Football coming back to Trinity Lutheran

SEYMOUR — Football is making a comeback at Trinity Lutheran High School.

While the Seymour-based school dropped its program from the IHSAA in 2015, Trinity has a plan in place to rebuild the program. In three to four years, the Cougars hope to return to Class A football.

Until that time, the Cougars will play as a homeschool team starting in 2017.

Last summer, the Indianapolis Crimson Knights, a homeschool football team out of Greenwood, allowed players from Trinity to join its squad. The 25-man roster consisted of athletes who were homeschooled or came from a school that currently didn’t have a football team.

The Crimson Knights, who also have a middle school team, played two games at Trinity last season and plan on moving to the Jackson County school.

In conjunction with the Knights’ program, Trinity strives to build a foundation for a football future.

The homeschool team will do its weightlifting and practices and play half its games at Trinity starting in 2017 at both the middle and high school levels. For the 2016 season, the Knights will play five games on the Cougars’ field. The team’s name will be changed to Trinity Lutheran for the 2017 season.

Down the road, Trinity plans to break away and return to the IHSAA for football.

Trinity boasted its own football program from 2011 to 2014 before abruptly disbanding the team in 2015.

“I don’t think we’re at the point where we should start it back up like where we were at (in the IHSAA),” Trinity athletics director Aaron Rudzinski said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm the first time around. We had our highest total football players (in 2013). It was pretty ambitious. This time around, I think we’re going to take it easier and accomplish certain things before we take that next step.

“The plan is to have that homeschool connection for the first couple of years and then try to get some traction to becoming an IHSAA team,” he said. “It won’t be an IHSAA team for a few years.”

Mike Wilson is entering his sixth year as the coach of the Knights’ high school team. He will continue to oversee the team as it transitions to playing and practicing at Trinity.

Wilson, an active member of the National Guard, also has coached at Greenwood middle and high schools and at St. Michael-St. Gabriel Archangels Catholic.

“The first year at Trinity, it’s going to be a lot like the Crimson Knights,” Wilson said. “We will have a high school and middle school team. Homeschoolers will be allowed on the team, along with kids from other schools that don’t have football.”

Wilson plans on building the interest in the immediate area for the team.

“We have a comprehensive plan that covers the areas we want to attract kids from,” Wilson said. “There’s nothing south of Indianapolis for kids who don’t go to a school without football. We’re going to build a program on Christian values and be pretty good. There are a lot of good players.

“One thing we’re going to strive for is to keep our base within 30 minutes of Trinity,” he said. “That way, we build the foundation really close to here. That way, everyone is close and in it together. I think we will be very successful.”

During the season, the Knights, an entirely independent organization, played a schedule mixed with IHSAA and homeschool teams. Next year at Trinity, the team wants its schedule to resemble an IHSAA agenda.

“We will play a Class A-type schedule,” Wilson said. “We will play Edinburgh, Brown County and schools like that. That’s the connection. We will not move forward (to the IHSAA) until we meet checkpoints along the way. The goal is to bring IHSAA football back to Trinity in three to four years. Then, the players who don’t go to Trinity, will break off and still have a program.”

Last season, the Knights finished 11-2, with both of their losses to ranked homeschool teams.

Wilson plans to form a pair of teams for the Central Indiana Bantam Football League, but not for two years. He said the teams will focus on faith and football.

“For us, the big thing for the Crimson Knights is honor, discipline and excellence,” Wilson said. “We honor God because we’re a Christian program. We always play disciplined football, and we get that through hard practices and being prepared. The excellence is that we want to be good at everything we do.”