TERRE HAUTE —
That was the difference last spring when high school football was reclassified by the Indiana High School Athletic Association. Had two or three more families with children in high school moved into northern Vigo County before that, Terre Haute North (enrollment for classification 1,929) might have been the smallest school in Class 6A and Lafayette Jeff (1,935) the largest in 5A, instead of vice versa.
And we might be having an entirely different conversation about the Patriots.
Or maybe we wouldn’t.
Although the 2013 Patriots see themselves as contenders for a Class 5A championship, who’s to say they wouldn’t have had the same goal if they’d been a Class 6A team? There’s considerable talent returning from the team that went 6-5, 4-3 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference last year, and no regular-season gauntlet of MIC teams to battle.
Coach Chris Barrett only wants to listen to half that argument, however. The last thing he wants his players to think is that this year is going to be easy.
“We’re still optimistic, but there’s still a ton of work to do,” he said recently. “We’ve answered some questions [since the end of last season], but there are more questions to do, particularly concerning our depth. … I hope nobody gets too comfortable.”
Team captains this year are offensive center Forrest Lowery (5-foot-9, 255), strong safety Ryan Moshak (5-11, 190) and running back Ricky Brookins (5-8, 180), a trio of seniors. They won’t be alone.
“There are a lot of captain-like kids,” Barrett said. “The leadership is very good … you can’t win without it.”
Lowery leads a veteran offensive line that also includes senior tackles Lucas Comer (6-5, 250) and Austin Vermillion (6-5, 315), senior guard Bryce Woodason (6-2, 265) and junior guard Ashaun Miller (6-0, 260). Three more seniors — Seth Boland (6-0, 250), Spencer Kunz (6-0, 270) and Gerrit TenBrink (6-3, 275) — provide depth.
Senior quarterback Chris Barrett II (6-1, 185) can hand off to Brookins and also to senior veteran Kai Stratten (5-9, 190). Senior backup quarterback Austin Massey (5-11, 185) is also part of a receiving corps that includes senior Nate Carson (6-2, 180), sophomore Logan Grim (5-10, 160), senior Jordan Moothery (6-0, 170) and occasionally Moshak and TenBrink; the latter sometimes lines up at tight end.
More often Moshak will be part of a Patriot secondary that will include senior Austin Bishop (5-6, 150), sophomore Braxton Poore (6-1, 160), junior Sam Gehman (6-2, 145) and sometimes Massey, Brookins, Stratten and Logan Grim.
Most experienced of the linebackers are senior Wyatt Stoelting (6-1, 210) and junior Trey Grim (5-10, 185), who will be joined by senior Austin Barron (5-11, 195) on the strong side and junior Ethan Barrett (6-2, 200, the coach’s nephew) at the rush position. Depth there is available in junior Vahn Billberry (5-11, 200) and senior D.J. Jackson (5-10, 190).
Senior veterans Ricky Scank (5-10, 260) and Ronnie McConnell (6-0, 270) will be joined up front defensively by junior Michael Ghant (6-3, 250), while junior Eric Roberts (6-1, 230) and several of the offensive linemen can also play there.
Junior Zach Potter (5-9, 170) returns as the kicker and punter.
Although the Patriots had several Division I football players graduate from last year’s team, it was this senior class that almost went unbeaten as MIC freshmen. So there are possibilities, if the team’s mind is right.
“We’ve still got to improve our mental toughness. That won two or three games for us last year,” coach Barrett said. “The challenge [this season] is every bit as great.”
The Patriots begin play tonight in Lucas Oil Stadium, meeting Castle in the second game of a doubleheader that starts with Ben Davis and Indianapolis Cathedral.