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Summer stress as Stars eye another sectional shift

BNL football coach Steve Weber and the Stars are preparing for their fourth different sectional assignment in the last 7 seasons.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Summer, while not lacking importance, should not be a high-stress season for football. That’s reserved for crisp Friday nights, under the lights, on the field.

Yet recent days have caused angst and anxiety as Bedford North Lawrence awaited another twist in the IHSAA’s constantly revolving chaos around the sectional classifications and assignments. BNL, for the fourth time in Steve Weber’s seven years as head coach, has been shifted to another cluster of teams for the postseason, and the program was exactly 13 students from dropping down a class, into an entirely new set of opponents and circumstances.

The Stars were in the crosshairs when the IHSAA announced a change to the Tournament Success Factor that adjusts programs based on two years of postseason triumphs. The point system was altered, lowering the number of points needed (from 3 points to 2 points) by a school already playing in a higher classification to continue playing in that same class for another two years.

Under the modified system, schools winning a regional championship in a single season, or sectional championships in back‐to‐back seasons, would remain in that same higher class. The rule previously required three points (two sectional titles and a regional title) to continue in that class.

After the reshuffle, BNL is now the smallest school (in terms of enrollment) in Class 5A. Two teams (New Palestine and Fort Wayne Dwenger) are below BNL on the scale but are locked in 5A because of the “success factor.” If BNL, which has been shrinking in school size (down 170 since 2013), continues its trend, it will soon be shifted to 4A.

Rumors were rampant that move would happen for 2019, but BNL landed on the last spot in 5A. The constant movement, with reclassifications every two years, is disconcerting.

“I’m OK with every two years, but this one was tough,” Weber said. “As a football coach, you play who you play. But it would have been hard this time, after finding out where you are and who you play, then a month later change. You try to gear up your schemes and practices on who you play, and then it changes.”

BNL, because of geography and its size, and its neighbors in Southern Indiana has been treated like refrigerator leftovers, lumped and mixed into a palatable hodgepodge, in terms of sectional casting. Stability does not exist. That’s why the Stars have faced so many different postseason assignments:

2013 – Sectional 15 with Bloomington North, Bloomington South and Martinsville.

2015 – Sectional 16 with Castle, Evansville North and Floyd Central

2017 – Sectional 15 with Columbus East, Floyd Central, New Albany and Seymour.

2019 – Sectional 16 with Jeffersonville, Floyd Central and New Albany.

BNL has dropped to the smallest school in Class 5A because of its shrinking enrollment.

Weber doesn’t mind the inclusion in an all-Hoosier Hills Conference group. Jeffersonville, formerly one of the smallest programs in 6A, is now the largest in 5A.

“That’s a good thing and a bad thing,” he said. “We see them all, so we know what we have, but we see them all year long. With East moved up (to 6A for the next two years), every one of us feels like we have a chance now. You have the warhorse out of the way.

“Realistically, we’re probably a 4A school in number anyway. You’ll probably see that. Our numbers don’t match up with the top of 5A.”

If, or when, BNL drops to 4A, it will likely be emerged into an 8-team sectional with possible opponents East Central, Martinsville, Jennings County, Madison and others.

Those are factors the Stars do not control. What is under their control is the immediate future, a summer with a lot of questions to answer after losing a lot of talent and starters from last year’s 8-3 team (BNL’s best since 2011).

“We do have questions, and we’ll come out of the summer with a lot of question marks,” said Weber, who issued equipment for 92 athletes for the offseason workouts and practices (two hours, twice a week). “It’s going to be hit and miss. It’s a big summer.”

BNL will get a glimpse of its structure during Wednesday’s 11-on-11 scrimmage at Salem (6-8 p.m.), Saturday’s 7-on-7 event at Terre Haute, and a final set of 7-on-7 scrimmages at Brownstown on July 20.

Official practices sessions for the 2019 campaign will begin on Aug. 5, and the Stars will open the season at Martinsville on Aug. 23.