Barring a loss to Mishawaka on Friday, Penn will enter the inaugural Class 6A state tournament as the top-ranked football team in Indiana.
Its first postseason stop will be at Portage, and Indians coach Wally McCormack isn't shirking from the challenge.
"To be the man, you've got to beat the man," McCormack said after the IHSAA pairings were announced Sunday. "Obviously, they're undefeated and No. 1 in the state for a reason. I've been doing this 25 years and this is only the third time we've played the No. 1-ranked team in the state. It doesn't happen all the time. It's a pretty fun atmosphere. Somebody has to beat Penn to win the sectional, so why not in week one? We'll give it a whirl."
Portage (5-3) lost in week two at Penn, 32-0. The Kingsmen led 14-0 before the Indians turned the ball over three times in a span of five minutes, all leading to Penn scores.
"They whooped us. We couldn't gain a yard," McCormack said. "I think we're a lot better on offense now than then. That night, we talked at Freed Field that all we wanted to do was to try to get better so by week 10, we're playing our best. Hopefully, that will be the case."
Indians running back Hashim Simpson didn't play at Penn, while quarterback Gage Pearman's throwing was inhibited by a shoulder injury.
"We've progressively gotten back to doing what we're best at doing on offense," McCormack said. "We're a lot more in tune with who we are than who we aren't."
Rematches dot the pairings among other local schools. In Class A, South Central (4-4) goes to Culver Community (2-6). The Satellites lost to the Cavaliers 32-21 back in Week 2, but were minus four suspended starters. Actually, they were down eight, as all four play both ways.
"Any time you get beat by somebody, any competitor wants another shot, a chance to redeem themselves," S.C. coach Dan Klimczak said. "As a team, at this point in the season, we're a more complete team."
Since falling to 0-4 with a 20-14 loss to Whiting, the Satellites have won four straight.
"You want to be peaking at the right time — that's the key to success in the tournament, to getting where you want to be," Klimczak said. "The first four games, win or lose, don't really apply when it comes to sectional play. Everybody's focused on the prize. It's do or die, so here we go."
In 2A, rivals Boone Grove and Wheeler will meet in a rematch of a season opener won by the Wolves (6-2), 27-7.
"It looks really good to me," Wolves coach Tony Tinkel said. "Wheeler's definitely better than they were the first game, but I know with the way we've been playing, I'm pretty confident with them. The kids know they're capable of playing with anybody, especially after Friday."
Boone lost 24-17 to 3A Culver Academy, rallying to tie the Eagles after spotting them a quick two-score lead.
"They proved they belonged there," Tinkel said.