Login NowClose 
Sign In to chronicle-tribune.com           
Forgot Password
or if you have not registered since 8/22/18
Click Here to Create an Account

Fall sports excitement moves to another level

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

August always brings renewed anticipation and excitement to my world with the beginning of a new school year.

The first two of our five county school media days were held on Thursday, which always makes this beginning even more real, but after a meeting on Wednesday I had with Marion High School athletic director Steve Moritz, my excitement has gone to another level.

Since re-assuming his position of AD at Marion last summer, Moritz has breathed a fresh breath of enthusiasm into Giants’ sports. He is one of the main reasons Marion and Eastbrook will kickoff the 2019 football season with what’s believed to be the first regular season meeting between the two programs, which was the subject of the meeting.

Opening night for football is when team’s questions will be answered. And most certainly the product teams put on the field on Aug. 23 will look much different by the time sectionals roll around in October.

Marion’s history of playing other Grant County programs is limited. The Giants used to have a regular season meeting with Mississinewa, but that ended in the mid-1970s. Of course, over the past two seasons, the Indians and Giants have waged a pair of fierce battles during the post-season, with the teams splitting games on the way to winning sectional championships.

In the fall of 2021, Marion and Mississinewa will again be regular season opponents on the football field.

Madison-Grant and Marion met early in football seasons from 2005-2014, and the Argylls provided a stern test for most of that time and came away with four wins in the 10 meetings.

Eastbrook and Marion have been sparring partners for an annual “dress-rehearsal” scrimmage for the past several seasons which spawned the idea to move their date back a week and play a game which counts towards the record books.

The Giants will tune-up at Fort Wayne Wayne on Aug. 16 while the Panthers will host Hamilton Heights the same night to further prepare for the game in Dick Lootens Stadium just two weeks from tonight.

Since Wednesday, I’ve been trying to envision what will take place opening night, and honestly, it’s hard to imagine.

Moritz has already sent 1,000 tickets to Eastbrook for presale, and he’ll begin selling tickets from the MHS Athletic Office on Monday, Aug. 19, something never done before at Marion for a regular season football game.

Moritz’ made his vision for this first contest between Marion and Eastbrook on the gridiron very clear, he anticipates the largest regular season crowd in Giants’ football history. At least 4,000 if not close to 5,000 or more people are expected to pack the stadium.

But as important as the game will be -- and like any other country rivalry, it promises to be intense -- the atmosphere at Marion High School on opening night should be festive. Essentially it should be a gathering of neighbors and friends.

Upon entering the stadium, gates to the stadium will open at 5:30 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than a normal Friday night, the intensity will only ramp up as fans loyal to either side try to cheer their teams to victory.

My vision is for parking lots around the school to start filling up earlier, the smell of freshly grilled meat waffling through the air from tailgating fans. Smiles and laughter and sharing of good fellowship are a part of the plan, as the minutes tick away towards opening kickoff at 7 p.m.

Moritz has been working on a secret ceremony prior to the ball going on the tee, something he’s been planning for many months. He was almost giddy with excitement during our meeting, for the game and the pregame, and said he wants what happens Aug. 23 to be the start of a long-standing tradition both on the field and off.

Whatever is planned before kickoff, Moritz declined to share details...yet. But he promised more would be forthcoming in the days leading up to the game.

On the field both the Giants and Panthers have many big holes to fill from memorable 2018 seasons.

Eastbrook returns as the Class 2A runner-up but lost upwards of 20 seniors who played enormous roles in making two trips to the state championship game.

Marion lost nine of its 11 starters from one of Indiana’s best defensive units, one that led the Giants to the doorstep of a Class 4A state championship appearance, but ended with a bitter defeat in the final four in Evansville last November. Whatever happens on the Lootens’ Stadium turf that night will be memorable.

It will also be only the beginning. The beginning of a new season for two county teams as well as the beginning of a new rivalry between two proud programs.

What I’d really love to see is more people in the stands this fall, not just at football games, but volleyball and soccer matches. Cross country meets are short in length but high in intensity and are mostly free to spectators. Same with girls golf and boys tennis.

The quality of athletes, and kids in general, in all sports around Grant County is very high. We are fortunate to have some of the state’s best coaches and educators who are teaching, mentoring and guiding these young people into the next phase of their lives.

Please get out and support your schools, your kids, your neighbors and friends. High school sporting events are an affordable means of entertainment. Your dollars spent at any venue go to support your schools and therefore the future of your community.