Prep Beat

JIM PETERS: Rensselaer football likes to fly under the radar

2013-09-19T17:00:00Z 2013-09-20T02:32:06Z JIM PETERS: Rensselaer football likes to fly under the radarJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
September 19, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

Situated roughly halfway between Northwest Indiana and Lafayette, Rensselaer doesn't draw great attention from either media market.

Bombers coach Chris Meeks doesn't eschew the recognition, but he doesn't mind flying under the radar either.

"I I like being in the chaser role," Meeks said. "If people aren't writing about our team, that's fine with us."

Rensselaer isn't toiling in anonymity for a lack of success. Meeks has quietly averaged nearly eight wins a season in 15 years at the Jasper County school. Fresh off a rugged 9-7 win over Tipton last week, the Bombers are 4-0 and out of the gate well in the meat grinder Hoosier Conference.

"Tipton, on paper, is just loaded," Meeks said. "They're being considered one of the frontrunners to advance from 2A in the north. At this point in the season, we were ready for a test like that to see how we match up with them."

In four games, no one has scored more than a touchdown against Rensselaer's first-team defense, a lightning fast unit that, as Meeks describes, flies downhill after you. That and kicker Luke Robertson, who crushed a 41-yard field goal that would've easily been good from 50, lifted the Bombers over the Blue Devils.

"One of the strengths of our team is our run defense," Meeks said. "I think the key to high school football is outstanding defense and strong special teams, and we have that. Ninety percent of Luke's kickoffs have gone for touch backs and that helps tremendously."

Renssy's unbeaten though it's played largely without junior stud Ab Kiger. He of the great football name returned in a limited capacity on defense last week, but his presence has yet to be felt on special teams or offense. The running back/receiver hybrid is reminiscent of another Kiger, his cousin Jacob, who finished third in Mr. Football voting in 2005.

"We’ve got outstanding speed at the skill positions where we can spread you out, and we've got a big, solid line up front, so we can also play smash mouth," Meeks said.

The smash mouth element endears the Bombers to their northern neighbors, which begs the question, is Rensselaer part of the region?

"First of all, we're on slow time," Meeks said. "Ten minutes south, they're on fast time. We associate ourselves with the region even if some people don't associate themselves with us. I look at region football as blue-collar football. I think of Don Howell and the great Hobart days. That's what we try to epitomize with our program -- tough, hard-nosed kids playing 48 minutes."

Andrean would certainly attest. Last fall, Meeks brought a 6-5 club with 12 sophomore starters up I-65 and nearly stole a Class 2A sectional title from the 59ers, losing 28-21.

"Our kids didn't back down from Andrean," Meeks said. "We felt the momentum from the time that game ended through the offseason and summer activities. I felt like we were getting better and better."

The scary part is Rensselaer's skill players are primarily juniors. After winning three sectional titles between 2003-6, the Bombers captured three in a row from 2008-10, reaching the semistate in '09 and '10. Fort Wayne Luers, the team that ousted them both times, was bumped to 3A, though former Class A kingpin and conference foe Lafayette Central Catholic is now in 2A.

"We've achieved the sectional and regional championship," Meeks said. "We still haven't gotten that elusive trip down to state."

Could this be the November when they're partying at Wagon Wheel? Don't be surprised.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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