I’ve always believed that if you watch a sport long enough, you’ll see something else you’ve never seen before, and I can honestly say I can’t ever recall a scenario in high school football like the one that occurred this past Friday.
The storms that wracked Northwest Indiana for the past two weeks caused flooding, wind damage and power outages and in so doing wreaked havoc on Friday’s prep football schedule.
After two weeks of what seemed like endless rain, in the aftermath of the storms on Thursday night, area athletic directors, perhaps jumpy after this latest onslaught, looked at the threatening images on their Doppler radar screens and then proceeded to postpone 16 of the scheduled Northwest Indiana games to Saturday.
Being creatures of habit, no doubt the coaches were for the most part against canceling the games. Playing on Saturday means one day less of preparation for next week and coaches prepare to play on Friday. And coaches don’t like disrupting routine.
Regardless, in spite of the coaches only five games came off on Friday night, topped by a 28-0 Portage romp over Highland. The Indians no doubt were eager to showcase their field turf and rightfully so; but still one has to wonder if the opportunity to pummel Highland wasn’t even more irresistible.
Some may think that the athletic directors jumped the gun with the early cancellations after no rain materialized later Friday night. And as it turned out, the ominous storm systems they were watching on their Doppler’s split north and south of the Region’s gridirons. But something tells me that if the decision was made to play the games, you could bet that those storms would have made a bee line for the Region.
In fact, how could the AD’s have possibly predicted that no rain would fall? If the collective athletic departments erred, it was only on the side of safety, because let’s face it, the storms we were having were some pretty serious stuff. Torrential rain, dangerous lightning and high winds can get a person jumpy. The images invoked by a game crowd hurriedly seeking shelter in a dangerous storm with trees flying around are not pretty ones.
In a situation like that, even the bleachers themselves are potentially dangerous. Besides being out in the open, just about all the Regions’ pigskin battlegrounds have bleachers that are all or at least partially aluminum; making the bleachers a potential lightening rod. And frying fans is simply not an option.
Plus, the IHSAA rule regarding lightning calls for a mandatory 45 minute delay after every flash seen before play can once again be resumed. Additional lightening means additional delays and the accompanying rains translate into a flooded field and a wet, sloppy, late night finish for a high school football game.
The perfect example happened just last year in the 5A Regional between Crown Point and La Porte at what became “Lake” Kiwanis Field in La Porte. The game began in a relentless, driving rain and then subsequently heavy lightning delayed it and sent fans running for cover with minutes still to play in the first half.
Before the torrent finally let up and play was resumed, it was close to 10:45 CST, 11:45 LaPorte time, and there was significant standing water on the field. And if you were a Bulldog fan, you had to feel the condition of the field was a significant factor in the outcome of the ballgame.
So this time I think you have to give the AD’s credit; they reacted decisively and swiftly. Fan safety came first and the fans were informed early. And to us at the RSN, knowing what was going to happen promptly allowed us the opportunity to make the necessary contingency broadcast preparations regarding air time and staff; and these things take time so we appreciate that.
To me, when the games were finally played on Saturday sure it felt a little different, just like things felt different in Week One. But it was pretty cool as well because fans could go to as many as three games if they wanted to. Coaches and players could watch games too. And now that they have had a taste of it, maybe athletic directors saw that Saturday football isn’t all that bad either, and to us that’s a good thing.
The bottom line is that the games were still pretty good, regardless of when they were played. Lowell-Morton and Griffith-Merrillville were good football games, and Crown Point’s come from behind win over Hobart seems destined to be one that will be talked about for a while, and to me that’s a good thing too.