FORT WAYNE – Life at Bishop Luers after Jaylon Smith and Co. will include inexperience, both for the players and the head coach.
“If you want experience, it is a bad thing,” said Kyle Lindsay, who was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach. “But I think it has driven a lot of competition over the summer. From my prospective as a first-year (head) coach, it is a good thing. It hasn’t been hard to motivate the kids; they pretty much have motivated themselves. The kids know there are a lot of open positions, so they have been working hard and have been very coachable. As a first-year coach, it really has been a dream summer.”
The Knights, who will play in Class 3A instead of 2A this season, are missing familiar names in Smith, a Notre Dame freshman, Tyvel Jemison, Danny Beckman and Kendrick Mullen from a program that won the last four 2A state titles. Of the 22 starting positions on offense and defense last year, Luers returns only junior guard/linebacker Jon Knapke and junior linebacker C.J. McCarter. And at quarterback, there are two players returning who started multiple games last year in senior Quinn Cook and sophomore Noah Wezensky.
Also back contending for starting positions are senior running back/linebacker JyQuel Jemison, senior defensive back Chance Young and sophomore receiver/defensive back Austin Mack.
“We have a good number of leaders in my class, and a lot of athletes in the class below me so they are going to come up and be great playmakers,” Cook said. “We have rebuilt our offensive line, so I think we are going to be different looking, but we are still going to great team.”
Luers went 11-4 last year and beat Indianapolis Ritter 40-28 in the 2A title game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Because of the IHSAA’s new success factor and growing enrollment, the Knights moved up to 3A for at least the next two years.
Lindsay isn’t new to the program after being a star quarterback in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as serving as an assistant coach for the past six seasons.
Lindsay was interim coach for one game last year after the suspension and eventual firing of his father, Matt.
Steve Keefer returns to his position as assistant coach after finishing last season as interim coach.
The changes, though, don’t temper any expectations for more success, inside or outside of the program, which has won the second-most state titles with 11.
“The expectations outside of the immediate football program; it is tough to live up to them, and there’s no doubt they are there,” Lindsay said.
“The kids know that. At the same time, the kids expect to go back to Lucas Oil and expect to win a state championship. It is kind of a double-edged sword. They don’t want to be the ones who end that streak, but let’s be honest it is going to end sometime.
“I don’t feel the pressure to live up to that. If we come away and the kids gave good effort, had good attitudes and were good members of the community, I would look back and say it is a successful season regardless of what the win-loss record says.”