FORT WAYNE – Bishop Dwenger’s players know the history of their school and its vaunted football program. They are reminded every day by signs, posters and banners.
The school is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the usual pomp and circumstance all year. There is also a capital campaign in the works to help with school renovation, including athletic venues and to build a new chapel. And the football players want to leave their legacy in this time of celebration.
Dwenger’s football program started a year after the school opened and things didn’t start well. The Saints went 1-8 in their first season, but things got a lot better.
“It’s not the 50th anniversary of football at the school, but we acted like it is our 50th,” Dwenger coach Chris Svarczkopf said. “It is very important to our school. We have a lot of special events at the school.”
The Saints (11-3) have been to the state finals eight previous times, with Class 3A state titles in 1983, 1990 and 1991. But it has been a long, sometimes frustrating, wait to get a fourth title with a 3A loss in the 1996 final and in 4A losses in 2002, 2008 and 2010.
“Obviously we want to win it; we aren’t going there to lose,” senior Nathan Niese said. “It is definitely a special year for us. It is definitely a thought that we haven’t won in so long. We want to be a team that is up there with the other (state championship) teams up on the board. When people look at it, they say ‘There’s 2013 with the all the other (state titles).’ ”
With the school already in a festive mood, a win over the No. 1 team in the state in Columbus East (14-0) would be perfect time to end the title drought.
“We want to win state and on the 50th anniversary would just be falling into place and everything coming together,” senior Gus Schrader said.
Svarczkopf has talked about this year’s team being one of faith and sports. It is a group void of the superstars of the past, but filled with standouts and key players.
There are no Notre Dame recruits like John Goodman, Tyler Eifert or Tony Springmann. Or even a Remound Wright, who will play for Stanford against Notre Dame today.
The state title is still attainable for the Saints. Even a three-game losing streak late in the season hasn’t derailed Dwenger from getting back to the finals.
“In the offseason, we would get up at 6 in the morning even without our coach,” senior Griffin Feichter said of working out in preparation for the season. “Our mindset has been a state title the whole way.”
Feichter’s brothers, Landon and Evan, both played in state title games only to come up short. They are both playing at Purdue.
So with the gold, as in anniversary, being the color this year for the school, the Saints again would like to be wearing blue, as in a state title.
“Getting here is a tremendous achievement, but this is a group that wants to do more than just get here,” Svarczkopf said. “It’s been since ’91 that we have brought home the blue ribbon, and this is a group that has set their sights to winning that last game.”