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Football landscape about to be reshaped

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We are just entering the dog days of summer. The hottest afternoons are ahead of us.

The Cubs are not yet mathematically eliminated. Summer leagues are going strong. There are mosquitoes yet to be born who will live a full life by fall.

But I can’t stop thinking about six weeks from tonight and the start of high school football season.

Consider this an orientation — a first look at the changes on the Johnson County prep gridiron for Center Grove, Edinburgh, Franklin, Greenwood, Indian Creek, Roncalli and Whiteland.

Conference realignment

A shake-up in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference did not extend to other conferences, as some predicted, nor did it peel off a number of teams into the state’s premier football conference.

The changes, though minor in scope, are still significant.

Defending Class 5A champion Lawrence Central and Pike join the MIC, while Terre Haute North and South take their place in Conference Indiana.

Lawrence Central also was in the 2010 title game, where the Bears lost to Fishers.

That certainly raises the level of play in the MIC, where the Terre Haute schools were fodder for the big four programs: Ben Davis, Carmel, Center Grove and Warren Central.

While the moves were widely anticipated after several years of discussions, it was surprising that at least two more schools did not follow. Fishers and Hamilton Southeastern were among the likely candidates but stayed in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.

Because the realignment stopped with just four schools trading places, an anticipated wave of changes in other central Indiana conferences did not happen.

Class moves

The biggest football moves occur off the field for 2013 in a series of changes aimed at creating parity.

The IHSAA has split the former 64-team Class 5A into 5A and 6A, a move that takes a week out of the tournament. Center Grove goes to the larger class, while Franklin and Whiteland stay in Class 5A.

A “tradition adjustment” moves successful teams up a class to compete against larger schools.

Finally, the three-year enrollment census also creates movement between classes.

The result is positive for Franklin, Greenwood and Whiteland, especially, which find themselves with relatively easier tournament draws. The Grizzly Cubs and Warriors are in a four-team Class 5A sectional with Floyd Central and Jennings County.

In Class 4A, Greenwood moves out of the same sectional as Cathedral (which moves to Class 5A under the tradition adjustment) and Roncalli (which beat the Woodmen last season) into an eight-team bracket that includes tough Columbus East and East Central.

Class 3A Indian Creek will compete in a sectional with Greensburg (which beat the Braves in the title game last season) and Guerin Catholic.

For Class A Edinburgh, last year’s sectional foe Milan moves up a class, but the rest of bracket remains consistent.

Center Grove will compete in Class 6A against Columbus North, Jeffersonville and New Albany.

In 5A and 6A, there is a new bye week between the semistate and state finals.

Schedule tweaks

New opponents arrive in Week 1 on Aug. 23 and range from neighbors to long-distance fill-ins.

On that night, Indian Creek travels to new Mid-Indiana Conference foe Knightstown. Greenwood starts a new rivalry at Perry Meridian, and Edinburgh goes to Manual.

In contrast, Whiteland hosts South Bend Riley, which will travel 160 miles to meet the Warriors.

Franklin hosts Howe on Sept. 6.

Center Grove will entertain Pike and go to Lawrence Central on Sept. 13 and 20, respectively. The Trojans close the season at Cincinnati LaSalle on Oct. 18. That game is a one-year match, to be replaced by Cathedral on the Center Grove schedule in 2014.

Roncalli is the only school whose schedule is a repeat of last season.

Rule changes

The biggest rule change this year will lessen the penalty for offensive pass interference. The foul still carries a 15-yard penalty but no longer will result in a loss of down.

The rules protecting a player who loses a helmet are further clarified, making it a penalty for that player to be contacted (illegal personal contact) or to initiate contact (illegal participation).

Bob Johnson is a correspondent for the Daily Journal. His columns appear Tuesdays and Fridays. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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