TERRE HAUTE —
New coaches, new conferences, virtually new postseason adventures — there’s a lot to be excited about in the Wabash Valley as Indiana high school football practices begin today.
Also having first official workouts today are boys and girls cross country teams, boys and girls soccer teams, boys tennis teams and volleyball teams. Girls golf practice started last week, with some matches already scheduled today.
Despite all the outstanding athletes who will be competing in the other sports, however, it’s probably a good bet that a lot of the fall-sports interest in Vigo County revolves around football, specifically the new situations for Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South.
When the Indiana High School Athletic Association added a sixth football class after last year’s tournament, there was a lot of suspense on the north end of town.
When the final figures came out, North’s enrollment ranked 33rd in the state, meaning the Patriots are the biggest school remaining in Class 5A; had they ranked 32nd, the Patriots would have been the smallest school in Class 6A.
Terre Haute South is also a Class 5A football school, so both the Braves and Patriots are doubly spared this fall. They won’t have to face bigger schools in postseason, and a switch of conference affiliations for football — North and South will play Conference Indiana schedules and hand their Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference slates over to Lawrence Central and Pike, the teams that will replace them in the MIC in all sports a year from now — means they won’t see some of the nationally ranked juggernauts during the regular season either.
This hasn’t happened around here in a while, but overconfidence — or at least relaxation — might become a worry.
“It won’t be any easier,” coach Chris Barrett of North emphasized last week when asked about the perceived lighter schedule the Patriots would be facing. “We’ll prepare exactly the same way. I only know one way to do that, and that’s all-out.”
“It will be a challenge [to be in a new conference], but it will be fun,” added Tim Herrin, South’s first-year head coach after several years as an assistant there. “We’ll still prepare like we always have.”
Barrett expects approximately 105 players to be in uniform when the Patriots, 6-5 a year ago with a winning MIC record — take the field for the first time today.
“We’ve had a really good summer,” he said. “The kids have really worked hard, the attitudes have been great, and we were able to answer some questions that we had from graduation.”
“There’s excitement with the changes,” said Herrin, who expects to greet about 90 Braves today. South was 3-7 last fall. “I think our players are looking forward to the challenges.”
Herrin, of course, is one of those changes. That’s because former South coach Mark Raetz has taken the coaching job at Northview, a team that also finished 3-7 a year ago.
“I think we’ve had a good summer,” Raetz said. “Our numbers are good [70 to 75 players] and the kids are very receptive to the new offense, the new defense and the new coaches.
“I’m excited to see how it all goes once [practice] officially starts.”
West Vigo won’t have quite the numbers of its three neighbors today, but the 6-4 Vikings had the best record of the four teams a year ago and have had “one of the best summers we’ve ever had,” according to coach Jeff Cobb.
The Vikes don’t have a new coach or a new conference. Their postseason road also looks much the same, although Cobb was happy to report that Indianapolis Chatard is no longer a member of the Class 3A sectional that includes his school.
“Our junior and senior classes are small; good players, just not many of them,” said Cobb, expecting to see about 45 players today. “We have good freshman and sophomore groups. We got a lot of good work in this summer, and also a lot of technique work.”