The mystery is over. No more waiting. The high school football postseason is finally within sight and the state tournament picture is much clearer since the Indiana High School Athletic Association conducted its blind draw this past Sunday night.

Now, it’s for real.

Let’s be honest, the past eight weeks (nine after this Friday) have been fun. But in reality, it doesn’t affect the next six weeks. The regular season is an entertaining warm up to the blizzard of late fall’s win-or-go home playoff atmosphere.

Now, before you decide to fire up the laptop and write me a scathing email, take a deep breath and remember the obvious: The state tournament — specifically, the sectional — isn’t seeded.

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You can go 0-9 and still play. You can go 9-0 and not receive a first-round bye. That’s just how it works in Indiana, and while conference titles are fun to brag about, it doesn’t earn you anything come October.

Is it time to actually seed the postseason? Should teams have to play in to prevent lopsided first-round matchups? Yes and maybe. But that’s a discussion for a different column.

For now, let’s take a look at the second season.

Class 5A, Sectional 14

When the IHSAA success factor catapulted top-ranked New Palestine into the realm of Class 5A this year, Dragons nation knew the road to a second straight state title wouldn’t be easy.

Once the sectional revamp was complete, lumping New Palestine in with former 4A semistate nemesis Columbus East along with Whiteland, Sectional 14 turned into a grinder.

Both New Palestine (8-0) and No. 2 Columbus East (8-0) probably will enter the postseason unbeaten. Sixth-ranked Whiteland isn’t far behind at 6-2.

Columbus East has won four consecutive 4A sectional titles (10 overall since 1978) and won state in 2013. New Palestine has won back-to-back sectional titles. Whiteland has won two straight in 5A.

While coach Kyle Ralph and the Dragons won’t ever admit it, there was probably a collective sigh of relief when New Palestine was “blindly” given the No. 1 seed.

The Dragons won’t play Oct. 23. Actually, they don’t see the field or an opponent until Oct. 30 in winless Martinsville (0-8) at Kelso Stadium.

Instead, the IHSAA’s seeing-eye pingpong balls handed Columbus East the tougher path. First, the Olympians must travel to Franklin Community (1-7) in the first-round. Next, Whiteland awaits in the semifinal.

While the Dragons have the more direct route to the sectional final, coach Ralph’s team doesn’t plan to coast. They don’t know how.

Though unpopular (as noted in social media and throughout online forums), the Dragons are an offensive juggernaut, averaging a blistering 66.0 points per game. They have scored 70 points or more on four occasions this season (with the starters on the bench a majority of the second half and all of the fourth quarters).

Oddly enough, despite senior quarterback Alex Neligh’s record-setting season (and career), the Dragons haven’t shown their true colors yet.

Their playbook feels like a brand new textbook even eight weeks into the season. With their games often decided by halftime, their offense routinely goes vanilla after the first 12 minutes.

Why show your hand if you don’t need to?

In other words, no one knows what they’re going to bring to the table once the games count. One thing is certain, it could be devastating and it will need to be.

Markell Jones might be gone, but Columbus East has received plenty of production from senior Steven O’Neal (1,086 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns) and quarterback Josh Major (1,000 yards passing and 15 TDs).

It might be debatable, but if the two teams meet in the sectional championship on Nov. 6, it will be for the state title.

Class 2A Sectional 38

Coach Jim O’Hara has his Royals in prime position to chase down a third straight sectional championship. Add in the team’s continued progression on both sides of the ball, and we can honestly say, we haven’t seen Eastern Hancock’s best.

But it’s coming.

While still adjusting to their variable defensive set, which was installed last season, and putting up 38.6 points per game in offensive coordinator Randy Albano’s scheme, the Royals have dominated with an unbeaten 8-0 record.

Ranked second in Class 2A, the Royals are marked men in Sectional 38 along with No. 16 Triton Central (4-4) to a lesser degree.

Eastern Hancock stands 2-0 against sectional foes, including versus their first-round opponent Northeastern (6-2). Their potential semifinal hurdles are either Mid-Indiana Conference rival Milan (3-5), which they beat 26-14 this year, or Indianapolis Howe (5-3).

The last time Eastern Hancock finished the regular season 9-0, they went to the state finals in 2013. But it’s never easy having to topple a team twice (just ask Northeastern).

The Royals will need to do it if they want to reach the sectional championship game and extend their title run to a potential three straight.

If sophomore quarterback Jarett Lewis (1,313 yards passing, 15 TDs), running back Devin Denny (950 yards rushing, 11 TDs), wide receiver Austin Smith (646 yards receiving, seven TDs) and the defense can keep trending up, get ready for November football.

Class 4A Sectional 22

Mt. Vernon (4-4) opens at home against Jay County (4-4) in the first round. Greenfield-Central (3-5) hosts Delta (6-2) in the quarterfinals. The two won’t meet unless they advance into the finals.

For that to happen, things will need to fall into place. Delta holds the best record in the sectional and already beat the Cougars 33-14.

Mt. Vernon could be without quarterback Jimmy Campbell due to a late-season injury, which doesn’t bode well with HHC rival Pendleton Heights (3-5) in their bracket.

By far, Greenfield-Central faces the toughest path with Richmond (5-3) more than likely advancing into its semifinal. Anything is possible in the postseason, and both Mt. Vernon and Greenfield-Central have the talent to make some noise.

At a glance

Class 5A Sectional 14 (5 teams)

Oct. 23, First round

Game 1: Columbus East (8-0) at Franklin Community (1-7)

Oct. 30, Semifinals

Game 2: Whiteland (6-2) at Game 1 winner

Game 3: Martinsville (0-8) at New Palestine (8-0)

Nov. 6, Championship

Game 4: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner

Class 2A Sectional 38 (8 teams)

Oct. 23, First round

Game 1: Union County (2-6) at Triton Central (4-4)

Game 2: Centerville (0-8) at Switzerland County (0-8)

Game 3: Northeastern (6-2) at Eastern Hancock (8-0)

Game 4: Milan (3-5) at Indianapolis Howe (5-3)

Oct. 30, Semifinals

Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner

Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner

Nov. 6, Championship

Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner

Class 4A Sectional 22 (8 teams)

Oct. 23, First round

Game 1: Jay County (4-4) at Mt. Vernon (4-4)

Game 2: Pendleton Heights (3-5) at Connersville (1-7)

Game 3: Delta (6-2) at Greenfield-Central (3-5)

Game 4: Richmond (5-3) at New Castle (1-7)

Oct. 30, Semifinals

Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner

Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner

Nov. 6, Championship

Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at or 317-477-3227.