What a busy, busy week we have ahead of us!
High school boys basketball goes into full swing tonight, strange relatives visit on Thursday and then this weekend we have state football, the Old Oaken Bucket and Brian Kelly’s next embarrassment. Oh, the holidays are truly a magical time.
Let’s start this magical week of stuffing our faces by giving credit where credit is due, to the NorthWood Panthers. Black Crunch clinched a trip to state last week following its 21-14 win over Lowell. “The Inferno” was cold, my friends, but it was no match for the cold-blooded play of the Panthers who ripped away all hope from the Red Devils with clutch plays from Trey Bilinski, Drew Minnich, Landen Gessinger and Bronson Yoder.
The historic night for the Panthers proved to be historic for me as well. It was the first time I got to cover a team going to state in football and also one of the biggest dining mistakes I’ve made in recent memory.
On the way to Lowell, I drove through the bustling town of Dinwiddie, Indiana. I noticed a truck stop that had a recently remodeled Denny’s. You know, Denny’s, America’s Diner. For some reason I thought a thought to myself that nobody thinks, “I should go to Denny’s.”
Sure enough, after the exciting victory, I hopped in my RAV4 and sped down Indiana SR 2 with one goal in mind, a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast. I was clearly still not seeing the fault in my thinking.
I sat down, began to edit my photos and write my story of NorthWood’s historic night, all while the gourmet chefs at the Denny’s truck stop diner in this unincorporated town prepared food that would go into my body. Still, I had not seen any flaw in my plan.
As I sat sipping on my Coke, looking around this restaurant/truck stop. I thought to myself, “Why is Denny’s not more popular?” Indeed, why was Denny’s not more popular? How could a great diner setting not be more well-liked by the American people? I would soon find my answer.
My food arrived. I was ready to dig in, which was fitting because digging implies work and work was needed to down this meal.
My eggs were rubbery, yet watery at the same time. A feat that is not easily accomplished. My hash browns were, well, brown. But that was just on the outside, on the inside they were much more under-cooked, lucky me.
The bacon was the best part of the meal, but that’s not necessarily a compliment to the bacon.
Then, there were the sausage links.
Grey, cool, flavorless. My sausage links sat there in a pool of yellow yolk looking defeated and lifeless. Not much different than how I imagined I looked at this point, sitting slouched in a booth, wearing my grey sweatshirt as the clock neared midnight.
I suddenly felt like I was in a horror film as I ate the first chewy bite of sausage. The plot of the film had finally been revealed. The twist was now clear as day. How could I have missed it? Like the main character realizing he or she was the murderer the whole time, ’twas I that brought this horror upon myself.
I wanted to send my food back, but for what reason? Only to have another plate of “blah” set before me? No, nobody was to blame for this travesty but myself.
On the way home the decision reaffirmed itself as a poor one. Much like our country was divided and broken into protests following the election, my selection at “America’s Diner” was being protested by my stomach. Why I could not see the flaw of eating at a truck stop Denny’s is a question I will always ask myself.
As for my other question, why is Denny’s not more popular? I now had my answer.
I will live out my days telling this story to warn others of my foolishness and beg of them to not make my mistake. You have been warned.
Finally, here is today’s fun fact: It has been 649 days since Purdue has beaten IU in a televised men’s sporting event, but only one day since IPFW in Fort Wayne has beaten IU in a televised men’s sporting event. Go figure.
Hey, at least my tuition helped pay for something productive this year.
Last Week: 4-1
IHSAA State Football Championships
No. 2 NorthWood (14-0) vs. No. 1 Roncalli (14-0), 4-A State Championship, 3:30 p.m. Friday, Lucas Oil Stadium
The Scoop: The Panthers lead their balanced attack into Indy to take on Roncalli for the first time since 1993. That meeting was for the 3-A title, a game Roncalli won 14-12. I expect another close game this time around.
NorthWood is 12th in the state in scoring at 44.93 points per game. Roncalli has the state’s 14th best defense, surrendering just 14.07 point on a per game clip. The Rebels defense is holding opponents to 220 yards per game, that’s well under NorthWood’s offensive average of over 470. They say defense wins championships…
NorthWood’s defense has not been the focal point of attention throughout this season, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers are slacking off on that side of the ball. Black Crunch holds opponents to 18.7 points per game and right around 270 yards of total offense.
Roncalli can move the ball through the air behind QB Derek O’Connor, but its primary attack is on the ground with Kenny Gillum. The senior tailback has rushed for 1,212 yards this season in just 12 games. The Rebels secondary back is Patrick McNanama who has totaled 751 yards on the ground in 14 games.
NorthWood trusts its running game in the hands of Brayton Yoder who has put up 1,302 yards in 14 games. Bronson Yoder has added 870 on the ground as well as 1,008 yards receiving. DeAndre Smart leads the team in receiving with 1,036 yards. Bilinski has done a fine job at calling the shots as the only Panther to take snaps this fall. He’s thrown for 3,183 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Since the playoffs have began I’ve talked to a lot of reporters and fans that have had a similar sentiment, “It will be nice for them to get to state.”
Everyone has seemingly chalked up this game as a loss for the Panthers. They were doing it back before the sectional championship was even played. It’s fair to assume that Roncalli is not a fluke with its No. 1 ranking and 14-0 record. But this is the first championship appearance for Roncalli since 2005. This team and its players are just as inexperienced and new to this setting as NorthWood’s are. So, I like to remove the history from the situation and just look at these two teams on paper. When I do that, I see NorthWood winning this game.
Both teams have solid defenses, but NorthWood has the more dynamic offense and I think that will come up big late in the game, just as it did against Lowell.
Nick’s Pick: NorthWood 27, Roncalli 21.
No. 3 Eastbrook (13-1) vs. No. 5 Indianapolis Ritter (10-4), 2-A State Championship, noon, Friday.
The Scoop: I know very little about these other state championship games, but I think it’s worth picking them because…Well, because why not?
This has the classic North vs. South story written all over it. Eastbrook boasts the better record but Ritter spends its time playing a tougher schedule so this game will probably not be very good. I think Ritter wins big.
Nick’s Pick: Ritter 45, Eastbrook 20.
No. 7 Carmel (9-4) vs. No. 3 Center Grove (12-1), 6-A State Championship, 7 p.m., Friday.
The Scoop: Louisville commit Russ Yeast is going to knead some oxygen with all the work he’ll be putting in. Seriously, get this guy to college so he can make the jump to the NFL and make that dough. Center Grove will roll in this game with its steady play on both sides of the ball. Russ Yeast, bake me up a state championship.
It’s all bread jokes.
Nick’s Pick: Center Grove 31, Carmel 9.
No. 3 Pioneer (14-0) vs. No. 2 Linton-Stockton (14-0), 1-A State Championship, noon, Saturday.
The Scoop: Linton-Stockton finished at runners-up last year. Second time is a charm?
Nick’s Pick: Linton-Stockton 28, Pioneer 20.
No. 7 Ft. Wayne Concordia (12-2) at Lawrenceburg (13-1), 3-A State Championship, 3:30, Saturday.
The Scoop: The lone non-ranked team in the entire tournament faces off against Concordia. I’m think this Cinderella story is coming to an end. (What a weird thing to say about a 13-1 team).
Nick’s Pick: Concordia 42, Lawrenceburg 17.
No. 5 Westfield (11-2) vs. No. 4 Columbus East (13-1), 5-A State Championship, 7 p.m., Saturday.
The Scoop: Richard Lewis and John Candy starred in a bad film titled Wagons East, about settlers that decide to head back east after not liking life in out west. No, I’m serious. It was Candy’s last film. Rumor has it that he faked his own death just so people would feel obligated to go see it. I hear he’s now living in Saskatchewan under the alias “Del Griffith.”
Also, I once had to draw the cover of a Head East album for an art project. So, East seems to be a common theme here when I make it one.
Nick’s Pick: Columbus East 34, Westfield 24.
High School Boys Basketball*
*I’m rusty on basketball picks/scores. Give me some slack this first week! I’ll have a more complete slate of games next week with boys and girls picks.
Tippecanoe Valley (0-0) at Warsaw (0-0), 7:45 p.m., 11/23.
The Scoop: Basketball is bask and there is no better county rivalry to tip the season than the one between the Vikings and Tigers. The Tigers bring back several key players from last year’s 25-2 squad, including Kyle Mangas. Valley should have a good team this year, one that I think will surpass the 11-win total of last season, that being said….
I don’t care who you are, you don’t want to be starting your season in the Tiger Den against Warsaw. That’s all this game comes down to. Warsaw should be able to win on hype alone. Get ready for another year of excellence from the Orange and Black.
Nick’s Pick: Warsaw 56, Valley 39.
Triton (0-0) at Oregon-Davis (0-0), 8 p.m., 11/23
The Scoop: The Trojans will look to dispose of O-D for the ninth straight time in a season-opener.
This would be a good time for me to express how much I despise O-D and its weird little gym, but I’m already pushing my usual word limit so, I will leave you with this: I despise O-D and its weird little gym.
Jason Groves always has his team ready to play, I’ll side with him and the Trojans, despite the devastating injury to Jarrett Martin.
Nick’s Pick: Triton 49, Oregon-Davis 39.
Whitko (0-0) at Columbia City (0-0), 7:45 p.m., 11/23
The Scoop: The Wildcats tip their promising season in a hostile environment against a quality opponent. Nate Walpole and River West will be a ton of fun to watch this season and I think that fun can start tonight. It’s certainly not the popular pick, but I’m going to go with the Wildcats in this one. It’s too early to know exactly what we’ll see from either of these teams (Or, any team, to be fair.) so why not go against some of the trends I’m seeing and pick the ‘Cats. It could be a memorable debut for first-year Whitko head coach Eli Henson.
Nick’s Pick: Whitko 68, Columbia City 63.
Wawasee (1-0) at Angola (0-0), 7:30 p.m., 11/26
The Scoop: Wawasee started its season the right way in earning a hard-fought victory over Fairfield. Getting the first win out of the way can do wonders for a young team with a new coach, so kudos to the Warriors for doing that right away. The road only get tougher from here on out. The Warriors travel to play the Hornets of Angola this Saturday. Angola is coming off a regional appearance and returns just about everybody. So, here’s your first big test, Warriors.
Wawasee will need another balanced attack to win this game, but it’s a tall order against a quality opponent.
Nick’s Pick: Angola 63, Wawasee 45.
Purdue (3-8, 1-7) at Indiana (5-6, 3-5), noon, 11/26
The Scoop: IU is reportedly getting an 84.2% chance to win the Bucket for the fourth year in a row, something the Hoosiers haven’t done since 1947. A win would also mean a bowl bid for the second time in as many years for IU. Purude is somehow worse than last season and has nothing to play for but pride.
This will, somehow, be a game that IU manages to lose. But, I will stay strong in my belief of the IU football program to exceed expectations. (Nobody, in their right mind, has ever typed those words in that order before.)
Purdue has been horrible in the second half this year, so I’ll predict that’s where IU pulls away. I know, I’m so bold.
This is the only college game I’m picking this week because it’s the only college game that matters. Sorry, Brian Kelly, those of us that care about the Bucket do our own homework so there’s no room for you to cheat off our rivalry!
Nick’s Pick: Indiana 37, Purdue 21.