As rumors became official on Monday that Coach Guy ‘Tiny’ Lee had resigned as head coach of the South Side football program, Blitz got a text from a buddy expressing his interest in the job.
Without hesitation, Blitz told him no. Emphatically.
It shouldn’t be like that.
South Side has a proud history in football – but it has been a long time since the Archers were relevant. The last winning season was in 2009. The last sectional came in 2005.
It doesn’t really feel that long ago. But in reality, it is an eternity.
As Fort Wayne has seen its borders expand throughout most of Allen County, the population has followed suit in spreading out. Those who can afford it move out to Aboite or Huntertown. Those who want to stay in the city look more and more at private institutions of learning – sometimes for good reason.
But what the exodus from the inner city has done is left a tremendous void – with South Side the centerpiece – particularly in athletics.
Drive down Clinton St. and look to your left at the uneven patch of grass pockmarked with power lines and sewer grates that serves as South Side football’s practice field and try and tell me the Archers have the amenities needed to compete.
Tell Blitz that South has all it needs when he hears about equipment shortages for the Archers, simple things that other kids and programs take for granted.
So much attention during the season is put on winning teams and their star athletes. It’s easy to look past the grind that players are putting in elsewhere, like South Side. Those kids are working just as hard in more difficult situations. It’s easy to commit and put in work on a good team. Not so much when the program is down and you are the butt of jokes around school.
Put simply: South Side has not been put into a position in which to succeed. As the city grows, so do education alternatives – driven sometimes by athletics.
And it is not just football at South. Coach Juanita Goodwell has directed a perennial power in girls basketball. In 13 years under her leadership the program has won over 200 games, four sectional titles and a trip to the state finals in 2013. Yet in the last few years, Goodwell has struggled to get enough girls to field a varsity team, let alone freshman and JV squads. This is a program with proven, recent success and is now finding it difficult to be competitive.
J.J. Foster has done an admirable job at South with the boys’ basketball program in being competitive, but what was once a consistent power in the city and northeast Indiana has not won a sectional since 2007 nor a league title since 2003.
It is easy to cast blame. Point at administrators. Point at Fort Wayne Community Schools. Point at apathy at the support of South Side athletics.
There is always more that can be done, but Blitz is a staunch supporter of South athletic director Torrey Curry, who goes above and beyond attempting to do all he can for his teams.
The school system? They have bigger problems currently with the rash of guns being found in and around school buildings in the district – three now this school year. A turf field? Yeah, it may be coming, but FWCS has a gun issue, which is a tad more important right now than athletic surfaces.
We are told that South Side will get a turf field, similar to what Northrop and Wayne have gotten, but will that truly help? The lack of space on campus means that soccer, track, cross country and football will still need to share practice and field time. Not ideal where so many other schools now have multiple fields in which to spread out their teams.
There are inherent disadvantages at most every school, some more than others. You can argue that South Side is the worst in the bunch in the SAC, in terms of athletics anyways – with football being paramount.
So what needs to change? What CAN be changed?
Many can agree that the Archers program needs someone extremely dedicated to the program. They must commit themselves fully to the process. A hard reset. Build from the foundation up. Be active around the south side of town. Be in the building during the day. Understand the situations your players have outside of football and school. Be someone absolutely committed to seeing South Side football rise again, maybe an alum.
And that’s just the start.
But is all that even enough?
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