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Indiana High School Football: Class 3A, 4A, 5A State Championship Preview

The Indiana High School state football finals continues on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, with the Class 3A, 4A and 5A titles being decided.

CLASS 3A

#2 West Lafayette vs. #9 Evansville Memorial

(GAME TIME: 12:00pm, Saturday)

The consensus among Indianapolis media members is that despite West Lafayette‘s No. 2 ranking and undefeated record, Evansville Memorial is considered a favorite to take home their first state title. The Tigers knocked off top-ranked Indianapolis Chatard last week in convincing fashion, 37-21, and they’ve faced much tougher competition than the Red Devils. Memorial’s quarterback, Grant Gribbons, is the state’s leading passer, and after having been defeated by Belmont in last year’s finals game, the Tigers will be extra motivated.

West Lafayette’s compiled a 33-3 record over the past three seasons — the best in the state — but until this year, hadn’t even made it out of the sectionals. It’s understandable why there are skeptics, a group you can count me a part of. Gribbins and the Memorial offense will be too potent for the Red Devils to handle.

Evansville Memorial: 42 West Lafayette: 21

CLASS 4A

#4 Evansville Reitz vs. #7 Lowell

(Game Time: 3:30pm Saturday)

Despite being on opposite ends of the state of Indiana, these two squads are very familiar with each other. That’s because they met in the RCA Dome two seasons ago to compete for the Class 4A crown. Reitz won that game 33-14, so count on the Lowell players leftover from that defeat to be looking to exact some revenge.

Evansville dismantled the seemingly indestructible powerhouse, Indianapolis Cathedral, 31-10 in last week’s semistate, and they’ve yet to lose a game this season. They’re led by quarterback Matt McIntosh, whose’ brother, Paul, led the Panthers in that victory over Lowell in 2007. McIntosh rushed for just 39 yards against Cathedral, but he completed 9-of-12 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns to propel his team to the win. Lowell’s defense, which is giving up just over 10 points a game, will be severely tested by the dual-threat quarterback. The crucial question will be whether Lowell’s will to win can overcome Reitz’s superior talent. I say no.

Evansville Reitz: 34 Lowell: 17

CLASS 5A

#1 Carmel vs. #3 Warren Central

(Game Time: 7:00pm Saturday)

In the most highly anticipated matchup of the finals, top-ranked Carmel takes on third-ranked Warren Central in a battle of MIC Conference rivals. This year’s appearance marks the fourth consecutive trip to downtown Indianapolis for the Greyhounds. They fell in heartbreaking fashion last season to Center Grove, and three years ago they were beaten 35-14 by Warren. They did earn a victory over Pike in 2007, but three title losses in four years would be completely unacceptable for coach Mo Moriarity’s team. Warren Central, on the other hand, is looking to reclaim their stature as the best 5A team in the Indianapolis area. The Warriors won four consecutive titles between 2003 and 2006, but haven’t advanced past the regionals in the last two years.

Carmel reached this point by reeling off a 13-1 record, and then advancing through an extremely tough tournament draw. The offense sputtered at times, but in last week’s semistate game, quarterback Adam Shaffer directed the unit to its most impressive outing of the season in scoring 42 points against a tough Merrillville team. Shaffer’s anything but flashy, but he’s been very effective in completing 70.3 percent of his passes for 1,532 yards to go along with 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He’s also accounted for 545 yards rushing and another seven scores, and he’ll have to be at his most efficient for Carmel to notch a win on Saturday night. Unless, that is, the Greyhounds defense can record their fifth shut-out of the season. They’ve yet to allow double-digit points in the postseason, and many Indianapolis sports fans who follow high school football believe the Carmel defense is among the best squads in the entire country.

Warren Central is perhaps the most one dimensional team that will be playing at Lucas Oil Field on Saturday, but that one dimension, superstar tailback Shakir Bell, may be the best weapon in the entire state. He rushed for 236 yards and three touchdowns against Center Grove in the semistate, and has been absolutely impossible to tackle the entire season. In Warren Central’s first meeting with Carmel, Bell rushed 38 times for 241 yards, but the Warriors were unable to overcome three interceptions by quarterback Derek Hart as they fell 24-22.

Considering the familiarity these two teams have with each other, along with their individual strengths and weaknesses, the Carmel/Warren Central Class 5A state title game is sure to be an instant classic. Give me the Warriors to win an extremely tight game.

Warren Central: 28 Carmel 27