BLITZ: For better or worse, no program is immune from the “special class” syndrome

Snider’s Class of 2020 was massive, laying way to success but also to a rebuild for this season that has seen the Panthers start 0-2.

If Blitz was a betting bear, he could really clean up on laying down cash on how many times he hears about a particular class that is going to turn a program around.

Sometimes, it is a class of kids that is going to pivot a perennial loser into a winner.

Other times, it is a group that may just be the key to a conference, sectional or even a state championship.

Every school has them one time or another – a group of athletes in the same grade that completely change the dynamic of a program. Some programs have classes like that regularly – almost as if it is expected. Others can go a decade or more between “special” groups.

In the pre-season, Blitz stated that Snider “would reload, as it always does” entering 2020. Why wouldn’t we expect such a thing? The Panthers have “special” classes graduate nearly every year, with another class primed and ready to take the reigns and lead the program to more glory.

But as we have learned through the first two weeks, even the mighty Snider Panthers can be bitten by losing a “special” group. The 37-ish seniors that moved on from the yellow and black a year ago left a tremendous void in talent, leadership and on-field awareness. Those missing attributes have been evident for Coach Kurt Tippmann’s team thus far in 2020.

But fear not Snider fans, the current sophomore class could be the next ultra-talented cadre of kids that leads the Panthers to a return to SAC dominance and a long playoff run.

South Adams’ Nick Miller makes a punt during the first quarter of November 15, 2019’s Regional game against Adams Central.

We are seeing the opposite at a place like South Adams, which is a year behind Snider in that its hyped-up senior group is amidst its final campaign. Guys like James Arnold, Nick Miller, Drew Stutzman, Christian Summersett and Jake Plattner lead the way for the Class of 2021 in Berne. The goal? A state title.

At North Side, this senior class has been with Coach Mike Brevard since his first campaign at the helm. The message over the last four years has been to lay the foundation to build a consistently competitive program. The Legends are in the conversation as one of the better teams in the SAC this season, mission accomplished.

Or is it?

Back in 2014, a “special” class at Wayne High School under Scot Shaw helped the Generals win a share of the SAC championship. It was the most successful single season by the program in close to two decades, led by the likes of Kye Black and twins Keion and Deion Powers.

One year later, Wayne went 0-10 and has had just one winning season since.

Woodlan was the beneficiary of a special class or two recently, leading to a state championship game appearance in 2017. But it has been a struggle in Woodburn since.

So as important as a “special” class can, having a consistent pipeline of talent can be the true key to success. The likes of East Noble, Bishop Dwenger and Adams Central do not rely on one particular class to put them over the top before falling back down to earth.

That is what makes the storyline with North Side, Snider and even Angola so engrossing. Will North Side continue to be competitive in the coming years when Duce Taylor, Ronald Collins III and Lah-Shon Miller are gone? Can Snider quickly return to SAC relevancy? Is Angola’s rebuild that we saw in 2019 a short-term issue or a long-term affair?

Blitz has been around a long time. He has seen the ebbs and flows of programs, he has witnessed talent in Fort Wayne gravitate towards the “sexy” teams that rise and fall.

But he has also experienced the emotion and excitement that one class can bring to a team, a school, a town.

For that, Blitz hopes we keep seeing these “special” classes come through area schools – and what they bring both in hype and results.

These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH

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