Senior staff writer
Big changes are on the horizon for high school football on the Southside.
Several teams, including 2016 4A state champion Roncalli, will be in different sectionals this season, and Perry Meridian and Franklin Central move to different conferences next year.
This season, Roncalli moves up to Class 5A due to the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s success factor. The Rebels are in Sectional 13 with rival Cathedral, Decatur Central, Plainfield and Tech. The Rebels advancement led to a change in Sectional 22, which now includes Greenwood, Beech Grove, Connersville, Mooresville, Mount Vernon, New Castle and Richmond.
In 6A, Center Grove is in the same Sectional 8 with Franklin Central, Columbus North and Jeffersonville.
Manual moves to 3A Sectional 38, which features six city teams plus Indian Creek and Rushville.
This is the last season for Franklin Central and Perry Meridian in Conference Indiana as the Flashes move to the Hoosier Crossroads Conference and the Falcons reduce their travel by going to the Mid-State.
Perry Meridian unveils its first on-campus stadium and Ray Skillman Family Field Friday against Greenwood. Lutheran opens at home on its first artificial field Friday against rival Beech Grove.
For the first time in 27 years, a coach other than legendary Bruce Scifres will be on the sideline guiding Roncalli’s fortunes. Scott Marsh, former coach at Howe and Perry Meridian, inherits one of the state’s most successful football programs. The Rebels open Friday at home against Southport.
Southsiders, as usual, will have plenty of good players to watch on any Friday night this season ... even after the graduation of Beech Grove record-setting quarterback Chase Andries (DePauw) and 2016 Mr. Football candidate, Center Grove’ Russ Yeast (Louisville).
This season’s stars to watch are: linemen Dallas Culpepper and Isaiah Green from Beech Grove; linebacker Austin Daming and quarterback Jack Moore, Center Grove; running backs Jaylen Brown, Michael Pitz and Johnnie Mickle, Franklin Central; quarterback Seth Gallman and running back Dylan Rosado, Greenwood; tailback Andre Jones, Lutheran; quarterback Coadie Barnett and running back Deangelo Dean, Manual; running back Jalen Lee and lineman Alex Parra, Perry Meridian; quarterback Conner Gore and lineman Dominic Clouse, Roncalli; and quarterback Eddie Schott, Southport.
What to look for this season? Franklin Central is primed to wake up the echoes of past championships; traditional programs at Center Grove and Roncalli are reloading; Perry Meridian will be over the top at home; and Southport, Greenwood, Lutheran and Manual seek more improvement.
Three Southside teams are ranked in the Indiana coaches pre-season poll. The Trojans are No. 4., but three of their first four opponents are ranked ahead of them in Class 6A: No. 1 Carmel, No. 2 Ben Davis and No. 3 Warren Central. Roncalli is No. 4 in 5A, and Lutheran is No. 4 in Class A.
BEECH GROVE: Shooting for fourth-straight winning year, Beech Grove has to replace big departures
CENTER GROVE: Center Grove reloads after back-to-back title game appearances
FRANKLIN CENTRAL: FC primed to break streak of losing seasons
GREENWOOD: Greenwood sees opportunity in 2017 with talented team
LUTHERAN: For the Lutheran Saints, postseason matters most
MANUAL: Manual is ready for winning year
PERRY MERIDIAN Perry plans to feed off energy of new field
RONCALLI Big changes at defending champ Roncalli
SOUTHPORT: Southport aims for 10 straight winning seasons