High-SchoolIndiana: Zach Oakley

The past 12 months have been interesting, to say the least. To help us break down everything that happened in 2011 (and look forward to 2012), we're bringing in some experts.

Jalen Duncan, a senior running back, helped the Carmel football team win a state championship by rushing for more than 1,800 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season.

Zach Oakley, a sophomore quarterback, helped Penn reach the state title game by running for almost 1,000 yards.

We asked them about the best of 2011, and they gave us the answers.

THE VERY BEST OF 2011

Best High School Team
Duncan:
The Ben Davis football team played with more heart than just about anyone this year. When we watched film of them, we all said "This team just doesn't quit." We thought they were going to go all the way to state this year.
Oakley: Penn volleyball. They had a brand new coach coming in, and they did a great job this season. They've won back-to-back state championships and they have a lot of girls playing at the next level.


Best High School Athlete
Duncan:
I gotta go with my boy Gary Harris here. We played AAU together back during my freshman year, and watching him develop in both football and basketball, it's amazing. There's nothing he can't do. He makes some unbelievable plays. He could have gotten a scholarship for football, but in basketball he's like a skinny Dwyane Wade. The guy has unbelievable talent.
Oakley: Jimmy Herman, the defensive back for Carmel. He can really play.


Your Best Moment of 2011 (On the field)
Duncan:
After we beat Center Grove the second time, we were all in the locker room and we were playing "This is How We Do It." Some of the coaches walked in, we were all dancing, and we got the coaches to join in and start dancing. That was a great memory.
Oakley: Beating Mishawaka. They're our rival, and they're literally five minutes from Penn. It's been a rivalry for so many years, and they beat us in sectionals last year. So it felt really good to win that game.


Your Best Moment of 2011 (Off the field)
Duncan:
The end of the year banquet was fun. Just seeing all the guys dressed up, and talking about stuff besides sports. It was a fun night.
Oakley: When I got my final grades, and knowing that I passed all my finals with A's and B's.


Your New Year's Resolution (On the field)
Duncan:
To get after it a lot harder than I did last year. I slacked off last year.
Oakley: Get stronger, faster and work harder than anyone else out there.


Your New Year's Resolution (Off the field)
Duncan:
I have to be more focused school-wise. I need to study harder for tests and do homework as soon as I get home instead of waiting longer.
Oakley: Try and get a 4.0 this upcoming semester.


Pro/College Athlete of the Year
Duncan:
Aaron Rodgers. You can't say enough about the guy. You can tell he loves the game, and he studies it like it's a college class. If anything goes wrong, he's the first to correct it.
Oakley: Cam Newton. He won a championship in college and his transition to the NFL has been something to watch. He's doing it so quickly, and he's doing it with pizzazz.

Best Pro Championship Team
Duncan:
The Green Bay Packers. They came through a lot of adversity and showed a lot of heart in winning the Super Bowl. Most people around here would probably say the St. Louis Cardinals, but I think it's the Packers.
Oakley: I have to go with the Packers, especially because of the success they've had the following year.

Most Memorable Game
Duncan:
The last game of the NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki had a fabulous series and hit a lot of big shots. He found a way to make shots or get to the free throw line and really held his team together. Like in Game 3, everyone thought that game was over but he brought them back. And once they had the momentum, they closed it out and it was fun to watch.
Oakley: Probably the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State football game. It was just two explosive offenses going back and forth. It was a really fun game to watch.

The one story you want to leave in 2011
Duncan:
I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan, so I don't want to hear any more about how they can't win a championship, or Tony Romo isn't clutch. all my friends think the Cowboys suck, so I don't want to hear about the Cowboys losing anymore.
Oakley: No more college scandals with schools paying kids or breaking NCAA rules. I'm tired of that.


Disagree with the Best of 2011? Hit me on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala) and make your case.
5

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday

Whether you’re putting together a grouping of best quarterbacks or worst albums, or you’re making that special list for Santa, there’s nothing quite like a good list. So in honor of the holiday season we’re bringing you lists all week long — Merry List-Mas!

Today: The top underclassmen in high school football.

The state championships are over and the Class of 2012 had a great run, but it’s never too early to start looking at the impressive players in the Class of 2013 and beyond. Who’s going to rule the gridiron in Indiana next season? We give you the early rundown of who to watch for.

5. Elijah Daniel (JR), Avon, LB
Credentials: 6-foot-4, 250-pounder can bang; compiled five tackles for loss and two sacks in 2011

4. Zach Oakley (JR), Penn, QB
Credentials: Splitting snaps for most of the year, ran for 997 yards and 20 touchdowns while leading Penn to the Class 5A title game

3. Anthony Warrum (JR), Heritage Christian, WR
Credentials: Downfield playmaker caught 71 passes for 1,268 yards and 18 TDs this season

2. Tim Kimbrough (LB), Warren Central, LB
Credentials: Led one of state's top defenses this year; made 155 tackles and 14 tackles for loss and racked up 5.5 sacks

1. Jaylon Smith (JR), Bishop Luers, LB
Credentials: After recording 11 sacks as a sophomore, Smith saw more attention from offensive lines but still posted nine sacks and 20 tackles for loss; should be rated as one of the nation's top linebackers in the Class of 2013

Click here to check out some of the other states in our Five Days of List-Mas.

Tomorrow: The POWERADE Indiana Weekly Basketball Rankings.

Did I miss someone who should be on the list? Hit me on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala) and let me know about it.
Now that we know which teams will be playing for state titles at Lucas Oil this weekend, I want to start going in-depth on the matchups. I'll start by taking a look at the 5A game today, and tackling each class throughout the week. Keep checking back for more, and follow me on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala) for the latest info.

Class 5A

Penn (14-0) vs. Carmel (13-1)
Carmel was able to sneak past a feisty Center Grove team, 21-17, to earn its berth in the title game. Penn, on the other hand, continued to dominate with a 28-10 victory over FW Snider. This is going to be an interesting matchup. Penn has been crushing teams all season, but the damage has mostly been done against a weaker schedule. Carmel, on the other hand, has seemingly played a championship contender every week for the past two months. The Greyhounds have to be worn down after that stretch, but the finish line is in sight now.

This game will also pit two of my personal favorite players against each other. Faithful readers know that I've been pumping up Carmel senior running back Jalen Duncan all season long, and I jumped on the Zach Oakley bandwagon early as well. Oakley, Penn's sophomore quarterback, ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns last week.

I'm leaning slightly toward Carmel because of the Hounds' defense, but that doesn't mean I'm going to pick them to win. It's too early for predictions — I want to talk to coaches and players before making that call. But stay tuned all week, because this is going to be a fascinating matchup.

Follow me on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala) for more info during the week. And keep checking back here daily.
I wanted to preview Friday's regional championship games, and of course the only logical way to do that is by playing a game of "Contender or Pretender (or Chicken Tender)."

CONTENDER OR PRETENDER (OR CHICKEN TENDER)?

Carmel (11-1) at Ben Davis (10-2)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
CONTENDER: Brandon Denning, Carmel — Denning was fantastic in last week's win over No. 1 Warren Central. The senior QB took control of the game and led the Greyhounds to a comeback win after the running attack proved ineffective. Denning has earned "don't bet against him" status.

PRETENDER: The Ben Davis run defense — The Giants may have effectively slowed down Carmel's rushing attack earlier this season, but don't expect it to happen again (see below). Avon RB Charles Davis rushed for 119 yards on 19 carries against Ben Davis last week.

CHICKEN TENDER: The two teams' previous matchup — Yes, Carmel and Ben Davis played on Oct. 14. And Ben Davis jumped out to a 10-0 lead before Carmel came back to win, 20-10. But while the game was less than a month ago, it means little right now. Both teams have changed so much, it's hard to take anything away from the first meeting. I doubt they'll combine to score just 30 points again on Friday.

Hamilton SE (11-1) at FW Snider (8-4)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
CONTENDER: Gary Harris, Hamilton SE — Harris is riding high after committing to Michigan State for basketball, but his focus is on bringing home a state football title right now. He's the one player in this matchup most capable of changing the game by making a handful of plays.

PRETENDER: Ross Risley, Hamilton SE — Risley, a junior QB filling in for injured senior Jake Jones, may turn out to be a great fit for the Royals' offense. But the fact is, he's inexperienced and will be seeing his first extended action of the season. He'll have to prove it if he wants "Contender" status.

CHICKEN TENDER: FW Snider's 5-game win streak — After losing to Cathedral on Oct. 1, Snider has won its last five games. But the streak isn't as impressive as it looks on paper. The combined record of the five teams (including playoff foes FW North Side and Kokomo) was 27-28.

Crown Point (9-3) at Penn (12-0)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
CONTENDER: Zach Oakley, Penn — I've been on the Oakley train since early in the season, when the sophomore QB showed he could consistently produce big plays with his legs. Watch for him to split open the Crown Point defense for some big gains on Friday.

PRETENDER: Crown Point defense — The Bulldogs allow just 11.2 points per game, but the schedule has not been challenging to this point. Give credit to the Crown Point coaching staff, however, as both of their playoff wins (Valparaiso, Merrillville) came over teams that beat the Bulldogs in the regular season.

CHICKEN TENDER: Chad Gindelberger, Penn — I'm a fan of Gindelberger, Penn's senior QB. I just happen to think the other half of the team's QB tandem, Zack Oakley, is going to have the bigger impact on Friday. So take heart, Chad — you may be a "Chicken Tender" this week, but you could easily be a "Contender" next week (if Penn manages to move on).

Center Grove (8-4) at Bedford NL (9-3)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
CONTENDER: Center Grove's chances of advancing — Sure, Bedford NL managed to topple undefeated Castle last week, but I'm putting that win in the "fluke" category. I fully expect Center Grove to come away with the win and move on to the Semi-State round.

PRETENDER: Center Grove's regular-season record — The Trojans were just 5-4 in the regular season, but their game is well-suited for the postseason. With three rushers breaking the 600-yard barrier so far (senior Spencer Weeks and sophomores Logan Hutson and Alex Lucas), the ground attack has been unstoppable in the playoffs.

CHICKEN TENDER: Center Grove's chances of advancing next week — The other side of the bracket is going to be either Carmel or Ben Davis. Center Grove played both of them earlier this season and lost both games by a combined score of 84-31. Any celebrating after Friday's game may be short-lived.

Check back in tomorrow for official picks.

Want to play Contender or Pretender (or Chicken Tender)? Hit me on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).
By now, you've heard all you need to hear about Warren Central-Carmel. The teams played yet another instant classic, and Carmel was able to pull it out in the final minutes. That makes the Greyhounds the clear favorites in Class 5A, but what about the rest of the field? Let's take a quick look at the remaining squads and their chances of winning the 5A title. Note: These are snapshot rankings of the teams remaining in Class 5A, not to be confused with the POWERADE state rankings.

1. Carmel (11-1)
After defeating Warren Central, 34-30, on Friday night, the Greyhounds have cleared the biggest hurdle standing between them and a state championship. There are quality teams left in the way, including this weekend's opponent Ben Davis — but Carmel will be the better team in every matchup from here on out. That wasn't necessarily the case against Warren Central. I consider Carmel to be the best team standing, meaning their A-game will beat anyone else's A-game. Now that senior QB Brandon Denning has proven he can get it done through the air, the Hounds don't appear to have a weakness.

2. Penn (12-0)
The Kingsmen running game is a monster, but don't make the mistake of thinking Penn is one-dimensional. The quarterback tandem of senior Chad Gindelberger and sophomore Zach Oakley is extremely effective, and their contrasting styles could give Carmel serious trouble if the teams wind up meeting for the state championship.

3. Ben Davis (10-2)
The Giants lost to Carmel, 20-10, on Oct. 14, but since then they've beaten Zionsville, Brownsburg and Avon, in order. Those are three pretty good teams. Unfortunately, I think Carmel has elevated its game since the October meeting and expect a more lopsided score on Friday. So consider Ben Davis good, but not quite good enough this season.

4. Hamilton SE (11-1)
Some might discount Hamilton SE's chances a bit after senior QB Jake Jones suffered a broken leg on Friday, but I think the Royals are still in good shape with junior Ross Risley under center. Risley may not be able to hook up with senior WR Gary Harris as consistently as Jones, so running backs Ryan Ripp and Jamitreus Crockham will have to step up.

5. Crown Point (9-3)
Another team with an injury fill-in at quarterback, and like Hamilton SE, I still think Crown Point can be effective with sophomore QB Jake Jatis orchestrating the offense. Tristan Peterson, the Bulldogs' sophomore running back (himself an injury replacement), ran for 194 yards and four touchdowns last week.

6. Center Grove (8-4)
Senior Spencer Weeks has run for 1,202 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season, but in the past two weeks he's run for 62 and 76 yards on just 3.6 yards per carry. Can the Trojans fire up the running game again in time to advance this week?

7. FW Snider (8-4)
No disrespect to Snider's five consecutive sectional titles, but I would pick the six teams above them in a head-to-head matchup. Senior running back John Nelson is capable of taking over a game, however, so the Panthers can't be taken lightly.

8. Bedford NL (9-3)
Bedford NL stunned Castle last week, but I'm not sure the Stars will be able to keep it going. The Bedford NL defense picked off three passes against Castle, and turnovers are hard to produce on a consistent basis.

Think I'm ranking someone too low? Hit me on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).

Stock is rising for Oakley, Breeding

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
3:09
PM ET
In this week's edition of All-State Stock Watch, we're looking at Indiana football players who saw their potential value rise or fall over the past week. A player could have had a huge game, gotten a big-time scholarship offer, or broken a leg. Whatever the case, I chart all the data (in my head) and give you the biggest movers of the week.

STOCK WATCH

UP — Zach Oakley, Penn QB
Just a sophomore, Oakley has proven to be a big-time catalyst for No. 5 Penn. He rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1, and he hasn’t slowed down since. Splitting time with senior QB Chad Gindelberger, Oakley ran for 116 yards on eight carries and scored two touchdowns to help Penn move to 5-0 with a win over SB Clay this weekend. Oakley’s stock is going UP.

DOWN — Daigien Morgan, SB Washington QB
Washington suffered its first defeat on Friday, falling to Marian, 28-14. And while the entire team didn’t play up to its standards, we all know the quarterback gets the credit/blame. Morgan completed just 10 of 23 passes in the loss, and while he hit stud receiver Gehrig Dieter for a pair of TD passes, he also threw an interception. Just a sophomore, you have to expect Morgan to have his ups and downs this season — and this week it was a DOWN.

UP — Shaquille Breeding, Warren Central RB
After running for 191 yards in relief of injured RB Deionte Buckley two weeks ago, Breeding came up big again on Friday, carrying 22 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-16 win over North Central. The junior is proving that the Warren Central running game will remain powerful even with Buckley sidelined. For stepping up under the spotlight for the No. 1 team, Breeding gets an UP grade.

Have an insider stock tip? Don't keep it a secret — hit me on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).

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