Here’s hoping that Hamilton County has a fall sports season.
Countdown to high school football, COVID-19 virus willing, is roughly three weeks away.
There’s definitely some uncertainty in the county.
We already know that Hamilton Southeastern schools will start school this fall using virtual classes from home.
Will this leave high school sports in a standstill situation?
“No…We will still be in our phase 1 which is conditioning three days with a lot of restrictions and in small groups,’’ said Fishers HS athletic director Jim Brown.
NOTING/QUOTING/
WHOS WHO/ETC.
Can Carmel repeat as Class 6A state football champion?
I don’t know . . . the Greyhounds lost some talented athletes, eight of whom moved on to NCAA Div. 1 schools.
Carmel, which finished with an 11-3 won-loss record last season, is scheduled to kick off the 2020 season on Aug. 21. Its first three games should be brutal, really brutal.
In the opener, the Greyhounds play host to Louisville Trinity, which ranked No. 22 in the 2020 Top 25 MaxPreps national preseason poll.
Following Trinity will be the return of Class 5A Cathedral, a perennial state power, and then their MIC opener at Center Grove, which figures to be potent once again.
And of course, Coach John Hebert’s squad must go south for a new sectional.
So, yeah, it’s going to be a tough challenge. But that’s nothing new for the Hounds, who are used to having a bullseye on their backs.
Still, you seldom hear that the Hounds rebuild, they normally just reload! And they do return 4 starters each on offense and defense, while welcoming 15 newcomers.
And, of course, there are some big shoes to fill.
Carmel has won five straight sectional championships.
With Carmel moving to a southern sectional, that leaves Sectional 4 in the county wide open with Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville and Westfield to slug it out for a berth to a northern regional. And Sectional 4 will still be quite competitive.
For Carmel, “Team slogan for 2020 is The Hard Way,’’ said Coach Hebert. “Following a great run to our ninth state title in 2019, the 2020 team must be prepared to play the toughest schedule in Indiana. We must be prepared to learn lessons as a team, growing closer during setbacks, so that we can be playing our best football by week 10 of the season.’’
The running game will be led by two-year starter Zach White, a 5-8, 200-pound senior who rushed for 606 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Spencer Hanna enters his third straight year as the Hounds’ kicker. He made good on 10-of-15 field goals and 43-of-43 on conversions last season.
HAMILTON COUNTY will welcome three new HCC coaches in Curt Funk (Fishers), Dave Sharpe (Noblesville) and Michael Kelly (Hamilton SE).
“We are excited about the 2020 Tigers football team! We have been extremely impressed with our senior leadership and their hunger to get better everyday. "Close the Gap" is our motto and we strive to get better everyday and compete,’’ Funk said.
“On offense, we have a core group of players with valuable varsity experience, we can lean on for production,’’ added Funk. “On defense, we will be led by seniors Billy Reiter, Seth Dunnuck, and Shane Cole. They all three have valuable experience at the varsity level and have worked hard for their senior season. 
“We are very excited to be back practicing. The kids did a great job staying in shape throughout the quarantine,’’ coach Shape said. 
Noblesville could find the start of the season a bit more friendly, since the Millers’ first two games the past two seasons were against Cathedral and Carmel. They open against a solid Class 4A Mt. Vernon squad and then hit the road for 5A Terre Haute South.
Cathedral also visits the Westfield Rocks in a season opener. That looms as a monstrous opener for both schools.
“I am super excited to coach this team! We have a great group of seniors
and talented juniors. We return a lot on defense but will be missing a ton of graduates on offense,” said Westfield coach Jake Gilbert. “At this point, we are just grateful to have a football season and to be together. It will be a great season just by having one.”
Hamilton Heights, coming off back-to-back 2-8 seasons, welcomes a first-time foe in Class A Monroe Central in the season opener.
Guerin Catholic has two new teams on its schedule — non-conference foes Northview and Culver Academies.
The Golden Eagles, who return 10 starters, also must deal with Circle City Conference foes in a three-week span: Brebeuf Jesuit visits on Sept. 11, and Guerin faces road tests on Sept. 18 (Roncalli) and Sept. 25 (Bishop Chatard).
“Our players have been working hard and are excited to be back playing football. We have had outstanding senior leadership, and we are looking forward to a great season,’’ said Coach Tom Dilley.
SOME HAMILTON COUNTY
PLAYERS TO WATCH
*—Class 6A Justin Pickett, 6-7, 320, Carmel senior guard . . . Only offensive lineman starter returning from 2019 state championship team . . . 3-star prospect by 247sports.com . . . Junior All-Sate selection by the Indiana Football Coaches’ Association.
*—Colton Parker, 6-1, 170 WR, Carmel senior had 30 catches, 582 yards and 7 TDs last season. He also had 10 KO returns for a 19.5 average.
*—Dominic Padjen, 5-11, 220 Carmel junior linebacker, a 2-year starter . . . IFCA top 50 last season.
*—6A Popeye Williams, 6-2, 225 DE, Westfield junior . . . 3-star prospect by 247sports.com. He’s a really tough competitor, who had 9 solo tackles, 15 assists, 2 sacks, and blocked 2 kicks.
*—6A Fishers OL Jonah VanderKamp, a 4-year starter and a IFCA All-State selection last season, and senior transfer WR Landon Morris, who will play football at Syracuse next season.
*—6A Hamilton Southeastern’s 3-sport athlete John McCall (football, basketball, baseball) is a solid athlete. A big physical player and a returning DB from last season, the senior was the backup QB in 2019.He will compete for the starting QB position.
*—Class A Sheridan senior running back Cameron Hovey, a 195-pounder who missed the last four games in 2019 because of a collarbone injury, rushed for 1,225 yards (6.8 per carry, 204.2 per game) and 16 touchdowns. He was ranked No. 8 in the state when he his season ended. He also averaged 30-plus yards on kickoff returns and collected 46 tackles.
*—3A Guerin Catholic will count heavily on veteran senior Elijah Edwards (WR/OLB), who averaged 14.9 yards and 11.3 all-purpose yards.

A LOOK AT OTHER PLAYERS:

Other returnees for Carmel: Baron Smith (WR) started 1 year; Zach Dilger (TE), SR; Owen Schafer; Tamarras Springfield (secondary), SR, returning starter; Andrew Turvy SR, (LB), returning starter; Linebacker Gavin Hale, SR, Luke Conley, SR, Tommy Maurer, SR, Bryce Cannon, JR, and 6-4 Anthony Cheesebrough; junior QB Zach Osborne completed 32-of-66 passes for 389 yards.
More depth comes in the secondary — juniors Solomon Williams and Lawson Sinnis, along with seniors Alex Kania, Jack Huntington and Tyson Pennington; Centers Mehki Simmons, SR, and Ben Jeffery, Jr. Tackles Julian Wright, SR, Jack Stark, JR, Nathan Pham, SO; Senior guards Jake Fitzgerald and Colin O’Connor; Defensive linemen back include Hayden Cate, JR, who started 1 year as long snapper; Brody Frey, JR, and seniors Jacob Smith, Owen Frost and Scott Hudson.
Other returning starters for Fishers: Reggie Cook (WR), SR; Max Kohne (OL), SR; Silas Martin (TE), SR; Jeffrey Simmons (WR); JR; Billy Reiter (LB), SR; Shane Cole (DB), SR; Seth Dunnuck (DB), SR. Other returning lettermen: Lucas Prewitt (QB), Sr; Caleb Gates (TE), SR; Shaun Kim (RB), SR; Grant Stanley (OL), SR; Ryan Whitley (DL), SR; Ian Willoughby (DE), SR.
Other returning starters for Guerin Catholic: Braden Hall (FB), SR; Jagger Albert (TB/OLB/8.9 tackles per game); Danny Rhoad (DB/WR/4.6 tackles per game); Max McGreal (TE), SR; Scotty Smith (OL), JR; Alex Ternet (DL), SR; Nathan Fancher (DL), SR; Adam Novelen (DB), JR; Ryan Glenn (DB), JR. Other lettermen: Anthony Ferrucci (ILB/FB), SO; Max Nickell (DB/RB), JR; Sam Miller (QB), JR; Dylan Balcer (OLB/TE), JR; Max Cossell (OL), SO; Maxwell Street (DL), SR; Noah Stubbs (WR), JR.
*—Class 3A Hamilton Heights returns several juniors, many of whom saw a lot of action at times as sophomores. That would include quarterback Guy Griffey, who passed for 102.9 yards per game, had a .517 completion average, and threw for 8 touchdowns. He was intercepted 5 times. No other 2020 team information was available.
Other returnees for Hamilton SE: Seniors Brandon Gonzalez (OL), Jake Robeson (OL), Larry Jones (OLB), Mikah Phillips (DB), Nate Haas (ILB); junior Loudon Sundling (OLB). Junior Jack Greer expected to be a big player on the OL. Senior Jace Alexander is 1 of 3 RBs, as is junior Blaine Wertz; senior Donovan Shuff (OL), a big body with a lot of upside. He missed 2019 due to an injury; and senior DL Jt Muchner, whom coach Kelly expects to be a force.
*—6A Noblesville returns 10 starters — 4 on offense, 6 on defense. Returning Starters: Senior Dylan Ray, SR 6-5, 260, TE; Zach Blevins (TE), SR, 6-0, 185; Mason Bohland (LB), SR, 5-11, 205; Owen Jones (RB), JR, 5-9, 170; Jackson Sloan (LB), SR, 5-11, 190; Skyler Tolliver (LB), SR, 6-0, 200; Sam Steinhofer (LB), JR, 6-2, 225; Blaine McNabb (DB), SR, 6-0, 165; Jake Long (OL), JR 5-10, 235; Carson Cutler (TE), SR, 6-2, 220. Senior Grayden Addison 5-11,185, also returns as kicker and punter.
Other Millers in the picture (no particular order): Conner Meinerding (QB), JR, 6-1, 180; Jordan Sharp (QB), SO, 6-0, 175; Chance Yeager (RB), SO, 5-11,175; Drew Page (OL), SO, 6-4, 320; Ben Decker (OL), SO, 6-5, 285; Josh Hampton (DL), SR, 6-2, 245; Josiah Baiza (DL) SR, 5-10, 235; Aidan Walker (DB), SR, 5-11, 180; Josh Rodgers (DL), JR, 5-10, 255; Alairic Rogers-Walton (LB), JR, 6-0, 210; Aaron Williams (OL), JR, 6-2, 290; Mason Anderson (OL), JR, 6-3, 275; Daveon Bew (RB), JR, 5-9,175; Brayan Gomez (RB), JR, 5-11,180; Reece Bowen (RB), SR, 5-11, 190.
Other returning players for Sheridan: Junior quarterback Silas DeVaney IV can light up the scoreboard. DeVaney, who passed for 874 yards and 5 TDs, also rushed for 547 yards (3.4 avg.) and 11 TDs. He also was in the defensive secondary; Evan Bourdon should be headed for a big junior season after rushing for 488 yards (5.3 avg.) and 6 scores; senior Keenan Warren was the leading receiver last year. Transfer Cole Webel was on the O-line last season for Hamilton Heights. EVaneyDagan Johnson started at tackle last year and moves to center this year; sophomore Gabe Holler and junior Jacob Ricci started on line last 2 years. Wide receivers are juniors Cayden Hunter and Christian Clausen, and junior Cale Cummings will join the rotation.
Joining DeVaney and Hovey in the backfield will be Bourden, junior wingback-slot Gavin Reners., and sophomore Peyton Cross; defensive returnees include ends Gabe Holler and Bourden; junior defensive backs Hunter, Clausen and Noah Ehrie; and Hovey, Silas, Warren are linebackers.
The Blackhawks return 9 offensive and 8 defensive starters and should be headed for a good season. This year’s team appears to be a good one.
Other returning starters for Westfield: Bronson Kooy (OT), SR; Cole Grady (OG), SR; Reid Scheppers (TE), SR; Mason Piening (WR), SR; Micah Hauser (RB), JR; Jack Pfeiffer (RB), SR; Sean Sullivan (K), SR; Lyle Beam (LS), SR; David Frey (SS), SR; Carson Voorhis (FS), SR; Benji Welch (C), SR; Bryson Hoover (LB); Sayveion Woods-Dale (DT), SR. Led by Popeye Williams, the Rocks return 14 starters.

*—Mark Morrow is The Times sports editor and a Hall of Fame Indiana sportswriter. 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.