Indiana's first high school football state finals organized into six classes and using success factor kick off this morning at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and if you didn't know better, you might not even notice a difference.
With five Catholic schools and big-school powerhouses like Warren Central and Carmel among the 12-team field, you could say that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Maybe so. Then again, maybe not.
While Cardinal Ritter and Cathedral of Indianapolis and, to a lesser extent, Bishop Dwenger of Fort Wayne have been regular invitees to the party in the capital city, 3A foes Andrean and Brebeuf are not. The Niners are making their first trip since 2004, which was its third final in four years. The Braves, much to my surprise, have never played for the big trophy before.
Ritter, the Class A champ in 2009 and 2A runner-up last year, is back for another try in 2A. Cathedral, the 4A titlist four times in the last five seasons, proved to be formula proof, rolling through its first 5A playoffs junket. Dwenger returns to Indy for the third time since 2008.
Conspicuous by their absence this season are Lafayette Central Catholic and Fort Wayne Bishop Luers. Central Catholic, bumped to 2A this season after four straight A state titles, was edged in the sectional by Tipton on the Blue Devils' path to the final game. Luers, likewise the winner of four consecutive state championships, joined the 3A ranks and didn't survive the sectional, though their classification probably didn't matter this year, which saw them go winless until the playoffs.
The Class A match-up features newcomers in Tri-Central and Eastern Hancock. The pairing probably wouldn't have happened if Central Catholic and Indianapolis Scecina, the A runner-up in '11 and '12, were still in the same bracket. I don't see the Knights dropping back down, so the littlest class could see the greatest year-to-year fluctuation, devoid of a Catholic powerhouse.
Columbus East, stymied by Cathedral in three 4A semistates, three times in the last five years, rolled through its Irish-less postseason this fall.
When the 32 largest schools in 5A became 6A this season, it opened the door for a school like Westfield, long a little brother of neighboring Carmel, to enjoy some tournament success, coming through the comparatively weaker northern half of the state.
With Carmel also positioned in the northern portion of Indiana for 6A, the class became what many of us figured it would — the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference Invitational. The last time the mighty MIC didn't play for a title? Try 2001. Get used to that, at least until Cathedral moves up within the next few reclassifications.
Arguments remain about the super class and the private schools. Let's face it, some people just aren't ever going to be happy, no matter what's done. Based on a one-year sample, I think the changes have been good.
Then again, you're not about to hear me complain. I went to Andrean.