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  1. I wouldn't say one hit wonder, and I think it's very early to make that type of assessment of the Elkhart program. There was at least a small but vocal voice in this forum that took Elkhart's success as a sign that it had emerged as this dominant force in Northern Indiana football. I think many of the same structural forces that hamstring Penn or any other of the larger schools outside of Indy affect Elkhart and will continue to affect that program. I was able to get back to town for the previous two games (St. X and Elkhart) and here are some takeaways. In the same way that St. X was from a different planet than Penn--100 man roster with just two Sophomores on it, a defense of mobile six-footers, dynamic game changers, etc.--Penn is and is likely to continue to be a lesser version of that when compared to Elkhart. I don't know anyone of great significance was out for Elkhart, but they had about a 65-75 man roster while Penn still keeps about 100 guys on the "varsity" roster. That makes a difference. Both teams struggled in special teams play--Elkhart was poor in a number of these aspects, but I've also never seen such poor long snapping for Penn--and neither side had reliable quarterback play in the passing game. The ingredients for sustained, consistent programmatic success are there for Elkhart, and it is unfair to expect that program to emerge fully formed after last season alone. However, I have also been critical of the NIC and the impact that the conference has on both of these programs especially when you look at competition at freshman and junior varsity levels. Objectively speaking, the size disparity between the members of the big school division effectively puts a cap on the development of non-varsity players at the larger schools.
  2. Bowling Alone is a book published in 2000 about the decline of bowling leagues and what the author thinks that means for American society at large. I never read it, but I think the decline of bowling leagues, from what I remember and probably in response to this book, was a widely interpreted to mean that Americans were becoming more insular. Certainly, there would be other factors at play, but do a quick search on the book and you can find the publisher's page that describes what the author attempts to show. There is no reason to think that other community activities or school extracurriculars--even those for the most vibrant of us all--would be immune to some sort of larger and pervasive societal malady of indifference, the struggle with the demands of modern life or a disinterest or inability to seek connection with others...in person.
  3. The school corporation does accept students from outside of the district. Thank you. This is an interesting topic. The youth league used to be called Granger Rocket Football, and, as I understood it, it was, if not exclusively, almost exclusively a Penn youth league. It is now called Rocket Football and Cheer and seems to service players from a wider geographic area--not a bad thing in the grand scheme--but that could lead to some disconnect. I seem to recall, during the early 2000s, an expansion in the number of teams within the rocket league, but after looking at their website it seems they're down to ten. Maybe there is just less participation within the traditional Penn boundaries at that level. One of the teams in the league is coached by former Mishawaka players, which isn't a problem and John Carlson was a DAMN good football player for the Cavemen. I'm sure those kids are well coached. Is it possible that could lead to some disconnect with the program? I can't say for sure, but I don't know what the general level of connection to the Penn program is for the average parent or coach in the rocket league anymore or if it's all that different. I have lots of thoughts on creeping apathy as well--and I'm happy to go on about that too--but I think its mostly structural and outside of the program's control.
  4. Laporte and MC are an hour more or less. Valpo, Chesterton and Portage are all basically the same toll road exit and you get to avoid a lot of the headache. Yeah, the others are a little more of a challenge to get to. However, the various programs have been making trips to the region for decades, and not just one offs either. As a player, we made enough of those trips that I can say I didn't mind. If they're worried about gate, I'm not sure they're getting all that much to begin with.
  5. I might be the only one willing to dive in here. I do have some thoughts. Consistent, strong competition has been absent for too long, while the biggest guns in the state have only gotten more competitive with each other, all the way through their programs. I'm not sure that Penn's offensive transition to a more modern style truly fits the program's demographics, and I think that affects their ability to play the complementary style of football that defined the program for so many years. Even Penn's best quarterbacks, did not, for the most part, light it up through the air except for playing off of the run game, and they were often a significant, effective, component of the run game, even if in a undesigned way. I agree that other schools have caught up, although I disagree somewhat with the characterization of the Penn teams of yore and their size relative to the peer competition. While I played on teams that had a couple of monsters - perhaps three division 1 big guys over my four years - Penn has been a program that has gotten by with more from less in terms of physical development and impressiveness. Penn did often have average to slightly above average sized backs, and that has seemed to change over the years. That said, the team is much less impressive off the hoof relative to the top competition than they already often were in years past. The high school has employed a strength and conditioning coach for at least four years now, if records are accurate, which I imagine is a significantly shorter term than many of the other large programs competing with each other in the Indy metro area. We all know Ben Davis had a dedicated strength coach for decades. Been setting in for many years I'm afraid, and is a logical outcome of much of the success and preordained outcomes of many contests against local competition for decades. Even when the program was humming along there was apathy with regard to much of the schedule. This has been my argument for years, and I maintain that it's especially important at the freshman and junior varsity levels. Penn's freshman and JVs almost never play against the best in their age group because of the size of the local teams requires those players to take varsity reps on Friday nights. Additionally, I think that level of competition in the MIC and HCC encourages innovation and has far reaching effects within those programs. The weekly grind of competition has been a huge de facto advantage for the MIC programs, and I think that became obvious relatively early in the 2000s. Now the HCC is in a similar position. No way around it, the administration blundered in 2002, and if the invitation is still standing - truly - they have continued to blunder to this day. Plenty of evidence exists out there that Penn is comfortable with teams traveling for much of their competition in all sports. I don't know if the source is too reliable or not, but public school review has data going back into the 90s that you could comb through to get an idea. It's not aggregated but it exists. These are just some thoughts, of course.
  6. The same is true in the NIC with the exception that Tuesday night prior to the first sectional game has been the end of the frosh season. So, NIC teams lose each Thursday practice for the first eight games plus the Tuesday and Wednesday in the last week. In my mind each Thursday game, any weekday game, is a lost practice. A Thursday game probably means that you're not getting much of a Friday practice either, maybe film and some recovery running. To me, that means you get Monday-Wednesday each week plus however you want to count Friday. Playing on Saturday would give you at least four practices each week, but it probably turns into five because I don't know why you'd want to completely waste Friday. I'd be looking to maximize the number of reps for every player whether they're game reps or practice reps with in all levels of a program. It seems like a no-brainer if you can play Saturday and get eight to sixteen practices during a season. Maybe they're speed and training days or anything else to carve out some competitive advantage.
  7. Playing games on Thursday nights has always seemed like a waste of nine additional practices to me.
  8. In NIC country we play freshman games on Thursday nights. I think most JV games have gone to Saturday, although I remember a time when there was a Saturday/Monday split.
  9. Very true, and I didn't mean for that to come across as challenging as it might have. Specialization is such a serious problem that I am always interested in discussing. Not sure if there's an actual solution though.
  10. I don't worry about it. In my experience, the families that are most concerned about this type of thing find a parochial school or a smaller public school. I also don't think it's that much of a problem since school consolidation will likely create more opportunities to be on a team. A decade ago, Elkhart Central used to have an abysmal freshman football team. We're talking 15-16 kids (with a couple sophomores thrown in there, they were always up front about it). That's not fun, and I wouldn't describe it as an opportunity. I would imagine that the freshman football team at Elkhart High School is a lot of fun to be a part of now. It helps that they have a good program in place (which should increase participation on its own in theory), but the team would also logically have more potential players. The opportunity to participate is different than the opportunity to start. If we focus on football only, and even at the largest schools, nearly every player that makes it through their senior year should have had ample opportunity at a starting position. If they didn't end up starting then they probably weren't able to perform at the necessary level. I don't want to disparage guys who don't or didn't start, but how many of those guys (hedging a little) would have started somewhere else anyway? I get what you're saying to some degree with sports that have smaller teams. But I would apply logic similar to the football example to this problem. When you're cutting down to a manageable, reasonably sized basketball team or a hockey team or whatever, you're going to have a handful of guys that you know are automatically making the team. They're just that much better, faster, bigger, stronger etc. The bottom is usually pretty easy to cut away too. Kids that can't run, throw, jump, etc. The bubble is where you might lose some opportunity to be on the team and usually there is very little to distinguish the bubble guys from each other - which is how you end up on the bubble anyway. Anyway it's worthy of discussion. But have any studies suggested that school consolidation -> increased specialization? This does seem like a safe, common sense assumption, but usually consolidation is considered to lead to an increase in athletic and other extracurricular activity. Coaches, parents, the private coaching industry with travel sports industry (in other sports, but I guess 7 on 7 now) and the lure of scholarships are more likely culprits for specialization in my opinion. We could dance around the idea that more potential players and fewer spots (consolidation) allows for coaches to demand specialization, or for parents to encourage it, but from what I've seen I'd be less likely to point to consolidation as the driver of specialization, while I am willing to concede that it might be a factor. Most of the time in school coaches were the culprit when it came to forcing better players to specialize, and players did out of fear of retribution. They weren't the players that were at risk of getting cut because they couldn't play. Just an example of why I'm discussing this, but in my current line of work I can think of experiences with a handful of families with 10, 11, 12, 13 year old boys that have considered specializing or do specialize in hockey only. In Indiana. And it's not like they're the best players either. The best players are, of course, the best athletes. I totally agree with you on the destructive and limiting aspects of specialization, and I do everything I can to discourage it.
  11. I think they're using the old Elkhart Central building specifically for freshmen.
  12. No kidding. It hasn't happened yet, therefore it will not. Not sure how Penn to SAC is any more feasible then.
  13. Penn and Elkhart to DAC, SAC opens schedule to non conference games. DAC, SAC schedule games with each other. DAC, SAC schedule games with HCC. Get JV games with those same opponents. There would still be a lot of work remaining for each program from that point, but I think that's the best place to start for the 5A and 6A schools in the north.
  14. Agree. To some extent at least. Disagree. Impossible. Mishawaka's toughness is immutable. I'd be curious to hear from @LaSalle Lions 1976 on this. The disfunction, at least from the outside, has always seemed to be at a corporation level on top of any disfunction within the athletic department at the corporation level. Not sure how the interplay between the corporation's department and the schools' departments works out.
  15. It's possible, but Mishawaka always had the toughest players. I think that Coach Aldrich's teams finished strong and Coach Curtis had success against us and teams in the DAC. I think their profile would have kept them competitive, but probably a higher degree of difficulty for them in the DAC based on size for football. I don't hate the idea, although I loved going to Lake Central every time we had a game there. It just felt mean over there. Ames is awesome, and that could be good. Maybe even a way to handle freshman and JV games if schools don't want to relinquish a Friday night at home.
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