The smell of freshly cut grass, the sounds of the band mixed in with recognizable voices on the public address system, the visions of colorful helmets and fans decked out and ready to cheer on their favorite team.
Power at the top: Once the first ball is kicked off on the opening weekend of the season, fans start to prognosticate who might make an appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. I will admit that I probably like sectional championship night in high school football a little better than State Championship weekend. Sometimes this sport becomes a little too predictable with power teams at the top.
I won't lose my enthusiasm during the course of this regular season, but worry that I could pick a state champion right now in each of the five classes and have a legitimate shot at going 4-for-5. Each class has a clear favorite who showed it's strength in the season opener.
Class A: Lafayette Central Catholic (beat Delphi 33-3)
Class 2A: Fort Wayne Bishop Luers (beat Class 5A FW Snider 33-21)
Class 3A: Bishop Chatard (beat Brebeuf 31-7)
Class 4A: Cathedral (lost to Ben Davis 24-21...see game detail below)
Class 5A: Warren Central (beat Merrillville 64-13)
The Luers and Warren Central games jump off the screen. LCC is two-time defending state champ and return most of its squad from last season. Chatard is a 10-time state champion and primed for another title. Cathedral lost a game and still didn't drop from the #1 ranking in the Class 4A coaches poll.
I am an underdog fan at heart, so this is certainly no disrespect to any other programs, but I have a feeling this could be a Year of the Titans.
Tip of the cap to the Athletic Directors: The first Friday of the 2011 season wasn't full of numerous GREAT games, but did prove to be a highly competitive night on the gridiron. This proves to me that coaches and athletic directors are doing a pretty good job of searching out similar opponents in the one or two opportunities of freedom they have.
With the exception of the Hoosier Crossroads Conference which has 10 teams and plays an entire schedule full of league games, most teams open the season with non-conference opponents before getting busy with league play in week two or three. While I enjoy watching teams compete for conference championships, the season opener is sometimes the most important (to fans) game on the schedule.
I'm glad to see some of these "important" games were also very competitive on the first weekend. Hamilton Heights 10 Tipton 9, Southport 28 Roncalli 21, and New Palestine 16 Whiteland 14 are just a few of the games that went down to the wire and can be classified as anticipated annual non-conference match-ups.
Speaking of Rivalries: Back in the day, there was no game I wanted to win more than the contest against Logansport. I've written on this website previously about the longest-running IHSAA football rivalry, and there is no doubt fans at Peru placed a greater emphasis on beating the Berries than winning a conference title. I will be among a number of Peruvians who are likely to eagerly anticipate a score from the renewal of that rivalry this Friday night.
Bob Prescott is back on the sidelines at Bengal Memorial Stadium after a three-year stint in the mid-90's at Peru. Prescott most recently coached at Knightstown and is now given the task of trying to re-build the Peru program that has fallen on hard times in recent years. Peru kids haven't grown up thinking about football in recent years and Prescott will try to change that.
A win at Logansport in the 109th meeting between the two schools would be a great way to start, and Prescott knows how to beat the Berries. His first game at Peru was 17-14 victory over Logansport in the 1994 season opener thanks to a field goal as time expired and one of the most memorable games in Tiger history (if I do say so myself) was a 17-14 victory of the Berries in the sectional opener a year later.
Last weeks results (Wabash 37-0 over Peru & Twin Lakes 13-6 over Logansport) might not make this a smart prediction, but what the heck, Peru 17-14 at Logansport followed by a milkshake at the Happy Burger?
What a difference an inch makes: I'm not the first person to say there might be just a few too many "Classics" at Lucas Oil Stadium. When there are prep games at the massive NFL facility virtually every weekend (and they often include some of the same teams) some of the cool factor wears off.
That said, Ben Davis vs Cathedral in the nightcap of the Peyback Classic was Cool with a CAPITAL C. I was shocked a couple of weeks ago when I looked back at the Giants record over the last two seasons to see them just one game over .500. Mike Kirschner is one of the best guys around, but has to be feeling just a little bit of heat after going 11-9 in 2009 and 2010.
The Giants led most of the game against Class 4A #1 Cathedral, but found themselves in overtime. Kirschner called for a field goal attempt on fourth down to start the extra session, then relied on his defense to win the game. Cathedral quarterback Corey Babb was very close to fumbling on a second down rushing attempt, then just as close to crossing the goal line.
The officials spotted the fourth down play on about the two-inch line. Cathedral went for it but was stuffed by the Giants setting off a wild celebration on the Colts helmet at midfield. While I'm sure the Irish were saying shoulda, woulda, coulda afterwards there is little doubt the game means more big-picture to Ben Davis.
Kirschner's senior-laden team now has a chance to enter Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference play with some momentum (should they beat Pike at home Friday) and could be the team with the best chance to challenge Warren Central in the MIC. Don't feel too sorry for Cathedral. Sure they might lose a few games playing the college-like schedule the Irish have set up, but they'll most likely be playing meaningful football well into November.
Talk about icing the kicker: I didn't expect Perry Meridian and Center Grove to be a down to the wire game. I had instructed veteran Fox 59er Bob Johnson to start his night at Greenwood, get a couple of early Gunner Kiel touchdown passes (mission accomplished although 4-17 wasn't the stat line I expected from the highly-touted QB) then shoot a couple of highlights in the 3rd quarter from Perry Meridian.
Needless to say I was surprised when he called and said the game was tied with under 10 seconds to play and they were in a lightning delay. Unfortunately you never know how long those delays will last (by rule 30 minutes after last bolt of lightning) so Bob had to come on back to edit his highlights.
We missed seeing the game-winning 25-yard field goal by Damiano Mancini after the lightning delay. Props to Mancini for being clutch despite the ultimate icing the kicker delay and also to Perry Meridian who I feel could be on the verge of breaking through after many disappointing seasons.