SEYMOUR — Bryce Lister, Nathan Thomack and Jacob Rowe couldn’t help but smile ear-to-ear during the three-a-day practices.
Whether they ran around campus, went through hitting sleds or studied playbooks, they loved every minute going back to work.
The reason was simple: for the first time since the seniors’ freshman year, they knew they were home. Trinity Lutheran’s football program will return this fall after two years without operation.
Trinity stopped offering football in 2015 due to low numbers.
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“I can’t believe that it’s going to be happening again,” said Rowe, a quarterback. “I’ve been waiting for this for three years now. I’m excited for the whole school, not just for the players and me. We’re going to be building something much bigger than us this year. It’s building for years to come.”
This season, the Cougars will operate as a home-school team but play all IHSAA schools on their schedule. There are 15 Trinity students on the 27-player roster.
The past two years, those at Trinity interested in playing football joined the Indianapolis Crimson Knights, who are based out of Greenwood. The Crimson Knights will continue to operate but will no longer practice or play games on Trinity’s fields.
Four of the Cougars’ roster spots belong to home-schooled Jackson County students — mainly out of Medora and Crothersville — and the rest moved over from the Crimson Knights roster from last season.
Last week, the players did a live-in team camp at the high school.
“We’re trying to learn our positions,” said Thomack, a cornerback. “We need to figure out what position each player is good at. We want to work as a team. It was really fun the last two years, but now that we have Trinity on our jerseys, it’s a special feeling. We’re playing for our school.”
Cougars head coach Mike Wilson said that the team-installed offense and defense will introduce all the players to Trinity football. Players, and coaches, slept in classrooms last week and had meals provided.
“I think (the live-in) great for bonding and building relationships,” Wilson said. “It’s great for us to be able to go over everything individually and also have classroom time. The big thing is having everyone in one group. We’re laying the foundation for what’s to come.”
Of the 27 players, only 13 have ever played in a varsity football game. While there’s a lot of youth, Wilson’s optimistic about this season.
“Our offensive line is going to be very good,” Wilson said. “That’s going to be a big strength. We like to run the ball. We’ve run the ball about 80 percent of the time the past two years.”
On top of the high school program returning, the Cougars are fielding a middle school team. The idea is to create a feeder program for the varsity team that will help with numbers in the future.
Wilson said that a majority of those players will come from the Jackson County community.
“They will play their first game in September,” he said. “They’re about half scheduled right now, and we’re working to get it up. We want to build a program that plays 1A and 2A-type schools and build from there.”
While it’s a few years away, the goal is to have Trinity to return to IHSAA football in the future so they can play in the state tournament.
“I was really sad when our program left,” said Lister, a middle linebacker. “Having it back is almost a relief. We can start up and build the foundation for future players.”
Trinity will open the season Aug. 18 at home against Indianapolis Tindley.