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Giants, Indians can clinch conference titles

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

In a flash, high school football has reached the final week of the regular season.

While most teams will be fine tuning for opening round of sectionals next week, that won’t be the case for Marion and Mississinewa. The Giants and Indians both need to finish the regular season with wins to earn coveted conference crowns.

Ole Miss has already clinched a share of the Central Indiana Conference title, but will be in no sharing mood when Blackford steps onto Charlie Fisher Field at 7 p.m. today.

The Giants need a win at Harrison (West Lafayette) and some unlikely help from Indianapolis Tech, which hosts Lafayette Jeff, to claim the outright North Central Conference crown. But a win over the Raiders secures a piece of the title, something Marion hasn’t won since 2006.

Following are brief previews for all five games involving Grant County’s schools. All games kickoff at 7 p.m. 

Class 4A No. 3 Marion (8-0, 6-0 in NCC) at Harrison (West Lafayette) (4-4, 4-2)

Giant fans should be wary of Harrison’s 4-4 record, and the Raiders could provide Marion with its stiffest test of the season. Harrison started off the season with back-to-back losses to 6A power Westfield (28-16) and Class 2A No.1 Western Boone (26-0), but had won four of five games until losing 13-10 at Kokomo. The Raiders’ other loss came on Sept. 7 at 6A No. 6 Lafayette Jeff (31-14).

Harrison enters today’s contest averaging just above 23 points on offense, but its strength lies with the defense. The Raiders are giving up just 16 points and allowed 27 points total in winning three of their last four games.

Defense has been the Giants calling card all season, recording five shutouts and surrendering less than five points on average. Marion’s stingy unit is tops in 4A and stands third overall in points allowed behind Class A’s No. 1 Pioneer (3.13) and No. 3 Southwood (3.63). Marion’s offense more than holds its own with an average of more than 43 points

Marion ranks 14th overall and first in 4A in the Sagarin Ratings. Sagarin rates Harrison ranks 61st overall and 12th in 5A.

Harrison is 2-0 all-time against the Giants and won 56-14 in the last meeting on Oct. 16, 2015.

Blackford (6-2, 5-1 in CIC) at 4A No. 11 Mississinewa (7-1, 6-0)

A win by Blackford would mean Ole Miss would likely share the CIC championship with both the Bruins and Eastbrook, as the Panthers close their season hosting winless Elwood.

But the Bruins are tasked with trying to slow down the Indians’ offense, which scores more than 47 points a game and ranks ninth overall and second in 4A. 

Blackford’s offense is no slouch either, averaging better than 34 points, and the Bruins had a six-game winning streak snapped with a 21-0 loss to Eastbrook. The Bruins are giving up 17.9 points per game on defense.

Mississinewa ranks eighth in 4A and 46th overall in Sagarin, while Blackford is 129th overall and 19th in 3A.

Mississinewa defeated the Bruins in their last meeting 47-3 on Sept. 1, 2017.

Alexandria (3-5, 1-5 in CIC) at Oak Hill (3-5, 3-3)

The most entertaining game of the night could take place in Converse as the Golden Eagles try to finish their season with a three-game winning streak against a Tiger team that has become an offensive force scoring 147 points over their last four games. Alexandria, though, has recorded just one win, over Elwood, in that span. 

For the season, Alexandria averages 28 points while allowing more than 34 points.

The Golden Eagles offense has also become much more formidable through the final six weeks of the regular season and has scored 34 and 35 points in wins over Madison-Grant and Frankton in their last two games.

After enduring back-to-back losses to Eastbrook and Mississinewa and allowing 97 points, Oak Hill’s defense has risen to the challenge and gave up 12 points to Madison-Grant and shutting our Frankton.  

Oak Hill ranks 13th and Alexandria 29th in 2A Sagarin Ratings.

Oak Hill is 13-2 against the Tigers, but Alex won 21-14 last season.

Elwood (0-8) at Eastbrook (7-1)

Eastbrook needs a win over visiting Elwood and a Blackford victory at Mississinewa to gain a share of the CIC championship. Elwood under first-year coach Chuck Foga has struggled over the past two seasons, having lost nine straight including last year’s playoffs and 16 of its last 18 games.

Even after a recent change of quarterbacks, Elwood continues to struggle offensively and averages 7.1 points. The defense is an even bigger problem, allowing 44.0 points, and has given up 50 or more points five times.

Eastbrook has been among Class 2A’s most proficient teams on both offense and defense and is Sagarin’s second-rated team this week after spending the previous week at No. 1. The offense is fourth in 2A at 44.13, while the defense ranks sixth at 10.75 and has three shutouts.

In the all-time series, Eastbrook holds a 19-2 advantage and one of its losses was due to a forfeit. Last year, Eastbrook rolled to a 65-0 victory. 

Madison-Grant (2-6) at Frankton (3-5)

Two teams traveling similar paths hook up at Frankton’s Cress Field hoping to build momentum for the postseason. Sagarin has the two teams near-even with the Argylls rated 40th in Class 2A and the Eagles are 43rd in 2A.

The Argylls could be buoyed following a 6-0 victory over Elwood in the final 22 seconds of play, while the Eagles dropped a third straight game 35-0 at Oak Hill. 

Frankton has been shut out three times and averages 10.5 points, and its defense gives up 30.3 including a season-worst 63 to Eastbrook.

Madison-Grant has struggled to score all season and averages 7.1 points. The defense yields 34.6 points but is coming off its first shutout since Oct. 12, 2012 (51-0 vs. Blackford).

The overall series is tied 11-all with Frankton posting a 67-8 victory in their last meeting Oct. 20 in the sectional.