Last Friday was a rough for one for area schools on the gridiron, particularly in the higher classes.
In Class 6A, Carroll got off to a slow start, turned the ball on its first two possessions and played catch-up the rest of the way in a 23-point loss.
In 5A, Bishop Dwenger struggled to slow down Zionsville’s physical rushing attack and fell to the Eagles for the second straight year in regional action.
In 3A, Norwell was hopelessly outclassed by a bigger, tougher and deeper Brebeuf squad.
And 4A? Well, northeast Indiana didn’t have a representative in regional play for the first time since 2004.
Yes, the area has a pair of teams in semistate this Friday, but 2021 continues a trouble trend – our higher class teams cannot reach the state championship.
Consider this. In the 10-year span from 2002-2011, six northeast Indiana teams earned a trip to the state finals in the then-top two classes (4A and 5A).
In the next 10-year span from 2012-21, just two have reached state – Snider twice in 5A. And since the inception of Class 6A in 2013, no northeast Indiana squad has even won a regional in that class, let alone gotten to Lucas Oil Stadium.
So, what’s the problem?
There isn’t one singular answer, but Blitz believes one thing in particular hurts – the SAC nine-game regular-season schedule format.
Blitz has been down this road before – many times in fact. But unfortunately it is still a talking point because the SAC refuses to pull itself out of the 1990s.
We have heard all the reasons why. Convenience. Keeps costs down. Protect rivalries. The list goes on on WHY the league does not change things up and allow non-conference games.
How do you do it? Split the league up into divisions.
How do you split them and make em fair? Add up regular-season wins and losses over last 10-15 years and rank the team 1-10 by winning percentage. Odds go in one division. Evens in the other.
Wow, Blitz just solved a lot of problems in about 50 words.
What gets accomplished if the SAC opens the schedule up to non-conference games? Let’s review.
1. HIGH-CLASS TEAMS CAN BE CHALLENGED
People boast how the SAC has teams ranging from Class 2A to 6A. Yes, it’s unique. But it also doesn’t help the 5As and, in particular, the 6As in the league.
Seriously, what is accomplished by Carroll and Homestead when it plays over half of its games against inferior programs? This is not taking anything away from those teams, but should the Chargers be beating up on South Side or taking on Valparaiso? Is it better for Homestead to be traveling to Northrop or going to Hamilton Southeastern?
The majority of 6A teams in the state reside in leagues in which they are consistently challenged by like-sized schools. The Duneland Conference has Merrillville, Crown Point, Valparaiso and Chesterton. The Metropolitan has Warren Central, Carmel, Ben Davis, Pike, etc. The Hoosier Crossroads has Westfield, HSE, Fishers, Zionsville and others. In addition, all of those leagues have multiple non-conference weeks to further challenge their teams.
Meanwhile, teams in the SAC are stuck. Could Carroll have beaten Westfield if it had a couple more 6A teams on its schedule? Maybe, maybe not, but Blitz can assure you it would have been better prepared than it was in beating South Side, Wayne and Concordia by a combined score of 187-7 in the regular season.
Look at Zionsville. It has went 4-5 the last two years in the Hoosier Crossroads, yet it reached state last season and is a victory away from doing it again this year.
2. LOWER-TIER PROGRAMS CAN FIND WINS
This one has been pointed out over and over in columns of this type, but it bears repeating. How do you resurrect a program at South Side? How do you give North Side and Wayne a chance at building some momentum?
You allow those teams to find winnable games outside of the league.
South Side last beat Snider in 2009. North Side has NEVER beat Homestead.
Why are these teams playing each other EVERY SINGLE YEAR, especially when it’s not doing any of the programs any favors when it comes to reaching their goals?
Yes, teams like Concordia Lutheran and Bishop Luers like what they have in the SAC. But let Blitz ask you a question. This year, would Bishop Luers have benefited from taking on a Leo or Eastside and seeing how it matched up against those teams’ physicality? Or do you feel the Knights were properly prepared for a run to state by demolishing Northrop 56-0 and South Side 50-0?
3. THE TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT
By opening up the SAC’s scheduling, it would benefit other teams in the area. For example, Norwell. The Knights were wholly unprepared for the speed and bruising nature of Brebeuf last Friday. No amount of coaching could overcome the dominance in the trenches.
But what if Norwell could play a Bishop Dwenger once every few years? Or maybe an annual date with Concordia? Might that serve the Knights well? After all, their non-conference games this season were against squads that finished a combined 5-15.
Take Leo, a team that largely breezed through the regular season. Northridge was able to move the ball against a defensive unit that was scarcely challenged outside of East Noble in the regular season. Would a date with Bishop Luers or Carroll have helped the Lions be better prepared?
And don’t forget about Coach Luke Amstutz and East Noble, who will play anybody anywhere, including any of the teams in the SAC.
It was announced earlier this year that the SAC would rotate its schedule every two years. It was welcome news for a stagnant slate, but it still includes nine regular-season games.
High school football in Indiana has changed. School sizes have blossomed and the explosive growth surrounding Indianapolis has made the area a 6A power. But football in “The Region” has also changed as the biggest schools make sure they are tested throughout the year.
And then there is the SAC. Stuck in its own archaic format.
Unfortunately, the league, and by association the area, will continue to struggle to be competitive in the state’s biggest classes until enough people understand that the game has been transformed – and Fort Wayne football is behind the times.
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