FORT WAYNE – Despite everything that has happened with the Bishop Luers football team this year, the Knights are still in the discussion to win a fourth straight Class 2A championship next month at Lucas Oil Stadium. The fifth-ranked Knights have lost their coach to a firing, a game to a forfeit and some offensive stability, but that all is in the past now that the postseason is here.
But Luers isn’t the only northeast Indiana team with a legitimate chance for postseason success, and it all starts with the sectional. Here’s a look at what might shake down with the nine area fields.
Defending champion: Penn
Contenders: Carroll, Elkhart Central
Outlook: The No. 8 Kingsmen (8-1) are the odds-on favorite to repeat their sectional crown, with their lone loss being against another 5A powerhouse in Snider. The Chargers (7-2) and Blazers (5-4) have the offensive talent, though, to make things difficult for Penn.
Defending champion: Snider
Contenders: Homestead, North Side
Outlook: The No. 4 Panthers (9-0) are one of the most solid and balanced teams in the state, regardless of class. There are no real superstars but more of a workmanlike attitude among a strong core. With an explosive offense, the No. 9 Spartans (9-0) have a chance of dethroning Snider and will get the first crack in the sectional opener tonight. The Redskins (7-2) have enough talent to make some noise.
Defending champion: NorthWood
Favorite: East Noble
Contenders: Concord, Plymouth
Outlook: There may not be a hotter team around than the Knights (7-2), who have won four straight and have been scoring points in wholesale fashion lately, including 79 points in a win over Columbia City three weeks ago. The Minutemen (7-2) will face East Noble in the sectional opener. The Rockies (7-2) are 4-0 against the other teams in the sectional; that includes a 31-28 win over Concord.
Defending champion: Leo
Favorite: New Haven
Outlook: This year, the No. 9 Lions (7-1) haven’t been blowing away the competition and even had to settle for a three-way tie in the ACAC, giving a sense of vulnerability. If Leo, which has played in back-to-back semistates, is ripe for the taking, the Bulldogs (7-2) are the most likely candidate, despite losing two straight to end the regular season. The Lions and Bulldogs would meet in the title game if they win their first two sectional games.
Defending champion: Jimtown
Contenders: Garrett, Tippecanoe Valley, Heritage, Lakeland
Outlook: The top-ranked Jimmies (9-0) are the class of a competitive sectional. But the No. 9 Patriots (7-2) might be playing the best of everybody else; that includes a win last week against the Railroaders (7-2). The No. 10 Lakers (8-1) lost their first game last week and will play Heritage in a sectional opener tonight, while the Vikings (7-2) could be the sleeper team.
Defending champion: Bellmont
Contenders: Mississinewa, Bellmont
Outlook: The Braves (4-5) surprised everyone by taking this sectional last year and made a good showing in a regional loss. The Panthers (6-3) appear to be the team to beat, but Bellmont and the Indians (6-3) won’t go quietly.
Defending champion: Luers
Contenders: Churubusco, Oak Hill
Outlook: The No. 5 Knights (5-4) possess a ton of talent and coaching experience despite the hard times this season. No. 6 Churubusco (8-1) has one standout running back in Jason Nicodemus and other more-than-capable supporting parts to earn a chance at Luers in the sectional final. But first, it will have to get past Oak Hill (8-1) in the first round tonight.
Defending champion: Adams Central
Favorite: North Miami
Contender: Adams Central
Outlook: The Jets (5-4) won this title a year ago and have enough pieces returning to duplicate postseason wins. The Warriors (6-3), though, have the best record in the sectional field and are 2-0 against possible sectional foes this year.
Defending champion: Sheridan
Contenders: Tri-Central, Union City
Outlook: The No. 9 Blackhawks (5-4) showed they are the team to beat with a win over the No. 10 Trojans (8-1) in the regular-season finale. The Indians (6-3) opened the season 6-0 but have lost three straight heading into the postseason.