The following is a list of the top Region teams and players.
Top 10 teams
1. Chesterton: The Trojans returns eight of 11 starters from last season's Class 3A state title team, including goal-scoring forwards Zack Bowser and Seth Conway. Junior goalkeeper Charlie Eaton is one of the state's best, and Nick Biel returns to anchor the middle of the field. After an unbeaten 21-0-2 season, Chesterton could be just as good this year.
2. Morton: Star midfielder Paul Bogarin — who could have been the Region's top returning player — has departed for Indianapolis to play at Indy Eleven's academy. It's a tough hit to lose Bogarin's 40 goals and 14 assists, but the Governors have a strong freshman class and added midfielder Jaime Hernandez, a transfer student from Bishop Noll. Erick Torres will add goals, and coach Chris Jagadich said he expects to play a more direct attacking style.
3. Bishop Noll: Noll moves up to 3A, joining Morton, Lake Central, Munster and Highland in the same sectional. Junior midfield maestro Bruno Zamora returns with his 10 goals and 24 assists, and junior forward Jake Wichlinski scored 35 goals last year as one of the Region's best target men. While All-Area goalkeeper Danny Salazar graduated, TF North transfer Fernando Ramos is a qualified replacement.
4. Lake Central: Lake Central's streak of 15 straight sectional championships came to an end, but the Indians will be a major threat to regain their perch. Emilio Zambrano returns up front, bringing an attacking threat and willingness to track back and defend. LC is young, but still talented.
5. Crown Point: Junior goal-scorer Hayden Eaton returns, and the Bulldogs added Portage transfer Kristian Simakoski, who scored 14 goals last year. CP finished 3-4 in the Duneland Athletic Conference a year ago but dropped one-goal games to Michigan City and Lake Central along with a shootout to Portage.
6. Munster: The Mustangs were shut out just twice last year — in losses to 3A finalists Chesterton and Zionsville. Munster will look to take back the Northwest Crossroads Conference crown from Highland, and the nonconference schedule is tough. Morton is the only other top-six team the Mustangs don't play.
7. Boone Grove: Star forward Logan Tatalovich departs, but the Wolves have a winning culture and talented midfielder Angel Castellanos remaining. Boone's visit to Chesterton on Monday is one of the best openers of the season.
8. Clark: The Pioneers return All-Area honorable mention performers Javier Delgado, Rafael Maciel, Alexis Frasco, David Garcia and Marco Medina. If those five continue to improve, the first sectional title in program history could be in play.
9. Highland: The Trojans are coming off their first outright NCC title in school history, but they'll have to replace All-Area defender Kyler Tanis. Highland's nonconference schedule certainly will prepare it for what could be the state's toughest sectional, as it travels to Noll, Morton and Clark while hosting Chesterton.
10. Valparaiso: The Vikings finished 8-10 last season but are expected to improve. They showed promise with a 4-3 DAC campaign, and the next step will be winning big games. Valparaiso went 0-5 last year against the nine teams above it.
On the bubble: Portage, Marquette, Griffith, Hanover Central
Top 15 players (in alphabetical order)
Nick Biel, Chesterton, junior, midfielder; Zack Bowser, Chesterton, junior, forward; Angel Castellanos, Boone Grove, senior, midfielder; Seth Conway, Chesterton, senior, forward; Charlie Eaton, Chesterton, junior, goalkeeper; Chesterton; Hayden Eaton, Crown Point, junior, midfielder; Jacob Maldonado, Merrillville, senior, midfielder; Max Marich, Munster, junior, midfielder; Nathan Parker, Victory Christian, senior, forward; Kristian Simakoski, Crown Point, junior, forward; Moises Tirado, Morton, senior, defender; Erick Torres, Morton, senior, midfielder; Jake Wichlinski, Bishop Noll, junior, forward; Emilio Zambrano, Lake Central, junior, forward; Bruno Zamora, Bishop Noll, junior, midfielder.