That excitement you hear in the voice of Bishop Luers coach Kyle Lindsay? It is due to the fact that he can finally answer questions about his football team and not about which class his program will compete in this season.
After weeks of uncertainty, the Knights recently found out they will compete in Class 2A this year after residing in 3A since 2013.
But Lindsay also has some eagerness to the season because he feels this team may have the capability of winning one extra game than a year ago – and return to the state championship.
“Truthfully, there aren’t many years where I don’t think we can compete for a state title, but maybe I am overly optimistic sometimes,” Lindsay said.
Considering the team lost a 3,100-yard passer (Norm Knapke), a 1,200-yard rusher (Jordan Presley), an electrifying multi-dimensional athlete (Justin Gaston) and a pair of 115-plus tackle machines (Allen Jackson and Camari Harris), one wonders just where the optimism is coming from. Especially when you factor in the transfer of Janarion “Nate” Moore to Wayne over the summer, who went for 836 yards and 14 TDs as a receiver in 2018.
But if there is one thing Bishop Luers never runs out of, it is athletes. While the quarterback spot will be 100-percent decided following Friday’s scrimmage at North Side, senior Christian Fly has been more consistent and more confident. The challenger, sophomore Carson Clark, has a bright future, but Fly’s experience in running the Knights’ scout team last year and going against varsity defenders may give him the edge.
Regardless of who is behind center, he will have plenty of talent around him. Junior Brayden Cowherd is a bruising, between-the-tackles runner who rushed for nearly 500 yards and six TDs last season. He will be complemented by junior Ramon Anderson, who started at free safety in 2018 and fits the ‘scatback’ mold. C.J. Hale, another junior, will also be in the mix.
Lindsay is extremely high on senior Jamic Johnson at wideout, a player he says he would “put up against anybody in terms of route running and getting in and out of his breaks.” Johnson put up 743 yards and eight TDs through the air last year.
Junior Cam Hedgecock (23 receptions, 269 yards, 2 TDs) should command a bigger role in the pass game. Fellow junior Johnny Sewell did not play much varsity last year, but could be a breakout player for the Knights’ offense.
Bishop Luers will have a pair of seniors up front in Alex Workman and Peter Tsuleff. Junior Ben Rectanus is back after starting last year at center as a sophomore.
Schematically, the Knights like for their defensive linemen to fill space, take on double teams and allow the athletic linebacker corps to run around and make plays. That is again the plan in 2019, but senior Will Derrick (56 tackles, 17.5 TFL in 2018) is the exception. A Second Team All-SAC selection last year along the offensive line, Derrick is starting the year on defense only.
“We expect Will to make plays,” Lindsay said. “We are hoping he can get some rest when the offense is on the field so he can be fresh and be a monster on defense, which is what he has wanted since he has been at Bishop Luers.”
However, the lack of depth along the lines could force Derrick into the offensive huddle if needed.
The middle level of the defense loses Jackson and Harris and finding capable replacements has been an ongoing battle. Senior Nick Birkmeier (82 tackles) is a perfect fit in the Rover role for the defense. Hale will see time at linebacker on top of his running back duties. Senior Grant Brough has bided his time in the program and will be a player to watch at outside linebacker.
Anderson and Sewell will man the safety positions. Anderson was a “monster” in Lindsay’s words at free safety last year, piling up tackles and finishing with a trio of INTs.
An SAC championship may be out of reach with this team unless it stays perfectly healthy and the ball bounces their way for nine weeks. With enrollment down at Bishop Luers as a whole, it has translated to smaller class size for the football program.
Last year, Lindsay’s team got within one game of the state finals, losing to West Lafayette at home in semi-state. Ever the optimist, coach believes that despite all the turnover, a run in 2A is possible.
The Knights have the players to compete for and win postseason championships, including the big one at Lucas Oil Stadium. But the margin for error is slim with the lack of bodies, let alone capable bodies, in the program.
Bishop Luers never lacks for playmakers and seems to once again have a cupboard full of them. Whoever the QB is this year won’t throw for 3,100 yards like Norm Knapke did last year, but he should be able to manage the game enough to take advantage of the speed in the backfield and on the outside.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
While not overly concerned with his lack of bodies along the offensive and defensive lines, Lindsay knows that it could emerge as a big problem if the injury bug bites. Unfortunately, the numbers game is against Bishop Luers at this point. Declining school enrollment means less players out for football. When going up against 4A, 5A and 6A programs in the regular season who typically dress 70-80 players, the Knights consistently have to punch above their weight in the SAC.
Week 7 at Bishop Dwenger
Rivalry game late in the season, what’s not to like? This game went down to the wire last year, with the Saints escaping with a 15-13 victory. Win or lose, this will be a good barometer game for the Knights. If they can compete here, it likely means they have stayed relatively healthy through most of the season. If Bishop Luers can knock off its rival, it’s a definite boost with sectionals looming a few weeks away.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Ramon Anderson, junior, wide receiver/defensive back
Coach Lindsay couldn’t believe what he was seeing when reviewing tape of last year’s semi-state loss to West Lafayette. Then-sophomore Anderson was in on play after play, with Lindsay counting a whopping “not fake news” (in Lindsay’s words) 21 or 22 tackles. While only 5-foot-8, Anderson plays the ball well in the air and is a speedster in the defensive backfield and at wideout. Look for him to open some eyes on Friday nights.