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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Ticket #16: Prep showdowns pure football

This is the 16th in a series of 18 stories examining the best events an Indiana sports fan would want to see in a lifetime.

I hate arriving at a high school football game an hour before the game and not being able to find a parking spot.

I also love arriving at a high school football game an hour before the game and not being able to find a parking spot.

Tight parking means there's something in the air. It's the smell of autumn and Icy Hot. It's the heightened sense of teenage adrenaline and parental exuberance. Where else but at an Indiana high school football field in the fall can you spend $5 and leave with priceless memories?

Nothing beats The Showdown.

The Showdown changes from year to year, sometimes week to week. There have been great games between Snider and Bishop Dwenger, between Harding (RIP) and Bishop Luers, between Homestead and Warsaw, between Leo and Woodlan.

There are no boundaries for The Showdown.

There is common ground, however.

Every Showdown includes at least one team having a great year, loaded with talented seniors who have been pointing to “their season” since they were learning the game in seventh grade.

Sometimes both teams are poised for greatness, and that's when it really gets delicious.

Think back to that undefeated Dwenger vs. Luers game last October.

A crowd of more than 7,000 packed Luersfield, more than twice the seating capacity.

The game included a handful of players headed to the college fields this fall, including Dwenger's Remound Wright (Stanford) and Tony Springmann (Notre Dame) and Luers' Kenny Mullen (Indiana).

When Luers stopped Dwenger on an opening goal-line stand and then marched 97 yards for a score, the home crowd noise was deafening.

Then Dwenger found its bearings and used superior size and depth to run away with a big win. Luers took the loss with class, and then went on to win another Class 2A state title.

Luers and Dwenger are natural rivals. But The Showdown can be outside the box, too, such as Columbia City's 56-55 win over East Noble last year. They're Northeast Hoosier Conference teams, but not necessarily natural rivals. Yet two heady senior quarterbacks, East Noble's A.J. Dove and Columbia City's Logan Rehrer, left fans mentally drained at game's end after more than 1,200 yards of offense.

The Showdown is different in prep football than it is in college or the NFL.

The high school version is football at its purest. Lifelong friends and teammates. Stands filled with parents and, sometimes, the entire community. Friday-night lights.

Five bucks? It's a steal every time.