Chip Davenport
Chip Davenport
I was very excited to see the Dublin Coffman Shamrocks (a.k.a. the ‘Rocks) as the season opening opponent on the 2021 Warsaw Tigers football schedule!

The announcement was not only exciting, but the announcement was also thought provoking, too.

Let’s talk about the ‘Rocks.

They have an enrollment similar in size to Warsaw. The program touts 8 NFL players from their program, they appeared in 3 state final fours, and they earned playoff berths in Ohio’s largest football enrollment class, Division 1, 14 of the last 16 seasons.

This, due to Indiana’s current all-inclusive format, might raise one’s antennae (why aren’t they in the playoffs each year?)

Ohio high schools are required to rank in the top eight of their regions in multi-level computer points awarded for your win over a team (first level), for each win the vanquished opponent earns (second level), and what enrollment class your opponent is assigned (third level). Ideally, you hope all your opponents go 9-1 (Ohio plays a ten-game regular season). Indiana had a system like this before the 1985 football season, it should be noted. Hoosier high school gridders today, nonetheless, still must get through the toughest opponents in their enrollment class to earn a berth in the state finals at Lucas Oil Stadium each Thanksgiving weekend, so I’m not marginalizing any Indiana teams’ playoff journeys.

However, in Ohio, your conference opponents’ league schedules are naturally comprised of a sub-500 won-loss record within conference play. Therefore, your non-conference opponents (two to four of them depending on your league size), need to be top caliber teams just for a berth in the state playoffs.

Although Warsaw is not levied with the same strength of schedule challenge to assure a playoff berth, Tiger head coach Bart Curtis and athletic director Matt Binkerd are working together to get elite opponents on the Warsaw’s schedule to prepare them for the playoff run. My heart wants the Tigers to go unbeaten and make a run to Lucas Oil Stadium each year. However, my logical side isn’t hung up on the won-loss record if the Tigers enter late October/early November running the football effectively, and playing solid defense, even if it’s a bend-don’t-break effort.

My unsolicited advice to Tiger football fans, come see this game, Friday August 20, 2021! It will be a chance to see how Warsaw performs against a program capable of beating most of Indiana’s best programs. Win or lose, it’s the best sports and entertainment bargain on the horizon in Northern Indiana.

I grew up in Northeastern Ohio, and my high school team has made two state playoff tournaments since the system they used was introduced in 1972. This gives me a great appreciation of the ‘Rocks, and what they’ll bring to Fisher Field this coming August. It’s a single-year contract, so this will be your only chance to see a program whose alumni includes two fellas familiar to area college and pro football fans: quarterback Brady Quinn and running back Vince Workman.

Additionally, regardless of the score, Warsaw’s strength and conditioning program is top-notch, so I have no concerns regarding potential injuries against elite opposition from Ohio. In my high school days, teams started shying away from a once uber-dominant Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller program beefed up by coach Gerry Faust (who eventually fell victim to the Peter Principle at Notre Dame) because the huge talent gap and the consequential body count of injuries was too much, ruining the remainder of many opponents’ football seasons thereafter.

There’s something else remarkable about Dublin. It’s estimated population of a little less than 50,000 people (compared to Carmel’s 100,000-plus populace) yet it has three high schools. Dublin is a northwest suburb of Columbus, Ohio. Like many of its neighboring suburbs, the city did not let its school enrollment exceed 5,000 students in a single school within its city limits. Most of the schools have four-year enrollments between 1,600 and 2,200 students. Hilliard, Grove City, Pickerington, Worthington, and Westerville (these high schools might be familiar to high school sports geeks living in Indian) all moved to expanding from one to either two or three high schools instead of a single mega-school. I believe there is something good to be said of that. Each of the suburbs I mentioned have at least one elite football program within its city limits. I believe most of these schools could beat Indiana’s best programs. But it begs the question how big does a school have to be to be… too big?

I find it remarkable and troubling a state the size of Indiana (6.6 million people, 320-plus football teams) has much greater disparity in its largest metropolitan school enrollment than suburban high schools in Ohio (11.7 million, 700-plus football teams). The Buckeye state only has once school with greater than 3,500 students enrolled in a single high school. Enrollments drop to 3,000 or less the rest of the way among those other 699 high schools. The Hoosier state on the other hand has at least ten single high schools whose enrollment is much larger than that.

There’s something for you to nosh. I’m not going to offer the solution to the obvious enrollment disparity problem, but it makes me wonder how some of the metro-Indy teams would fare if they split high schools in the manner similar cities like Columbus and its suburbs split them.