South Side athletic director Torrey Curry gets it.
What is that ‘it,’ you ask? The concepts and ideals that make high school athletics not just fun, but great. When Curry took over the Archer athletic department late last Fall, he brought not only stability as the their third AD in less than four years, but he has made massive strides in making South Side athletics an enjoyable and respected destination for athletes, opposing programs, officials, fans and even media.
And from that springs the addition of the Reichert-Hey Memorial Trophies that will be given out for the first time this Friday, December 13 to the winners of the girls and boys basketball games between the city’s two oldest programs: South Side and North Side. The namesakes are no secret, legendary coaches Don Reichert of South and By Hey of North are both Indiana Basketball Hall of Famers, both state finalist coaches with Reichert winning in 1958 and Hey as the runner up in 1965; both schools respective gymnasiums are named after the men.
With all that history, you’d think that the two schools would already have some sort of traveling trophy. And they do, just exclusively on the football field with the time honored Totem Pole. But for these two famed basketball programs, where the boys met for the first time in 1928, the game means a lot but with no physical symbol until now.
“Totem Pole week is just a bigger week. Kids are more focused and the excitement around the game just for the fans, is a different level,” Curry says. “We started looking at what more we could do.”
And all I can say is, its about time. When I found out about this addition, there was no doubt I wanted to talk with Curry about it. The two programs have had some of the most prolific battles in the city on the hardwood for many decades, pushing on 100 years at this point.
Curry, who was an assistant football coach at North Side directly before taking over at South, and now former North Side athletic director Kirk Doehrmann brought up this brain child. The talk came initially during Curry’s time as an assistant coach at North Side when the team was at Elkhart Central for a game. In their lobby, they had two huge trophies that are traveling trophies between Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial. North Side, and by extension of Curry’s now job, South Side wanted something similar so they discussed multiple ideas.
Looking to add some more honor between the two schools, this addition of basketball traveling trophies makes great sense and adds respect to the battles on the hardwood. The girls games have admittedly been one sided in recent years; South has won 20 of the 21 games between the two in the last 15 years according to John Harrell. In the last 35 years, North Side leads the boys side 21-18. South is just a smidge older overall, opening their doors in 1921 while North Side opened in 1927. The boys teams first played in 1928 and the first girls contest that Curry says data is available to for was in 1976.
“When you look at that and think of how much time has passed and how deep that tradition is and that rivalry, let’s take it a step further,” Curry says.
The trophy itself will be made up, in part, of the old South Side court. The school’s head custodian found a piece of the court hidden in a room of the school, forgotten. Now, Curry has helped make that piece part of the trophy. He says they would have liked to include the old North Side court too, but other than the two Redskin heads that hang in the school’s gyms, there are not known pieces of that court accessible. Curry hopes to incorporate a strand of medallions at some point similar to football’s Totem Pole. That trophy has green and red medallions that hang down, each representing a win from the corresponding school.
For South Side, the week has been viewed as another homecoming week in ways with dress up days and a real feel of excitement for the games that they will host for the first girl-boy double header of the season. Both school’s alumni associations are involved in the process and the trophies will be presented this year by those alumni associations as well as Curry and interim North Side athletic director Andrew Klein.
“They both supported the costs of having the trophies made,” Curry says of the alumni associations. “Year one, because of the support of the associations, we will have everyone involved.”
The trophies, made locally by Imperial Trophies, will be on display at the games Friday.
As for the coaches and players, Curry echoed what I already knew: they like the idea but there isn’t much they need to get pumped up for North Side week.
The girls side, as noted, has been extremely one sided as of late. South Side’s only loss to North in the last 15 seasons came on January 23, 2004; current Archer head coach Juanita Goodwell has never lost to North Side. The boys side has been more back and forth, with the Archers winning last season after nine straight North Side wins before that. But even when one team goes big stretches of wins – like in 2010-11 when South won all three meetings in a year they won just six total games – more often than not, the boys side has been competitive.
Archers versus Redskins was always a great rivalry. 2005 and 2006 was one of the last great runs of that series, although North won four of five games in that stretch spanning the regular seasons, SAC Holiday Tournaments and sectional play. In the 1994-1995 season, top conference scorer Robert Kizer set a torrid pace in a pair of games for the Archers. This year, the players on both teams will try to fill that potential void of hype.
“They are excited just because it is North Side. I don’t think it will truly unfold until they’ve had the experience,” Curry says. “For the football players, it’s always been expected. Over the next couple of years, the excitement will build too that we want to keep that trophy in our building. We want it to have that feel of something we have been doing and the next step in a great rivalry.
Curry has a unique perspective due to his connections to both schools and sees how these trophies are beneficial to bridging the gaps of the schools, the basketball programs but also new and old Archers and North Side’s bigger gap: Redskins and Legends. While this trophy will be instilled with the current Legend nickname tag, it still will harken back to the North Side Redskin days and allow alumni of both names to have something to cherish.
When North Side went through their mascot changes, there were even questions if the totem pole, with its Native American ties, would still even exist between the two schools.
“For the current students, now it is something they can attach to so we are building a bridge between those alumni that were Redskins and those who are now Legends, it is still about North Side,” Curry said. “For South Side, same idea. We want students now to say ‘hey I am connected to this’ and it is part of what is going to be in the future.”
And Curry is absolutely right. This trophy will bridge some gaps in years and years of alumni because of what it means to beat the other school on a basketball court. Does it mean more than beating them on the football field? You’ll get varying answers on that one. But no matter how you cut it, holding bragging rights in South Side versus North Side always has been and always will be important. It won’t matter this year or into the future the scores of games or titles won because of the game, you just want to beat North Side or you just want to beat South Side.
“We are looking forward to how it is going to be able to unfold over the next 100 years,” Curry says with a grin.
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