Will the NSC get the old band back together?

Jimtown's Trey Washington looks for yardage in the Jimmies' Class 3A sectional loss to Knox last fall. The Redskins and Jimmies were conference foes in the Northern State Conference, prior to the 2015 school year.

Have you ever made a mistake?

Of course you have. We all have.

I wonder if the teams that blew up the Northern State Conference have fully realized the mistake they made prior to the 2015 school year?

Or if they would admit it.

You remember. Triton, Culver, LaVille and Knox all decided they'd had enough of losing to Jimtown in football and watching New Prairie continue to grow on the western part of St. Joseph County and decided to leave the NSC for greener pastures.

The four schools joined forces with Winamac, North Judson, Caston and a little Class 1A school called Pioneer in Royal Center to form the Hoosier North Conference, which began play in the fall of 2015.

Since that time, the Pioneer football team has won back-to-back Class 1A state titles the last two years and gone 28-0 in the conference. Oh, did I mention the Panthers routinely score 60 or 70 points in their conference games? That they beat a Knox team – which would would later beat Jimtown in the 3A sectional – 36-0?

It wasn't much better for a 9-4 Triton team, which lost to Pioneer 56-6 in the regular season and 66-0 in the 1A regional.

While Jimtown dominated the NSC in football during the Bill Sharpe era, the Jimmies wouldn't run up the score like that. Sharpe often had his JV team in for much of the second half or until they were replaced by the Jimtown freshmen.

By the way, the Pioneer girls sports are pretty good, too, as the Panthers were the 1A state runner-up in both softball and volleyball in 2018-19.

When the former NSC teams headed to the Hoosier North Conference, it left Jimtown, New Prairie, Bremen and Glenn searching for a new home. The schools would stick together and eventually land in the Northern Indiana Conference, facing the likes of Elkhart Central, Penn, Marian and South Bend St. Joseph in every sport but football.

And by the way, starting in the fall of 2020, Elkhart High School will have over 3,000 students, giving the NIC two such schools (with Penn). Bremen has 507 students, while Jimtown (595) and Glenn (594) aren't too much bigger.

With my roots in Marshall County, I have heard rumblings about the NSC considering getting most of the old band back together sometime soon.

That said, I'm sure it's not that easy.

We don't know what kind of promises were made when the NIC brought the NSC orphans into the fold. There could be rules set up on how long the teams stay ... same for the Hoosier North.

Knox and North Judson have been Starke County rivals for years and I'm sure being in the same conference has just added to that rivalry. Culver and Triton would once again become the smallest schools in a newly-formed NSC.

Plus, I'm sure the Hoosier North-Four wouldn't want to include New Prairie in the equation, as the growing school is inching closer to 1,000 students and a spot in Class 4A. So, would Jimtown, Glenn and Bremen abandon New Prairie?

Those are questions only the principals and athletic directors can answer, of course, but I can give my take.

If it's offered, jump at it. Don't hesitate. Don't think too much. Jump.

Northern Indiana Conference schools, if New Prairie isn't included, it was a nice run. Play the Cougars in non-conference games if you'd like and see how strong they become in the NIC over the next decade in all sports.

Finding an eighth school would be easier than battling the Hoosier North teams over numbers. There are candidates, Fairfield perhaps. North Judson may want to come along with their current conference mates. Lakeland from the Northeast Corner Conference could make sense.

Unless Fairfield – a one-time NSC team – returns to the fold, Jimtown is the only Elkhart County school that would be affected.

Obviously, Jimtown would have to consider all its programs if they were to make a change. But one sport that could be helped by moving back to the NSC is girls basketball.

Jimtown head coach Alicia Harkins is trying to rebuild the program, which has won just four games over the past four seasons. The Jimmies were slightly improved last season, but playing teams like Penn, St. Joseph, Marian and Elkhart Central in the conference is tough and it makes it even harder to attract girls to the program.

That said, the 2019 Jimtown softball program won a sectional title and nearly won the 3A regional, playing a NIC schedule that toughened them for tournament play.

But football has long been king at Jimtown and that likely will never change. The Jimmies' football program has won four state titles and brings a lot of eyes to the party every Friday.

But this isn't your father's Jimtown program ... There are no longer 60 kids standing on the sidelines just thrilled to be part of one of the best football programs in the state of Indiana and have a shot at a state championship ring.

The Jimmies have finished at .500 the last two seasons and in the fall of 2018, that sectional loss to Knox was the first time a Jimtown football team had lost in the first round of the state tournament.

Ever.

This year's team will have a strong senior class and should be competitive every week. But the Jims open with NorthWood and will play a very good Elkhart Central team in week three. Marian has won four of its last five against Jimtown, while archrival Concord is waiting in week six and should be snarling after losing 27-7 to coach Mike Campbell's team last season.

And the future? Well, the Jimtown junior high programs (seventh and eighth grades) had to combine last season in order to field a team. In addition, with changes to the Northern Lakes Conference, the Jimmies' will now open each season by playing NorthWood and Concord back-to-back.

There also could still be hard feelings among the Hoosier North-Four from the Ghosts of Football Past. So could they invite Glenn and Bremen and not Jimtown?

Should they? No.

Is it possible? I think so.

In the past two years, JHS athletic director Nathan Dean has added four sports for student-athletes in Baugo Township. This fall, Jimtown will field teams in boys and girls soccer, while swimming is now offered for both boys and girls in the winter.

Those are sports that make you think Northern Indiana Conference, not Triton and Knox.

As they did earlier this decade, LaVille, Triton, Culver and Knox are holding all the cards in regards to a possible reincarnation of the NSC ... That's simply the reality.

So is it a waiting game? Or simply a rumor?

Only time will tell.

Ken Fox is the sports editor of the Elkhart Truth. You may reach him at kfox@elkharttruth.com or @KenFoxTruth on Twitter.

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