overall, 6th in Class 6A. Mishawaka, 72.15, 50th overall, 13th in Class 5A.
LAST OUTING: Penn defeated South Bend Riley, 21-11. Mishawaka defeated Mishawaka Marian, 28-14.
VS. COMMON FOES: Penn 4-0, Mishawaka 3-1.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Penn 26-38, Mishawaka 30-34.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Penn, 17-4.
LAST MEETING: Penn, 21-7, Aug. 24, 2012.
PREDICTION: Penn, 31-17.
Wawasee (4-4) at Goshen (0-8)
GAME TIME: 7:30 pm ET, Foreman Field (WAWC, 103.5 FM).
COACHES: Josh Ekovich, 4-4 in 1st year at Wawasee. Mike Cheviron, 6-23 in 3rd year at Goshen, 96-98 in 18th year overall.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Wawasee, 55.72, 134th overall, 30th in Class 4A. Goshen, 39.92, 212th overall, 33rd in Class 5A.
LAST OUTING: Wawasee defeated Elkhart Memorial, 28-20. Goshen lost to Plymouth, 35-12.
VS. COMMON FOES: Wawasee 3-3, Goshen 0-6.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Wawasee 40-24, Goshen 38-26.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Goshen, 9-6.
LAST MEETING: Wawasee, 28-14, Oct. 12, 2012.
PREDICTION: Wawasee, 35-17.
Culver Academy (5-3) at Fairfield (7-1)
GAME TIME: 7:30 pm ET, Fairfield field.
COACHES: Andy Dorrel, 91-79 in 16th year at Culver Academy. Bob Miller, 79-49 in 12th year at Fairfield.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Fairfield, 53.63, 146th overall, 29th in Class 3A. Culver Academy, 53.32, 150th overall, 30th in Class 3A.
LAST OUTING: Culver Academy defeated Boone Grove, 24-17. Fairfield defeated Churubusco, 35-14.
VS. COMMON FOES: Culver Academy 0-1, Fairfield 1-0.
OPPONENTS' RECORDS: Culver Academy 39-17, Fairfield 29-35.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Culver Academy, 7-3.
LAST MEETING: Culver Academy, 40-24, Oct. 12, 2012.
PREDICTION: Fairfield, 35-24