Can you feel it in the air? 

You can almost taste it. No, it’s not pumpkin spice, everything nice . . .  it’s tournament football!

The IHSAA playoffs get under way at several sites with sectionals on Friday night.

So are you ready for high school football when it really counts?

The one-and-done format will be a heart-breaker for many schools. But it is what it is: Lose and you can start thinking about 2020; win and those advancing still have another shot at a title.

Sectionals kick off for classes 1-through-5 on Friday, and the Class 6A schools get after it on Nov. 1. 

All Sectional finals fall on Nov. 8, followed by regionals (Nov. 15), semi states (Nov. 22) and state finals games (Nov. 29 & 30) at Lucas Oil Stadium. One thing is likely for sure: It’s the time of the year where fans can expect to bundle up from cold and wind . . .  and it might be a good idea to have an umbrella handy as the tournament progresses.

Another thing most would consider likely: Carmel won’t be an easy out.

Still, can Carmel continue its success?

Carmel has won six consecutive sectionals and regionals. Not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination.

Carmel last won state in 2016, and the Greyhounds were state runners-up in 2018.

The other most recent state champion from Hamilton County was Westfield as a Class 5A member in 2016. The Rocks were also 5A state runners-up in 2013.

Will the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference claim to yet another state championship? The MIC has been the state’s most dominate football power, winning the past eight big-school titles and crowned champions a total of 26 times.

Is this the year top-ranked and unbeaten Avon breaks through?

Maybe . . . huh?

The 2019 MIC season has been wild and crazy. Many of those schools simply beat up on one another.

*—Four teams (Carmel, Ben Davis, North Central and Warren Central) shared the conference title with 5-2 records. Yeah, pretty unbelievable, you say? Agreed!

*—Over in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference, Avon took top honors at 7-0, while Fishers and Brownsburg tied for second with 5-2 records.

*—Westfield got off to a 4-0 start this season, but then lost 4 of its final five games.

*—Fishers also got off to a 4-0 start and the Tigers won their final 3 to end the regular season for a 7-2 record, a nice turn-around from their overall finish of 4-7 in 2018.

*—Carmel, which ranked No. 1 in Class 6A preseason poll, was 4-3 at one point this season, then the Hounds won their final two games for a 6-3 record and a share of the conference title.

*—Hamilton Southeastern, arguably the best 5-4 team around, lost a pair of 1-point games. 

HSE appears to stack up favorably with first-round opponent Carmel. 

The Royals, winners of four of their last five games this season, averaged 23.4 points per game and allowed 18.0.  The Greyhounds averaged 24.7 points and allowed 16.9.

COUNTY SCHOOLS’LAST SECTIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

6A— Carmel (2018), Fishers (2017), Westfield (2016), Hamilton SE (2011), Noblesville (2000)

3A— Guerin Catholic (2014), Hamilton Heights (2012)

1A—Sheridan (2012)

TOUGH DRAWS

*—In 3A, two-game winner Hamilton Heights plays host to 7-2 West Lafayette in the opener. WL averages 53.7 points and allows 20.8; the Huskies average 18.8 and allow 34.0. WL senior quarterback Kyle Adams is the state passing leader with 2,769 yards and 40 touchdown passes. He averages 346.1 yards per game. Nothing easy about this game for the Huskies, on paper that is!

*—In Class A, top-ranked and unbeaten Indianapolis Lutheran is at Sheridan (6-3). Lutheran averaged 41.5 points and gave up an average of 18.3. The Blackhawks, coming off a 64-56 win over Carroll (Flora), averages 34.7 and allows 33.1. Sheridan sophomore QB Silas DeVaney was stellar in Week 9 — 245 yards passing and 224 yards rushing. He rushed for 6 TDs and passed for two more. He’s certainly carrying much of the load. Upset in the making?

*—In 6A, unbeaten Homestead visits Noblesville (1-8). Homestead, of the Summit Conference, has beaten up on the nine Fort Wayne Schools. The Spartans are averaging 40.4 points and giving up only 11.0. Noblesville has had trouble scoring, averaging only 9.1 (defensive average is a 30.3). Overall, the Millers may play better competition. We’ll see if that works to their favor.

*— And Carmel at HSE . . . wow, this could be a doozie! 
  
FACTS and FIGURES

*—The last time Hamilton Southeastern and Noblesville won a sectional game was in 2012.

*—Noblesville is in Sectional 3 this season, and then in Sectional 4 in 2020 with Fishers, HSE and Westfield.

 *—Carmel goes from the northern bracket in Sectional 4 to the south in Sectional 5 in 2020, joining MIC member Pike and HCC members Brownsburg and Avon. 

*—HSE’s Andrew Hobson and Westfield’s Camden Simons enter the tournament as the top two passers in Hamilton County this season. Hobson has passed for 1,797 yards and 14 TDs; Simons has passed for 1,450 yards and 12 TDs.

*—Sheridan RB Cameron Hovey has rushed for 1,225 yards and 16 TDs, but he has not played since Game 6 and remains on the injured list with a collarbone injury. He led the state in rushing through the first five games.

*—HSE receiver Deandre Rhodes leads the county with 700 reception yards. He has 41 receptions and six TDs.

*—Carmel junior MLB Dominic Padjen leads the county with 82 tackles (10.3  avg.),7.0 (TFL) and 3.0 sacks. Fishers senior MLB Geoffrey Brown follows with 78 tackles (9.8 avg.), 10.0 (TFL) and 1.0 sacks.

*—Noblesville seniors Aidan Richardson and Camden Nagel and junior Blaine McNabb each  intercepted 3 passes in the regular season. Players with 3 picks from multiple schools include HSE’s Clayton Toner and Michael Cherry, and Fishers’ Collin Shelton and Geoffrey Brown.


OPENING PAIRINGS FOR HAMILTON COUNTY TEAMS

Oct. 25 

Class 3A Sectional 28

West Lafayette (7-2) at Hamilton Heights (2-7 )

Guerin Catholic (5-4) at Yorktown (6-3)

Class A Sectional 46

Indpls. Lutheran (8-0) at 
Sheridan (6-3)

Nov. 1 
Class 6A Sectional 4


Carmel (6-3) at Hamilton SE (5-4)

Fishers (7-2) at Westfield (5-4)

Sectional 3

Homestead (9-0) at Noblesville (1-8)

Ready, set. . .  time to get it on. Good luck Hamilton County teams!

*—Mark Morrow, a Hall of Fame Indiana sportswriter, has resided in Hamilton County since 1989. You can follow him in The Times, and on Twitter at mmediamarko12. He can be reached at mediamarko5@gmail.com or by calling 317 460-8018.