There was a lot of talk and bravado this time last year bouncing up and down Broadway. There were only two words sent in a text to sum up Draw Night in the IHSAA's 40th state football tournament series.
“No comment,” was al Andrean coach Phil Mason typed on Sunday night as he found out his 59ers will travel to Wheeler to open the Class 2A Sectional 25.
Last year the same two teams met in the opener in Merrillville and in one of the region's all-time biggest upsets, the Bearcats beat the 59ers 12-7 in a game no one expected.
The blind draw from Indianapolis pointed out that sectional openers will begin on Oct. 19. It will take the winners three games to hoist the hardware. The 40 sectional champions in five classes will play their regional game on Nov. 2. The semistate will be the following weekend.
On Thanksgiving Weekend the 10 finalist teams will compete at Lucas Oil Stadium, with Class A and 2A on Friday, Nov. 23. The three biggest classes will play the next day on Championship Saturday.
In Class 5A Sectional 1, defending champion Crown Point will host Valparaiso in the opener, with the winner of Lake Central-Portage next. Merrillville will travel to Munster and the winner there will take on the Chesterton-Michigan City winner.
"They're an extremely dangerous team," Chesterton coach John Snyder said of the Wolves. "They've proven they can beat one of the best teams in the area. It's no gimme, for sure. We won't expect anything but their best."
The Trojans (7-1) also opened the 2011 post-season with the Wolves, winning 28-7 after a 48-14 regular-season victory. Chesterton crushed M.C. 55-0 in week 3.
Whiting has had a remarkable season so far, ranked No. 4 in the IFCA Class A state poll. The Oilers, though, have not won a sectional championship since 1997. Whiting will host South Central in the Sectional 33 opener.
“It makes it easier as far as preparation goes,” Whiting coach Jeff Cain said. “A couple weeks ago we were thinking about seven teams. Now, it's just one.”
If the Oilers win and West Central also wins, Whiting would also host its long-time postseason nemesis at home in Week 2 of the sectional.
“We are not looking past South Central,” Cain said. “That's the only one we're guaranteed.”
In Class 4A Kankakee Valley will host Hobart in the Sectional 10 opener. With a win Friday against Munster, the Kougars will get a piece of the Northwest Crossroads Conference title. Coach Brad Stewart went to Indianapolis three times when he was at Lowell.
This is all new for his upstart program.
“When (Lowell) went to state in 2005, we played three-time defending state champion Roncalli,” Stewart said. “Our kids had a sense of innocence about it. They didn't know we weren't supposed to beat them. I like our team's innocence right now.”
Kankakee Valley has never won a sectional title. Hobart hasn't won one since 1997.
In 4A Sectional 9, upstart E.C. Central will travel to play Hammond, the only two teams in the field with a winning record. The Cardinals (7-1) beat the Wildcats (5-2) 48-22 in Week 1.
Three-time sectional champion Morton plays Clark with the winner taking on the E.C.-Hammond winner.
“Oh my,” Cards coach Stacy Adams said when looking at a playoff run that likely includes Hammond, Morton and Griffith to get the school its first sectional championship. “We want to get into the championship and we'll have to play 'em early.
“We have two seasons. Everyone is 0-0 once the sectional starts and everyone gets a second chance.”