It might seem a bit strange to see Leonard Scotten and his family at tonight’s Greenwood-Roncalli Class 4A sectional semifinal football game.
Oh sure, the former coach is a fixture around local football fields, especially at the home of the Woodmen, where he spent 27 years as head coach and even longer as an administrator.
What’s unusual is that Scotten will be positioned on the visitor’s side, where he will watch grandson David Holtkamp and the Rebels take on his former team.
“I am excited about it both ways,” said Scotten, who retired as coach of the Woodmen in 1997, when his grandson was just a toddler. “Roncalli is coming home to play against a quality team.
“Win or lose, I am going to be for David.”
It might turn out that Scotten’s grandson has a great deal to do with who wins tonight. Holtkamp, who has played running back in the early part of the season, is now a key player at cornerback, where he will try to shut down the Woodmen’s high-powered offense.
“David is just a very good all-around athlete,” Rebels coach Bruce Scifres said, saying Holtkamp has been a leading rusher and receiver and has even thrown a touchdown pass. “He is one of our fastest players, jumps well and has one of the best sets of hands. He has become a utility player.”
In recent weeks, need has forced a move to cornerback, where he has amassed a number of solo tackles and an interception in two games.
“He is just a very good pass defender and open-field tackler,” said Scifres, who is facing the Woodmen for only the second time in his 23 years at Roncalli. “He has just done a great job in all aspects.”
It will be role reversal as grandfather Scotten sits in the stands watching a grandson whose oldest memories are doing the same as a young boy.
“I would hang out with him all day at football during the summer,” Holtkamp recalled. “I was pretty young, so I would just watch. I was really intimidated by all the players.”
Indeed, it will be a game of mixed emotions for many in Scotten’s family. Liza Holtkamp, Leonard’s daughter and David’s mom, graduated from Greenwood in 1977, where she was a cheerleader.
“My heart is torn,” she said of tonight’s game, which is the first meeting between the two neighboring schools since 2005. “We probably know 25 boys on the Greenwood team. David has played sports with all these boys. We want them to do well.
“But of course, we want Roncalli to win.”
As a Greenwood grad and resident, Liza Holtkamp said she still has a special feeling for alma mater Greenwood, even though her children go to Roncalli.
“When I go to school, it is like a second home,” she said. “I was always there with my dad. It was such a great community to grow up in.”
Liza married Greensburg native Mike Holtkamp, who played football and wrestled at Greensburg. Their sons, David and older brother John, both played in Greenwood’s bantam leagues before going on to the Our Lady of the Greenwood junior high teams and then Roncalli.
John Holtkamp now attends his grandfather’s alma mater, Hanover College, where he plays defensive end, just like grandpa did decades before.
“It is kind of exciting,” David Holtkamp said in preparing for the Woodmen. “I know a number of their players. We grew up together and played football and little league baseball together.”
Even though the teams have not met, there is a certain familiarity and respect, Scifres said.
“They are our southside neighbor,” said Scifres, who has guided the Class 4A No. 3 Rebels to eight state titles. “A lot of kids on both teams know each other. It is a local rivalry atmosphere. Greenwood has an outstanding football team. They have one of the most dynamic offenses we have faced.
“Their defense really runs to the ball, and they are very well coached by Mike Campbell and his staff.”
This won’t be the first time Scotten has been on the opposite sideline since retiring. He has worked for the past decade as a volunteer assistant to coach Darrin Fisher at Whiteland, a role that has seen his team tee it up against the Woodmen once a season.
Scotten was on the Warriors’ sideline two weeks ago when Class 5A Whiteland handed No. 5 Greenwood its only loss of the season. That experience brings insight on what the Rebels must do to succeed tonight.
“My thought is ball possession,” he said, noting the ball must be kept away from the Woodmen’s high-powered offense. “Take it away from them and keep it. That seems to be Roncalli’s strength.”
The Rebels hold opponents to only 14 points a game, while the Woodmen average 40.
Even with his grandson playing, though, Scotten just appreciates a very good high school game, which is what he expects this one to be.
“I’m hoping for a beautiful night where the kids can let it all go and really play hard,” said Scotten, who has a stone and plaque dedicated to him at the entrance to the Greenwood field. ”Why I got into football is for times like this. Both teams are doing well and positive going into this.
“It’s going to be a very special night.”
It is that kind of perspective that keeps this former coach and proud grandfather fueled with a zest for football and its larger purpose in the development of student-athletes.
“Len is a wonderful man,” Scifres said. “He was an outstanding coach. He knew his X’s and O’s, but more importantly he was a great role model and influence on the young men he was around.”
Liza Holtkamp sees that connection as the perhaps the most important thing passed down from grandfather to grandsons.
“They are all passionate about football,” she said of the bond among the trio. “They are all three hard workers. They like kids and are really good with little ones. They all like school and getting involved. Football is so great for people. It brings people together. It builds great relationships on a team and a community.”
For Scotten and grandson David Holtkamp, that bond will grow just a little bit more tonight in a game that may turn out to be very special indeed.
Bob Johnson is sports correspondent for the Daily Journal. His column appear Tuesdays and Fridays. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.