Lutheran’s Saints have 14 seniors who have moved up from the 2021 Class A IHSAA state championship team for the new season. The Saints are: from left, front row, Joey Davis, Cur’Brian Shelby, middle row, Louis Mobley, Hunter Johnson, Jake Akins, manager Cora Deans, back row, Nicholson Miller, Micah Mackay, Cameron Patterson, Dakota Beatty, Jacob Roberts, Spencer Bauer, Nathan Loman, Josiah King, and Christopher Ervin.
By Al Stilley
If you ever want to sit down and talk about the philosophy of developing an elite football program at a small Hoosier high school, then Lutheran High School coach Dave Pasch is your guy.
When Pasch came to Class A Lutheran from Putnam County in 2008, he had a timetable after succeeding program founder Ray Schultz that produced an early anomaly - a sectional championship in the new coach’s second year at the Lutheran helm.
“You can have success early, but you can’t ensure longterm sustainability without (player) development,” Pasch recalled of the 2009 sectional championship campaign. “I thought six or eight years would be what it would take.”
A dozen years later that elite degree of sustainability has resulted in eight sectional, six regional, two semistate championships and finally, the coveted 2021 Class A IHSAA state trophy in Pasch’s 25th career campaign as a head coach. The Saints have won 123 games and lost only 53 games (69.8 winning percentage), under Pasch.
“Football is not a game you get better at in the backyard; it’s one that you have to practice with a team to do,” he said. “We look at this senior class and they have played an extra season because we have played deep into the tournaments. When you play late in November every year, it affords you the opportunity to develop young players with all the extra practices.”
Over the past three seasons, some of the seniors have had a maximum of 11 more weeks of practice after the Saints hurdled over their first sectional game. Since 2014, the Saints lost four of five semistate championship games, just one win away from playing in the state championship. The Saints finally made it in 2019 but lost to Lafayette Central Catholic, 29-28.
Through all those years, the extra practices paid off for at one of the smallest high schools in Hoosierland. Overall, the Saints have benefitted from 37 extra weeks of football practice beyond winning their first sectional game since 2009.
“We started having success at that seventh year (2014),” Pasch recalled. “There’s no quick way. You really know the benefit of being committed to the fundamentals, character building and the growth you experience through continuity with assistant coaches and families.”
“Every year we have been here, we have made progress. from a coach’s eyes, we made a slow progression in getting to that consistent sectional championship but we couldn’t beat the Milans and the Scecinas. However, we continued and moved into that upper echelon.’
The visual results at Lutheran football field include a turf field, expanded home grandstand seating, visitor’s spectator seating on the east side of the field, a spacious press box with a special VIP room, and a concession stand on the lower level.
Lutheran has 14 seniors this season, one of its larger senior classes to play football, but there is talent spread throughout the roster to be further developed.
Pasch also doubles as the high school’s dean of students. He explained the school’s pride that 90 percent of the student body participate in an extra-curricular activity, including band, choir, drama, clubs, and sports. He credits the administration, faculty, and staff for that emphasis.
With student-athletes, Pasch explained, “We have a symbiontic relationship here among our coaches; we’re all relying on each other to develop kids - the same mentality, the same approach. We want our kids involved. Some of our football players are in the school musicals, leading roles, too. That kind of culture helps complete them as a real person.”
Pasch also pointed out that student enrollment at Lutheran is increasing due to a lot of societal factors. He alludes the growth to parental needs for their children to be in a high school that includes a spiritual approach to a well-rounded education.
Meanwhile, the students know that the small Southside campus on South Arlington Avenue comes alive when the Friday night lights are turned on for a Saints home football game.
Lutheran High School’s Dave Pasch is preparing for his 26th overall season as a head football coach with a winning percentage of 70 percent with 14 Saints teams.