Football fans in Northwest Indiana have no doubts about the coaching ability of Kirk Kennedy. His name is at the top of most lists when discussions about what he's brought to the high school game.
People in Bloomington might have a different opinion, but Kennedy could care less as he starts his first practice of the 2013-14 school year at nearby North Judson.
"Football is special in this town. It's great to get back to a community where football means something," Kennedy said. "We love being around real people again, wholesome people with old-school morals and ethics. It starts with character and those old-fashioned values are here."
In 19 seasons at Class 4A Lowell, Kennedy was 161-70 with three state championship game appearances, winning it all in 2005.
He left for Bloomington South in 2010 and went 4-26 in three seasons there.
Kennedy's hard-nosed style of football was fought from Day 1 down south.
"They wanted a certain style," Kennedy said of a more pass-happy, soft system. "I was brought down there to clean up a program, and I did, so the next guy could have some success.
"You can't build a program when you're always butting heads with people."
Kennedy and his wife are glad to be back home, where a more blue-collar style of football is appreciated. He has brought in Ted White as his offensive coordinator and will run the wishbone.
Yes, the same Ted White who was at Griffith in the 1990s when the Panthers and Red Devils had all those backyard brawls on Friday nights.
"It's weird. I almost feel like a spy," Kennedy said. "Like I'm spying on somebody. I'm learning Griffith's offense every day."
The Bluejays will travel to Kankakee Valley on Sept. 27, where Brad Stewart is the head coach. Stewart was Kennedy's defensive coordinator the entire stay in Lowell.
"Brad is like a brother to me," Kennedy said. "It will be great to see him before the game, but once the game starts I'll be trying to beat him and he'll be trying to beat me. That's how it's supposed to be."
North Judson has a great football tradition, winning 12 sectionals, five regionals and two semistates.
So this could be a match made in grid heaven.
But the players in Judson have yet to see what the players in Lowell did, Kennedy on fire under the Friday night lights.
"We haven't started playing yet so they haven't seen that side of me yet," Kennedy said with a laugh. "I've had to dial it up a couple of times during summer workouts. My coaching style, well, I've got to get to know the kids first.
"Football is important here. I believe we can have success here. What will carry the day here is what carried the day in Lowell, peer pressure. They don't want to be the guy who screws up. They don't want to be the guy, or the class, that lets things slip."