From almost the moment he took over the Bishop Dwenger football coaching position now nearly a full year ago, Jason Garrett knew his life was about to change.
Already the head baseball coach for the Saints and a campus minister, Garrett joined the program in 2012 as the head freshman coach, getting to work beside Saint legends Chris Svarczkopf and Fred Tone. Now, just seven seasons later, he is at the helm of the program as they prepare for a Class 4A state title game (Friday, 3:30 p.m.).
When Svarczkopf retired at the end of last season, Garrett thought that maybe he could try to fill a job with one of the highest expectations — and potential rewards — in northeast Indiana.
“It was a prayerful decision. Obviously talked it over with my wife first and foremost and I spoke with a couple close priest friends of mine. Made contact with the bishop given the responsibilities and the time involved that it would be a thing to even try to do,” Garrett said. “I received blessing from everyone and encouragement from everyone and went ahead and put my name in the hat.”
Not only did he put his name in the hat, but it was that metaphorical slip of paper that was pulled. In February, he became the head coach of the program. In the time he has spent since then with his players, starting regular workouts in June, Garrett and the Saints have made the most of their run.
“I knew from being involved the season prior that we had some very special young men, in particular the seniors. I was very much looking forward to an opportunity to be with them and to be close to them from the standpoint of being the head coach. I was hopeful, I was very optimistic,” Garrett said.
Friday’s state title game appearance will be Bishop Dwenger’s 11th all-time. They last won the state title, its fourth, in 2015 under Ernie Bojrab who ran the program in Svarczkopf’s absence due to his health. While Bojrab considered himself a mere caretaker of the program until Svarczkopf returned the following season, there is no question that this is now firmly Garrett’s program.
“We’ve been talking about just trying to spend one more week together for the last month and we are going to be able to maximize the amount of time you can spend together in a football season which you look at it and if you go back to June, we will have spent six months together which is unbelievable,” Garrett said.
The Saints went seven weeks unscathed before dropping a 21-13 decision to Snider. A week later, they topped Northrop to complete a Summit Athletic Conference winning season. The next morning, the conference’s victory bell was delivered to the Saints and they rang it though Sectional, Regional and semi state titles.
Led by a strong running game that has seen 16 players rush for positive yardage on the year, the Saints have flourished in the grind it out style that is often identified with Bishop Dwenger football. Devon Tippmann has run for 1,198 of those yards and TJ Tippmann has added 709 yards on the ground.
They have not done things that many would consider flashy or over the top. Instead, they grind each day. They handled Logansport and Leo in the sectional opening rounds before dispatching Wayne in one of the best games on the season for a Sectional title. The toppled an Angola team, who challenged the Saints’ outside run defense and then shut down Mishawaka.
Friday’s game against Evansville Central is as much about the Saints to their head coach as it is their opponents.
“We always coin the phrase it is about who we are before what we do, we are going to trust, we are going to unify and we intend to show up Friday and play Bishop Dwenger football as we have been playing it all season,” Garrett said. “I think we are confident in that and I think what everyone will see Friday will be a culmination of what these guys have sacrificed for six months.”