Who says there's nothing to play for in the last week of the football regular season? Honestly, nothing can be further from the truth. With the Indiana High School Athletic Association football state tournament a week away from opening night, things aren't winding down. They're heating up, and no other race is as hot as the Hoosier Heartland Conference.

As most in Northwest Hamilton County will recall, the title came down to Tri-Central and Sheridan last year. Tri-Central won the HHC championship outright with a 4-0 standing and a 14-1 record overall. Not to mention, they went on to win its first Class A state title. Sheridan was second at 3-1 and 5-6 overall. It marked the first losing season for Sheridan, a nine-time state champion, since 2009.

At 5-3 on the year, the threat of repeat sub .500 record isn't a danger for Sheridan, but the idea of losing to the Trojans in consecutive seasons is very real.

The unranked (yes, you read that right) Blackhawks (5-3, 3-0) must travel to Class A No. 7/6 Tri-Central (7-1, 3-0) to decide the HHC, but history is on their side regardless of local. Coach Larry "Bud" Wright's program is 16-3 against Tri-Central in the past 30 years. To add more drama to the mix, this could very well be a preview of the Sectional 44 championship, if both programs advance to the title game.

Don't expect either team to hold back (as is customary this time of year for scouting purposes) with this much on the line.

Sheridan's Austin Hoover will get plenty of carries out of the backfield. And coach George Gilbert's squad will pound the football with Cody Colbert (806 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns) and Dillon Smith (766 yards rushing and eight touchdowns).

Now, here's a look at the rest of the games for all you last-minute Gridiron Guessers out there.



Class 6A No. 8/7 Avon (6-2, 4-1) at Class 6A Noblesville (5-3, 3-2)

Storyline: The Avon Orioles are one game away from clinching the coveted Hoosier Crossroads Conference title for the first time since 2011. While No. 9 Fishers can also seize a share of the crown with a win (despite losing to Avon 36-26 on Sept. 26), it's Avon's to win or lose. Noblesville would like nothing more than to ruin the Orioles' quest. A game back of both Avon and Fishers in the standings, a Noblesville win and a Fishers loss will tie all three programs. This is what Week 9 is all about.

Player to Watch: Avon junior quarterback Brandon Peters is having a tremendous season. In eight games, he has passed for 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns to complement a balanced running game. He also has four rushing touchdowns and 136 yards on the ground.



Class 6A No. 9 Fishers (6-2, 4-1) at Class 5A Zionsville (2-6, 1-4)

Storyline: Don't be surprised to see Fishers fans wearing Millers black and gold in the stands at Zionsville tonight. Yes, they control their own destiny, but no one likes to tie, especially when it comes to conference titles. If the Tigers, who are coming off a tremendous 38-7 all-around victory against Westfield, duplicates last week's effort tonight, go ahead and print up the HCC championship T-shirts. But a Noblesville win against Avon would make that apparel just a little bit more special.

Player to Watch: The Tigers aren't just a running team anymore. Junior quarterback Zach Eaton is become more confident by the week and the 1,188 yards passing and 10 touchdowns this season are proof.



Class 6A Brownsburg (3-5, 1-4) at Class 6A Hamilton Southeastern (3-5, 2-3)

Storyline: Momentum might be an overrated aspect in sports, but losing is the worst motivator. Ending the season on a losing note is especially disheartening. The Brownsburg Bulldogs haven't seen a "W" in five weeks. They flirted with one last week before Noblesville won 36-35 in overtime. HSE is only one week removed from a win and have a ton of frustration after falling to Class 5A Cathedral last week 31-17.

Player to Watch: Aaron Matio is a playmaker. Two weeks ago against Noblesville he rushed for 291 yards. He has eclipsed 100 yards three times this season and has scored two touchdowns in each of those games. Could this be the fourth?



Class 6A No. 13/12 Lawrence Central (3-5, 3-3) at Class 6A No. 1 Carmel (8-0, 6-0)

Storyline: Truthfully, the best Class 6A football team in the state really doesn't have anything to prove until the games become "real" next week, but there's something to be said for perfection. Here's an interesting tidbit. Did you know Kevin Wright has never led a state championship team to a perfect season? His Warren Central teams all lost at least one game. Carmel lost once in 2011. Not to get too far ahead, but you have to finished 9-0 before you can go 14-0.

Player to Watch: If Lawrence Central looks to compete against Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Carmel, the Bears will rely on running back Gerrid Doaks (986 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns) and quarterback Brian Haas (1,327 yards passing and 14 touchdowns).



Class 3A No. 10/12 Guerin Catholic (5-3) at Class 3A Culver Academy (3-5)

Storyline: Losing to Class 4A No. 5 Bishop Chatard last week hurt. Though they won't admit it, that game was circled several times on the calendar. What's the best way to bounce back from disappointment? Hop on bus and trek several hours to hand Class 3A Culver Academy its sixth consecutive loss of course.

Player to Watch: Enough can't be said about Brian Matthews II. He's athletic, sure handed and a big target at 6-foot-2. He has caught a touchdown pass every week this season and has surpassed 100 yards receiving four times this year. It's shocking not to see him on more Division-I radars.



Class 3A Peru (3-5, 2-4) at Class 3A Hamilton Heights (6-2, 5-1)

Storyline: The Huskies are riding a four-game winning streak and haven't surrendered more than 13 points since Week 4. With sectional rival Indian Creek up first this postseason, coach Mitch Street's team will do all they can to rev up for Oct. 24.

Player to Watch: Hamilton Heights' Grant Weatherford can literally do it all. He can pass (216 yards and two touchdowns). He can run (359 yards rushing and four scores). He can catch (313 yards and six touchdowns). Oh, and he can hit (49 tackles, two for a loss and five interceptions).



Class 2A Indianapolis Washington (3-5) at Class 5A No. 13 Westfield (4-4)

Storyline: The Shamrocks have lost two straight and aren't winning the turnover battle of late. As coach Jake Gilbert expressed last week, this needs to be corrected and against Class 2A Indianapolis Washington, they will have ample opportunity to get everything squared away before the next season begins in two weeks (they have a bye week in the first round of sectional).

Player to Watch: Westfield senior linebacker Matt Crupi is a machine on defense. With 99 tackles (eight for a loss), he also has four sacks and an interception.