Annual preseason traditions pepper the area as start of regular season looms

DeKalb’s 2022 football captains Tegan Irk, Derek Overbay and Logan Montoya. Not pictured: Donnie Wiley. (DeKalb Football Twitter Photo)

Traditions give high school football life and keep it as one of the prominent prep sports in northeast Indiana.

There are the rituals that take place before kickoff and after the final whistle on any given Friday night. But some of the best traditions in high school football take place before the first official snap.

These include handing out specific jersey numbers to players or honoring a program’s past with its intrasquad scrimmage game.

At North Side, the No. 5 jersey is a special one and is in honor of Coach Terrance Miles, who was tragically killed in 2017. Legends senior Michael Dye earned the privilege of wearing that number this season. 

“Mikey exhibits academic excellence, strong team leadership, character; work ethic, perseverance and commitment,” North Side head coach Ben Johnson said. 

After DeKalb tested out its new turf for its intrasquad scrimmage, it named its 2022 team captains – Tegan Irk, Derek Overbay, Logan Montoya and Donnie Wiley. Montoya also received the honor to wear the No. 1 jersey this season. The number goes to the most selfless person on the team, and he’s been that his entire career.

“He pushes himself to be the best through weights, 7v7s and our leadership classes,” Barons coach Seth Wilcox said. “Logan is a very talented receiver that always seems to be overshadowed by Donnie Wiley and Derek Overbay.

“Logan never complains about being asked to do new things, and never seeks the limelight with his accomplishments. Most importantly, Logan always puts the team above himself. It doesn’t matter what his stats look like on a Friday night. He just wants to win and is willing to play whatever role makes that happen.”

Snider also hands out the No. 1 jersey to a special player who put in the hardest work and commitment of the summer. This season Ke’drell Billingsley will don the No. 1.

Bluffton’s Anthony Cruz and Snider’s Ke’drell Billingsley have both been selected to wear numbers in 2022 that are significant to their programs, both part of preseason traditions at the schools. (Photos from Bluffton Football and Snider Football Twitter)

The Bluffton Tigers started the tradition of handing out specific numbers this season – 25 and 52. The No. 25 goes to the hardest-working skill player from the end of the last season to the start of the next one, as well as to the player who most exemplifies the style of play that Bluffton wants to promote. The jersey number was worn by Jarred Carpenter (Class of 2010), who passed away in 2011. The No. 52 is awarded to the hardest-working lineman from the end of one season to the next and adopts the selfless F.A.M.I.L.Y. (Forget about me I love you) mindset.

Wearing the No. 25 for the Tigers this season will be Anthony Cruz. He had 100 percent attendance in summer workouts, is a hard worker in the weight room, commands a leadership role with younger running backs and is the go-to guy when anyone on the team needs something, according to Coach Brent Kunkel.

Putting on No. 52 will be Christian Castenada, who also didn’t miss a day during summer workouts, had great work ethic in weight room, was ready to do anything for the team, was in a battle for the starting spot and has adopted his role with no issue.

In Adams County, both the Starfires and Flying Jets hold player fundraisers. People in the community bid for players to do work for them around the house, including duties like lawn care.

For South Adams, the money raised supports the football program in various ways, including paying for Hudl, food for the players, help with team camp expenses, new football equipment, coaching analytics, player wrist bands and gear, helmet decals and more.

At Adams Central, its fundraiser is linked to a chicken barbeque, which the program has been doing for more than 40 years. It’s the Flying Jets’ main football fundraiser for the “Our Football Mothers Club.”

“It’s usually a bidding war among parents and grandparents who often just pool their money together,” Adams Central coach Michael Mosser said. 

Some totals get close to $500, and all players are also supposed to sell 20 chicken dinners. The community comes out in droves and always well attended.

The East Noble Knights hold their yearly intrasquad, which is named the Bixler Bowl, as the football field is one Zander Brazel deep ball from Bixler Lake. On the same night, it’s also Scott Abbs Community Football Night. East Noble recognizes each player in its youth program, the Knightmares (Find me a better name than that for a youth program). The Knights also name their middle school players, and their varsity team captains, Trevor Conley, Nate Terry, Easton Brown, Damon Bentley, Zack Leighty, and Brazel; The Bixler Bowl MVP was Brown.

Garrett also celebrates its program and past during his intersquad scrimmage, named the Dick Capin Bowl after previous head coach Richard “Dick” Capin, who coached the Railroaders from 1954-66.

Honoring previous head coaches doesn’t stop there as the offensive and defensive MVP “trophies” are named after Dave Wiant (1973-78) and John Hutton (1967-72). Aaden Lytle was the offensive MVP and Kyle Smith won the defensive award. Wiant led the Railroaders to the 1974 Class A State Title.

Perhaps the best annual preseason tradition? When Garrett players give their best impression of a coach on the Railroaders’ staff.

Brice Vance is excited to be a new contributor to Outside the Huddle. He’s previously covered high school sports in northeast Indiana with KPC Media Group for six years. He will cover games, write columns and other various things during the high school sports season.

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