Senior staff writer
Opening night is rivalry night for several Southside football teams when the new season starts Aug. 21.
Southport and Roncalli collide in a doubleheader nightcap at Lucas Oil Stadium around 8:30 p.m., after Franklin Central and its new coach, Grant Lewis, meet Decatur Central at 6 p.m. The Flashes are 6-2 when opening against the Hawks.
Greenwood journeys north to Perry Stadium to meet Perry Meridian at 7 p.m. In an important Indiana Crossroads Conference matchup, Beech Grove’s high-octane offense travels a few miles southeast to meet Lutheran, also at 7 p.m.
Center Grove and Warren Central may be several miles apart in distance, but fans of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference know that this opener is a power game between two top-ranked teams. They have split two games in season openers, but this tussle could go a long way to determine the league champion.
For the second season the Trojans open against three highly rated MIC foes, including Carmel on the road Sept. 4 and Ben Davis (Sept. 11) in the first four games. The non-conference game is on the Trojans’ field against upstart Whiteland, a prime contender for the 5A championship. The Warriors came dangerously close to an upset at home last year.
“It really cuts you hard right off the bat because your weaknesses really stand out,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said. “You throw Whiteland in there and they will be on the attack. Then we have Cathedral (2014 state champions) at the end of our regular season, and we beat them last year.
Moore concluded, “All the strength, size and speed we see early in the season really help us down the road.”
After falling 1-3 last year, Center Grove rolled to eight straight wins before a dramatic heartbreaking loss to Ben Davis the semistate.
Moore also winds up coaching against former assistant Jayson West when the Trojans meet Warren Central.
Southport and Roncalli are fired up for their season opener in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We’re in the same locker room and get to walk onto the field just like the Indianapolis Colts,” Luke Johnston, Southport’s record-setting quarterback, said. “Playing against Roncalli just adds to the anticipation to get started.”
The formation of the new Circle City Conference also emphasizes the rivalries among four Catholic high schools, including Roncalli.
League play begins during the 2016-2017 academic year for Roncalli, Bishop Chatard, Brebeuf Jesuit and Guerin Catholic. Founding members indicated that more schools, private or public, could come on board but would preferably expand to eight teams.
Roncalli competes in Class 4A in football and basketball. Brebeuf, Chatard and Guerin are in 3A. Reigning 3A state basketball champion Guerin moves up to 4A on the hardwood for two seasons.
Roncalli has sought entry as an eighth member of the Mid-State Conference but has been turned down.
Coaches at the four high schools agree that the league format would add meaning and credibility to all sports. Most of the schools play against each other in nearly all sports.
Beech Grove and Lutheran have split 3-3 since opening against each other in 2009.
“Lutheran is right down the street; it’s a natural rivalry,” Beech Grove coach Mark Weller said. “They seem to reload each year. We’ll have our work cut out for us, but it’s an easy game to get ‘up’ for to begin the season.”
Saints’ veteran coach Dave Pasch views the game as the first step of the season.
“The rivalry is there for the fans; the players know it as week one. We see it as a challenge that will prepare us for the next week to get us where we need to be at the end of the season.”