Kyle Lindsay is a mild-mannered guy. While passionate on the sidelines at Bishop Luers, nothing seems to faze him off of the field.
But he bristles at one particular question.
“What do you say to people who say that a parochial school like Bishop Luers has it easy compared to everyone else?”
Lindsay is quick to react, like a calm dog set off by the sight of a squirrel.
“I just think anybody who says and thinks that is naive and ignorant, especially in a city that has had open enrollment forever,” Lindsay says. “That argument is a strawman’s argument. It is an excuse to knock down a private school when they do have success.”
For Lindsay, there wasn’t much success in 2020 in the regular season. His team finished the SAC with a 3-6 record. But something clicked in the playoffs, beginning with wins over Fairfield and Eastside in sectional play and culminating in the program’s first trip to the state finals since 2012.
It was this success, and how it was achieved, that has earned Kyle Lindsay the 2020 Outside the Huddle Coach of the Year award; the inaugural giving of this particular honor.
Going back to the parochial school argument, Lindsay points out more misconceptions. Bishop Luers’ feeder schools are spread out far and wide, from central Fort Wayne to New Haven to clear out to Aboite. Its biggest feeder school is Saint Elizabeth’s, which routinely sees students, including a fair amount of good athletes, choose to go to Bishop Dwenger or Homestead instead of heading across town.
“Easy” they say. They look at Bishop Luers’ 11 state championships and just assume that it is a football factory, that it has its pick of the little of athletes on the south side of Fort Wayne. Some even adhere to the complete fallacy that the school manipulates its enrollment to stay in Class 2A for football purposes.
Reality is much different.
Talent in Fort Wayne trends towards winners. With open enrollment in Fort Wayne Community Schools after eighth grade, the battle over the best athletes involves almost the entire SAC. Championships entice athletes to a particular school. That well can be fruitful for years, but at the first turn towards adversity, the well goes dry, the athletes trending towards the next big thing in the city.
It is a battle that every football coach in the SAC takes on, with few exceptions. Even the once-bountiful CYO league is not as it deep as it once was, a natural pipeline to Bishop Dwenger and Luers reloading the talent.
So that is the landscape in which Lindsay finds himself, a private school tucked amongst the bigger public schools of South Side, Wayne and even New Haven.
“Being on the small side of things as a Catholic school on the south side of town, there are some advantages,” Lindsay said. “Parents who are looking for a smaller setting for their kids may look towards us.
“I think we face the same challenges as coaches do in other parts of town. We deal with different demographics and cultures like most every other school.”
Lindsay and the Knights had to deal with all of that and more in 2020. With a young team facing the uncertainties of Covid-19 and a difficult SAC slate, Bishop Luers slugged its way through the regular season. It picked up three wins, but it also lost to Concordia Lutheran by 38, to rival Bishop Dwenger by 37 and Carroll by 34.
But this team battled adversity and triumphed at every turn. Even when the team was not winning, the kids enjoyed the opportunity to play every Friday in an uncertain world. When they had their backs up against the wall and did not look capable of winning a highly-competitive Sectional 35, the Knights went ahead and did it.
And as for the playoffs? Well…
“We couldn’t stop a nosebleed against Eastside, but we pulled out a (56-49) win,” Lindsay said. “We were down 28-7 at half to Pioneer in the semistate and came back.
“A lot of what we did was just a culmination of the positive vibes that we gained throughout the year. Our coaches and our players came together and believed.”
That belief was fostered by Lindsay, who made sure to find the positives with his team during the fragility of a season that many anticipated would end at any moment. In the end, Bishop Luers saw the year conclude on the biggest stage, in the state title game at Lucas Oil Stadium and a one-point loss to Western Boone. It was Lindsay’s first trip as the head coach of his alma mater, and he hopes it will not be his last.
Despite the assumptions of some, that road can be quite rocky.
“I am humbled to be a part of a program like Bishop Luers and be surrounded by the people I am surrounded by,” Lindsay said. “It is a challenge every day, but one we all have taken on. It is fun to watch these kids learn and grow.”